Many hearing people are interested in Sign Language. It is a fascinating language. Some people wrongly think that American Sign Language (ASL) is simply another way to express English. Those who know ASL and can communicate effectively with Deaf people realize that signing is much more than just saying “words” on the hands. It is good for those who know ASL and Deaf Culture to educate other people about the language and culture. Here are a few examples of things to teach.
1. Delay – There is a time lag between when a hearing person says something and when the interpreter finishes signing it. One pastor said, “Why do the Deaf people always vote against everything?” He forgot that the interpreter was behind.
2. Translation – Some things do not “translate” easily from one language into the other. Hearing jokes, puns, idioms and some other figures of speech often lose much of their impact when being interpreted from English to ASL. Also, hearing people may not understand or appreciate some forms of Deaf humor.
3. Eye Contact – In church services, hearing people are asked to close their eyes for prayer, during communion, or during the invitation. Naturally, Deaf people cannot close their eyes and still communicate. In Deaf culture, it is proper to keep eyes open during these parts of church services. Also, hearing people should look at the Deaf person to whom they are speaking, not at the interpreter. Maintaining eye contact helps clear communication.
4. Interpreter Presence – The interpreter interprets as if he/she were not involved in the conversation. When a Deaf person signs, “When I was a boy,” the interpreter voices, “When I was a boy,” even though the interpreter may be a woman and was never a boy. It is best for neither the hearing or Deaf person to speak directly to the interpreter while he/she is interpreting, as it can become confusing.
Those who know sign language should always teach others. It is a great joy to watch others around you begin to communicate clearly and easily. Signing Off.