Ang Sign Language Interpreter, bow!

Let me express myself from the sign language interpreter‘s point of view. Ako po ay isang sign language interpreter magmula pa nuong 1991. Lubos po akong sumasang-ayon sa sinabi ni Sir Lauro na ang mga sign language interpreters ay hindi personal assistants (PA) lamang ng mga deaf kahit na maraming mga tao ay ganun ang pananaw sa amin. Ang akala ng ilan ay napakadali ng aming ginagawa ngunit taliwas po ito sa katotohanan. Isipin nyo po na napakahirap na isalin ang isang wikang nakikita sa wikang binibigkas. 

As interpreters, we have to be skilled in two to three or even four languages. The process of converting spoken language into visual and vice versa requires a very high skill.  Every hand movement entails a different and oftentimes idiosyncratic meaning. And we have to mentally process the deaf signs into spoken words at breakneck speed in order not to have dead air. Try moving your hands while talking and making sense out of it. That’s way too difficult.

We have been striving to professionalize interpreters in order to remove the notion that since we chose this to be our “mission”, then we must work without expecting anything in return. That’s one of the reasons why there are only a handful of full time interpreters in the country. We are either working as teachers or other day jobs and doing interpreting only on the side. Otherwise we would all die of starvation. And more often the government does not recognize that. They call deaf participants to attend their meetings and conferences yet they don’t see the need to hire interpreters. They believe it’s the deaf’s responsibility to do that. Minsan pa nga pag kinuha ang serbisyo namin e nakikipagtawaran pa sa amin parang bumibili ng isda sa palengke.

That’s why we recently organized an interpreters group called Philippine National Association of Sign Language Interpreters (PNASLI) in order to address that issue. We want people to view our work as a service profession. We must be properly compensated especially when we interpret in highly delicate situations like court cases which places both the deaf and the interpreter at risk. Giving the right pay for the service is one way of encouraging others to venture out into interpreting field at para dumami naman kami.

I agree with some comments here saying that it’s the Deaf’s right to get the services of sl interpreters. As an administrator of a college for the deaf for 18 years, I have dealt with many deaf students from various educational, family, cognitive, age and even social backgrounds. I have met some students who are at par or even better than the likes of Raph Torralba, Jose Sales and George Lintag. But these wonderfully blessed deaf people are the exceptions and not the norm.

Higit na nakararami pong mga bingi ang walang kakayahan na katulad nila Raph. Kaya higit na nakararami po sa kanila ang nangangailangan ng serbisyo ng sign language interpreters. Kaya hangga’t walang iba pang nakikitang kongkretong solusyon upang maibsan ang communications barrier ng mga deaf, bigyan naman po sana natin ng halaga ang mga taong katulad namin na handang tumulong upang higit nilang maunawaan ang mundo at maunawaan din sila ng mundo. 🙂

Peace!

Jojo

PS: This is my response email to  issues raised at This_abled_phils Yahoogroup about the necessity of a sign language interpreter in improving the lives of deaf people and branding a sign language interpreters as Personal Assistants.

Tagalog ba o Ingles?

Cartoon image thinking if Ingles or tagalogNung Oktubre 1 sa isang seminar tungkol sa “Deaf Education” na ginanap sa Unibersidad ng Pilipinas, ako ay naatasan na mag-reverse interpret para sa isang kilalang lider ng deaf community, si George Lintag. Isa sya sa mga opisyal ng pangunahing asosasyon ng mga Bingi sa Pilipinas, ang Philippine Federation of the Deaf. Dahil sa hindi ako komportable sa pagsasalita ng Ingles, minabuti kong gumamit ng wikang Filipino o Tagalog. Sa kabutihang palad, walang Amerikano o Native English user sa madla.

Sa pagtitipon ding yun, naalala ko na nagtanong ang isang mataas na professor sa UP na hindi ko matandaan ang pangalan, kung anu ba ang Filipino Sign Language o FSL? Ito ba ay hango sa wikang Filipino o sa Ingles? Tinanong niya iyon dahil napansin niya na ang nag-organisa ng seminar na iyon, ang aming pinagpipitaganang Dekano ng UP College of Education na si Dr. Therese Bustos, ay nag-reverse interpret din sa isa sa mga Deaf na speaker. Nguni’t sa halip na Tagalog ang kanyang ginamit, minabuti nyang magsalita sa Ingles.

Maliwanag din ang tugon ni Dr. Bustos. Sinabi nyang walang katumbas na spoken language ang FSL dahil ito ay isang visual language o lenguwahe na nakikita lamang. Dagdag pa niya na pinili nya na mag-reverse interpret sa Ingles dahil sa mas mabibigyan daw nya ng higit na malapit na interpretasyon kung gagamitin nya ang Ingles. Bukod pa dun, sa aking pananaw, mas skilled siya sa wikang banyaga dahil sa taas na ng kanyang naabot na pag-aaral.

Sa akin naman, sinubukan kong mag-Taglish o kombinasyon ng Ingles at Tagalog dahil aaminin ko ang totoo, hindi ako magaling magsalita ng Ingles lalu na pag ako ay nasa harap ng maraming tao. Maaari akong sumulat ng wikang Ingles. Ito ang wikang ginagamit ko sa aking blog na sinimulan ko pa nung 2008. Nguni’t kung ako ay pagsasalitain mo sa harap ng madla, malamang sa hindi, ako ay mauutal kung gagamitin ko ang Ingles.

Isa pang dahilan kung bakit ko pinili na mag-Tagalog ay mas mabibigyan ko ng puso ang interpretasyon. Maraming makabagong salitang Tagalog na angkop na angkop sa kulturang Filipino at ng mga Bingi. Tulad halimbawa ng mga salitang, “kapal mukha”, “epal”, “bongga”, “chika”, “feeling”, “chismis” at “kadiri”. Nakakatuwa ang katumbas nito sa wikang pasenyas ng mga Pilipinong Bingi.

Nang dumating noong 1997 sa Pilipinas si Ms. Heather Whitestone-Mccallum, ang una at huling Deaf na nagwagi sa prestihiyosong Miss America noong 1995, inatasan ako ng Philippine Institute for the Deaf (PID) na maging kanyang opisyal na sign language interpreter sa kanyang isan-linggong paglagi. Wala akong nagawa kundi mag-Ingles ng mag-Ingles kahit na nararamdaman ko nang tumutulo ang dugo sa aking ilong (re: nosebleed) dahil hindi naman sya nakakaunawa ng Tagalog. Kinailangan kong mag-mouth ng words o isalita ang bawat senyas sa wikang Ingles dahil magaling si Heather sa lipreading o magbasa ng bibig.

Siguro depende na ito sa kasanayan ng isang interpreter at sa pagkakataon. Kapag higit na komportable kayo sa wikang inyong napili at alam nyo naman na maiintindihan kayo ng mga nakikinig, then go! Hindi naman magrereklamo ang bingi na iyong pinagsisilbihan dahil hindi naman nya naririnig ang iyong sinasabi. 🙂

[Jojo Esposa Jr. is a hearing person and the Training Director of Manila Christian Computer Institute for the Deaf, now MCCID College of Technology. He is also one of the first advocates of Filipino Sign Language. Aside from interpreting for the deaf, Jojo is a web developer and the only Filipino member of Guild of Accessible Web Designers (GAWDS), a UK based international organization of web designers advocating for equal access to information for everyone including Persons With Disabilities.]

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T.E.R.P.S. explained

“TALAKAYAN” (discussion) on exploring the emerging and evolving  Pinoy Terps – Filipinos who share the passion and hone their skills in the art of the flying and flipping hands painting a scenery and telling stories in mid-air. This is a venue for appreciating the art and science of sign language interpreting by sharing some eureka moments, by comparing notes on our findings from  ‘trial-and-error’, by connecting with mentors and coaches who had previously solved some of sign language interpreting’s mysteries. May we all become EXPERTS in this chosen field– be it our full-time or part-time job, a vocation, a mission, a hobby, or a consequential episode when we are thrown into circumstances wherein we are left with no choice but to do it because no one else will.

Ano “RAW”? We doubt our own interpreting skills. Other hearing people doubt our voice interpretation. Some Deaf doubt our sign interpretation.  Sabi pa nila, weh? di nga! Not until there exists here in the Philippines some objective assessment of our signing skills, not until there is an established degree program (and even a doctorate) for Sign Language Interpreting, not until there is the Licensure Exam for interpreters, not until we can validly claim with concrete evidence that we are  “licensed interpreters,” only then can we dispel all doubts.

Ang PAGSE-SENYAS ng wika ay likas para sa mga Bingi. Hiniram lang natin sa kanila ang wikang ito. Bilang mga tagapagsalin, galangin natin ang mga Bingi, ang kanilang wika at lahat na may kaugnayan sa kanilang kultura, pamamaraan ng pamumuhay, lingguwistikang pagkakakilanlan, at karapatang pantao. (Signing the language is natural for the Deaf. We are but borrowers of this language. As interpreters, let’s respect the Deaf, their language, and everything related to their culture, way of life, linguistic identity and human rights.)

In our work, vocation or mission as Sign Language Interpreters, may we remember these lines from the book edited by Carol Erting– The Deaf Way: Perspectives from the International Conference on Deaf Culture. “As Waldron observed – Deaf people are human beings in every sense; they all share the same desire to participate in the affairs of humanity. Not to be denied, deaf people have devised their own ways to cope with and make sense of their world on their way to full and equal participation. They can achieve this goal more quickly by using their own language as a primary tool, developing it to its fullest potential, and by taking control of the so-called intervention and rehabilitation process that shape their crucial formative years. The struggle of Deaf people throughout the world to preserve and restore sign language should be perceived as an effort to regain their humanity. Only when deaf people have regained their humanity can their hearing oppressors recover their own.”

Commonly used ACRONYMS when interpreting

UNCRPD – United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities

PC-CRPD – Philippine Coalition on the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities

IDA – International Disability Alliance

PFD – Philippine Federation of the Deaf

PNASLI – Philippine National Association of Sign Language Interpreters

DLS-CSB SDEAS – De La Salle – College of Saint Benilde – School of Deaf Education and Applied Studies

PDRC – Philippine Deaf Resource Center

MCCID – Manila Christian Computer Institute for the Deaf

WFD – World Federation of the Deaf

WASLI – World Association of Sign Language Interpreters

PRID – Philippine Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf

PAIDE – Philippine Association of Interpreters for Deaf Empowerment

wait there’s more… feel free to add.

You know when you are a Pinoy Terp when…

…you possess this extra super special skill wherein you can “talk” using only your hands to express your thoughts, feelings, the latest showbiz happening, the weather news update, the recent twitter trending topic, the change in the facebook status, and what-have-you;

…you can still “talk” to the Deaf and a fellow Pinoy Terp while your mouth is full and your hands are unoccupied;

…you can “talk” underwater while snorkeling or scuba diving or when your ka-chika is on the other side of the glass door or standing on the nth floor of another building within your line of sight;

…your voice speaks what is in the heart, mind  and hands of the Deaf Pinoy so that the madlang pipol can understand;

…your first ever “interpreting” gig is purely voluntary (out of love, mission, in the service of the Filipino people);

…you felt ecstatic, euphoric even, receiving your first ever “paid” interpreting work (and you wish this will not be the last “paid” interpreting work);

…you admire fellow Pinoy terps who are very good in voice interpreting and you wish to be like them someday, but when an opportunity comes to actually do voice interpreting yourself, you would rather be on invisible mode. Now you see me, now you don’t;

…you learn the hazards of interpreting the trial-and-error way and moreso find out the solution the eureka way, aha! matang lawin!;

…your full-time day job is something else. You do interpreting on the side, or when there is a subpoena to interpret in court.

…you have interpreting gigs that are 8-hour straight with 30 min.snack break and 1-hour lunch break, for 3 or 4 full days (for a seminar, workshop, or training) and no other co-interpreter to share the load. The reason being, the seminar/training organizers do not have enough budget to pay 2 interpreters and they think you are superman or wonderwoman anyway. You can do it solo, light or even zero!

…your best buddy after a day of non-stop signing is the Efficascent oil for fast, immediate relief. For extra strength for an extra pain, grab an Omega Pain Killer. Rub and gently massage the shoulders, neck, arms and wrist. If symptoms persist, stick on some Salonpas. Hot compress may help. Dip cloth in hot water and wrap around the painful area. If symptoms still persist,   consult your masseur/masseuse, physical therapist or manghihilot. Depends really on how much talent fee you got from the interpreting gig. Sometimes if you are lucky, you will get some ‘consuelo’ from the Deaf who sees and feels your “pain” when they would volunteer to give you that much-anticipated massage for temporary relief.

…at some point in your interpreting life, “multitasking” is your middle name and you have become everything (teacher, counselor, tutor, mentor, coach, mama, papa, tito, tita, doctor, yaya, driver, confessor, confidante, friend and the list goes on and on) to every Deaf that crossed your life’s path.

share your own thoughts… blog and tell the world the indomitable stuff Pinoy Terps are made of!

Aside