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Interpreting for Foreign Language Courses:
A Case Study with German
by David Bar-Tzur
Introduction
Occasionally an interpreter is confronted with a text that includes words from a foreign language, be it a
scholarly quote in Latin or Greek or a clever saying in Spanish or French. At this point we usually trust the
speaker to translate it into English momentarily, and while we're waiting we merely sign NOW SPEAK
FOREIGN LANGUAGE, or if we recognize the language we would say which one it was. What happens when
the point of the discourse is to learn the foreign language itself? I hope to make some suggestions that would be
helpful to an ASL interpreter for such a setting, using a recent experience I had interpreting for Introductory
German.
Preparation
The task is difficult enough without having a previous knowledge of the language being taught. Interpreters for
foreign language classes really should have had at least two years of instruction in the foreign language they
will interpret, even for an introductory course in that language. It may have been years since they used the
foreign language they learned in high school, but with some preparation before each class it will come back to
them. If they start by interpreting the first introductory course, they will relearn it with ease. As a last resort,
interpreters with no knowledge of the language can start by interpreting German 1 and working their way up.
Increasing numbers of interpreters have a third language, besides ASL and English, and I believe that a third
language, whether it's a spoken language or a signed language, is very helpful for further breaking away from
the unavoidable ethnocentrism that monolinguals may have.
Having the textbook for the class is essential. By following the syllabus and reading ahead, the interpreter can
know which aspects of the language and which vocabulary items will be dealt with in class on any given day.
Remember to bring the book to class because it will help you let the D/deaf students know where you are. The
teacher may ask a question from the book without mentioning the number of the question, and by checking your
copy of the book you can tell them where to read, instead of laboriously fingerspelling the question when they
could get it faster by reading it in the text. If the students are reading an extended passage from the book, you
might as well tell the D/deaf students where the class is in the textbook and have them read along. It may be
difficult for you to understand some (hearing) students when they read German or speak it: having the book
turned to the right page may help you use cloze to figure out which German words they are trying to pronounce.
Doing the homework is also very helpful, especially if the language is new to the interpreter or has been unused
for several years. If the interpreter does not wish to purchase the textbook and cannot get a copy from the
teacher or library, it is possible to order a desk copy (free copy for educators) by writing to the publisher. If that
doesn't work, xerox the pages you need, use an old German text, or borrow the teacher's text at a regular time
when you are free and the teacher is busy with other things. Consider tutoring or working together with the
student if you are reasonably competent in the language. If you are just learning German with the class you can
still use the time to figure out together how German works and what the student thinks would work best for
her/himself in terms of representing the language using ASL or Cued Speech.
Orthographic challenges
Fingerspelling every word would definitely represent a foreign language exactly if it doesn't have a different
alphabet, but it is just too much for most D/deaf people's eyes and the interpreter's hands. It is still necessary to
fingerspell at least some words to introduce them, emphasize them, talk about spelling, and show affixes,
declensions, and conjugations. Roman letters can be represented by fingerspelling, but some languages, such as
Hebrew, Russian, or Greek, have different alphabets. Other languages, such as Chinese and Japanese, use
ideograms to represent words which are not built up through a succession of letters that would guide in the
pronunciation (although Japanese has three alphabets for some words and affixes). Learning the manual
alphabets of those languages would save the interpreter from needing to transliterate the words. ("Transliterate"
is here used in the sense of substituting Roman letters for the ones used in a given language.)
Some languages have additional letters through the addition of diacritical marks or other devices - such as
French (c, e, e, and o^), German (a, o, u, and B), and Spanish (a, e, i, n, o, u, and u). One method that is used by
the D/deaf in Germany to represent umlauts (a, o, and u) as well as the es-tsett (B) is to move the fingerspelled
letter downwards. An umlaut can also be represented by an "e" follow the letter (such as "Tuer" for "Tur") but
students will more often see the umlaut, so a visual equivalent is helpful. The best single resource for
researching manual alphabets is by Simon Carmel, listed in the bibliography.
French, German, and Spanish fingerspelling differs from ASL even in some letters that look the same in written
form. I see no need to use the special French "F" for example. I found it interesting that "ch" and "sch" in
German are looked upon as diphthongs in terms of fingerspelling and are represented by a single handshape, but
it would be unnecessarily confusing to use these, since spelling C-H or S-C-H could serve just as well. There
are also differences between the manual alphabet of the previously existent countries of East and West
Germany. Just pick one that the interpreter and the students can agree on. Phonological challenges
Every language has a slightly different phonology or way to pronounce its letters. The interpreter needs to find
out what the students want from their course. Do they want to learn how to pronounce, speechread, or only read
and write the language? This is a good discussion to have with the teacher present, so that s/he can become
aware of what modifications might need to be made. This will bring up the broader questions of how the D/deaf
student should recite: using voice, fingerspelling everything, some sign and some fingerspelling, or cued
speech.
Cued Speech could come in very handy for representing a foreign language if the consumer knows it or wishes
to learn it, since it represents the pronunciation (and the individual words) in a way that the eye can take in,
rather than fingerspelling every word. Languages like French offer difficulty in so far as the pronunciation does
not correspond to the spelling, but this is the same difficulty that Hearing students have with such languages. As
mentioned above, phonologies differ, so special cueing systems have been developed to represent phonemes
that do not exist in English - French (j and r), German (ch, oe, r, and ue), and Spanish (a, e, i, j, l, n, o, u, u, r, rr,
and x). The bibliography mentions some articles on this aspect. Semantic challenges
Representing form or meaning is a choice that interpreters make daily as they decide what the goal of the
communication is (such as the title of a book or a technical phrase) and what the communication mode of the
consumer (ASL or PSE) is. All of us are familiar with the difficulty of representing English in ASL, and I
personally agree with those that feel English should not be taught to the D/deaf through signing, but should be
taught as a written language with explanations in ASL. This would probably work best for foreign languages
also, but D/deaf people certainly have a right of access to foreign language classes, especially if this is the only
way they can satisfy their degree requirements for a foreign language.
There is a teaching method using computers which is generally referred to as CALL (Computer-Assisted
Language Learning), although specific programs have been developed with their own names. If such programs
are available at the school where the foreign language is being taught, the teacher may be able to give the
D/deaf person guidance on how to use the computer programs to good effect, since they serve to promote
reading and writing, rather than working through an auditory mode. See the bibliography for some articles on
this methodology.
An exciting development has been the blossoming of awareness about foreign sign languages. I look forward to
the day that D/deaf people canademic credit for learning these sign languages as well. It may be instructive to
skim a sign language for the country whose spoken language you are interpreting. Consult with the D/deaf
person to see if they wish you to use foreign signs to represent some of the frequently occurring words in the
foreign spoken language they are learning. They may wish the signed language of a specific country. For
example, it they are learning German, they have the choice of North German, South German, Austrian, or Swiss
Sign Languages. Some very basic words may be helpful to know how to sign in this language. When I
interpreted for my introductory German class, I used the German signs for "Guten Morgen (Good morning)",
"Herr (Mr.)", "Frau (Mrs.)", "ja (yes)", and "nein (no)". Concepts in the language that have no English
equivalent could be negotiated in this way, and as a matter of fact ASL is now incorporating such signs as
SUSHI, SMORGASBORD, and VODKA. Some French, Spanish, and German Sign Language texts are cited in
the bibliography.
We've alluded to the difficulty of teaching English in ASL, and it's even more complicated for other spoken
languages. Foreign countries, especially if they have a strong contingent that support oralism, may have an
invented system (parallel to Manual Codes for English) to represent their spoken language, but this requires that
the D/deaf person learn three languages: the written language, the signed language, and the manual code!
Invented systems would not be beneficial anyway, for the same reason that MCEs only lead to confusion and
are dropped by students and even teachers inadvertently due to their visual clumsiness.
The method I used in my recent class was unvoiced Sim-Com, that is mouthing, in my case, German while
simultaneously using conceptually accurate ASL signs and fingerspelling. The method you decide to use should
be negotiated with your consumer. If there is no one-to-one match between English and ASL, which share some
of the same culture, imagine trying to find one ASL sign for a given German word! This is where sign
negotiation comes in. I never felt so needed as when I interpreted my German course. I dragged myself to work
on days I would have otherwise stayed home because there were a limited number of German-speaking
interpreters, it was an eight o-clock class, and no one but me knew what I had negotiated with the students.
Here is a guide to some of the words that I find are helpful to fingerspell. For all sentences I would emphasize
again that I mouth the German: it emphasizes to the students that German is being represented, not English; it
may remind the students of some of the German words, if they can speechread them; it helps the interpreter
attend to finding lexical equivalents for German and ASL (no easy task!)
(1) Words that are being introduced for the first few times - "Wie heiBt du?" ("What's you name?") =
W-I-E H-E-I-B-T YOU (or D-U)? Later when the focus is off "heiBen" and that word has been learned,
you could replace fingerspelling with a sign - "Meine Frau heiBt Lisa" ("My wife's name is Lisa") could
be represented as MY WIFE is-CALLED L-I-S-A.
(2) German verbs are highly inflected so their conjugation should be reinforced through fingerspelling "Ich liebe, Sie lieben, du liebst, er/sie/es liebt" ["I love, you (formal) love, you (informal) love, he/she/it
loves"] = ME L-I-E-B-E, YOU L-I-E-B-E-N, YOU L-I-E-B-S-T, INDEX (or E-R, S-I-E, E-S) L-I-E-BT. Note that YOU represents the honorific index, where the palm orientation is upwards and the hands
sweeps downwards with the fingertips pointing to the person that is being referred to.
Note: there are four singular and four plural forms for every verb in German. These correspond to the pronouns
(1) ich, (2) du, (3) Sie, and (4) er/sie/es in the singular and (1) wir, (2) ihr, (3) Sie, and (4) sie in the plural.
These could be referred back to quickly without repeatedly mentioning the pronouns by indexing them on the
four fingers of the non-dominant hand for the singular and on the four fingers of the dominant hand for the
plural.
(3) Similarly with German nouns, pronouns, or articles in declension (such as "der, des, dem, den": the
definite article "the", masculine, singular, in nominative, genitive, dative, and accusative cases) - "Sie
wohnt in einem Studentenwohnheim" ("She lives in a dorm") = S-I-E LIVE IN E-I-N-E-M DORM. This
assumes that the students have already learned the German word for "dorm" and that it is not necessary
at present to focus on conjugation of the third person singular (wohnt).
(4) Fingerspell and sign the substituted words in a substitution drill - "Welche Farbe hat das Buch?
Welche Farbe hat das Papier? Welche Farbe hat die Wand? . . ." ("What color is the book? . . . the
paper? . . . the wall? . . .) WHICH COLOR HAVE BOOK, D-A-S B-U-C-H? . . . PAPER, D-A-S P-AP-I-E-R? . . . WALL, D-I-E W-A-N-D? . . .
(5) Fingerspell and sign words that are being used in an idiomatic way - "was machst du?" (literally
"what do you make?") means "what's up?", so I would sign WHAT'S-UP, W-A-S M-A-C-H-T-S D-U?
(6) I fingerspell more of a given sentence to reinforce old ideas when I have extra time. A particularly
good time for this is when the teacher says a sentence and the class is supposed to repeat it, or when
students are slowly responding to a question from the teacher. I find that as the students get more
advanced they can tolerate more fingerspelling in the foreign language and need it to break away from
thinking in ASL or English but rather in the foreign language itself. Syntactic challenges
German syntax differs from ASL (and English). Separable prefix verbs are a single word in uninflected form,
such as "ausgehen" ("to go out"), but separate into two parts when inflected. For example, "Peter und Maria
gehen am Donnerstag aus" ("Peter and Maria go out on Thursdays", literally, "Peter and Maria go on Thursday
out.") I have not found a satisfactory way to represent such a syntactically different form. I end up explaining a
great deal during these trying sentences: cultural mediation at its most frantic! For the previous sentence (while
mouthing German) I would sign P-E-T-E-R AND M-A-R-I-A GO ON THURSDAY A-U-S, (aside) THAT
MEAN EVERY-THURSDAY TWO-OF-THEM GO-TOGETHER. As I've mentioned before, spelling out
everything seems to be an information overload, but each interpreter needs to negotiate with their students to
see how much is too much.
Some phrases behave like separable prefix verbs. For example, "ins Bett gehen" ("to go to bed') - "Er geht um
23 Uhr ins Bett" ("He goes to bed around 11 pm", literally "He goes around 11 pm into bed.") There is a sign
GO-TO-BED, but to show the word order one might sign E-R GO THEREABOUTS 23 HOUR I-N-S B-E-T-T,
(aside) THAT MEAN H-E TEND GO-TO-BED 11 P-M THEREABOUTS. Other common syntactic
differences are dependent clauses - "Ich bleibe im Bett, wenn ich krank bin" ("I stay in bed, whenever I'm sick",
literally, "I stay in bed, when(ever) I sick am"), and the perfect tense, when there are two parts to the verb "Bertolt Brecht ist 1956 in Berlin gestorben" ("Bertolt Brecht died in Berlin in 1956"), where "ist" and
"gestorben" together mean "died". The first sentence could be interpreted ME STAY IN BED, WHEN ME
SICK B-I-N, (aside) THAT MEAN SUPPOSE ME SICK, ME TEND STAY BED, and the second sentence
would need to be fingerspelled completely and then interpreted into ASL. Working with the students
As mentioned before, find out the goal(s) of the students in learning the foreign language: do they want to be
able to speechread native speakers, write and read only, or also be able to pronounce the language? Remember
to negotiate signs, how much fingerspelling is desired, and how will the students represent the "answer" to
questions from the teacher - will they fingerspell the sentence, use voiced or unvoiced Sim-Com, Cued Speech,
or some other option? It can be difficult for the interpreter to know when they are assuming that all the endings
are correct or that they (the interpreter) are using cloze skills to fill in what the answer should be. If the students
are not interested in speechreading or speaking the language, pronunciation drills will not be helpful in
themselves, so perhaps the time could be used to merely spell out what the class is saying and interpret it, to
give the students more exposure to the language. Working with the teacher
It is always essential to be a team player with the teacher, and in foreign language classes it is inescapable.
Show your interest in doing the readings and homework, so that the teacher will realize early that the task of
interpreting is more than a lexical skill like taking dictation. Some language classes use TPR (total physical
response), where commands are given in the language, like "Springen Sie!" ("Jump up and down!"). For such
situations it is especially important to interpret first and then fingerspell so that the time used for processing
doesn't make the D/deaf students look slow.
If students pair up for spoken dialogues delivered during a later class period as homework, the teacher might
simply give the D/deaf students more written work as a substitute. If there is an auditory comprehension part to
the tests, where the students listen to an audiotape and answer questions on what they heard, the teacher could
have an addition written part for the D/deaf students' test. If there is group work and there is only one D/deaf
student, ask the teacher if it is best to interpret for a hearing partner or if the interpreter should work with the
student. Summary
Interpreting for a foreign language course presents a number of interesting challenges for interpretera, but by
working with the teacher and students and preparing well for each class, it can be made to work. The teacher
will have an opportunity to use creativity in redesigning some materials for the D/deaf students as well as to be
exposed to yet another language (ASL) which may make them think more deeply about the relationship of
language and culture. Interpreters will firm up their skills in the foreign language being taught and intercultural
mediation. The D/deaf students will be able to gain access to a foreign language that will broaden their way of
thinking about the world.
Bibliography Beauvois, Margaret Healy. Computer-assisted classroom discussion in the foreign language
classroom: conversations in slow motion. Foreign Language Annals (New York), 25, 5 (1992), 455-63.
Cabiedas, Juan Luis Marroquin, 1975. El lenguaje mimico. Madrid: Tall. graficos de la Fed. Nac. de Soc. de
Sordomudos de Espana.
Carmel, Simon J., 1982. International Hand Alphabet Charts. Published by the author.
Clarke, Michael. Vocabulary learning with and without computers: some thoughts on a way forward.
CALL (Exeter), 5, 3 (1993), 139-46.
Kelm, Orlando. The use of synchronous computer networks in second language instruction: a preliminary
report. Foreign Language Annals (New York), 25, 5 (1992), 441-54.
Maisch, Gunter, and Fritz-H. Wisch, 1987. Gebaerden-Lexicon. Hamburg: Verlag Horgeschaedigte Kinder.
Band 1 (Grundgebaerden), Band 2 (Mensch), Band 3 (Natur), Band 4 (Bildung), Band 5 (Gesellschaft), Band 6
(Technik), Band 7 (Haushalt und Freizeit).
Oleron, Pierre, 1974. Elements de repertoire du langage gestuel des sourds-muets. Paris, France: Centre
National de la Recerche Scientifique.
Starcke, Hellmuth, and Gunter Maisch, 1977. Die Gebaerden der Gehoerlosen. Hamburg, West Germany:
Pergamos-Druck Heidrick & Bender.
Wunsch, Raphael. Tuning up the language classroom: how the computer can make writing more effective.
Die Neueren Sprachen (Frankfurt am Main, Germany) 92, 3 (1993), 228-49.
Interpreting for Foreign Language Courses:
A Case Study with Spanish
by David Bar-Tzur and David Quinto
Preparation
The task of interpreting for foreign language classes is difficult enough without having a previous knowledge of
the language being taught. The interpreter really should have had at least two years of instruction in the foreign
language he or she will interpret, even for an introductory course in that language. It may have been years since
you used the foreign language you learned in high school, but with some preparation before each class it will
come back to you. If you start by interpreting the first introductory course, you will relearn it with ease. As a
last resort, interpreters with no knowledge of the language can start by interpreting an introductory course and
work their way up. Increasing numbers of interpreters have a third language, besides ASL and English, and we
believe that a third language, whether it's a spoken language or a signed language, is certainly an asset in today's
world.
Having the textbook for the class is essential. By following the syllabus and reading ahead, the interpreter can
know which aspects of the language and which vocabulary items will be dealt with in class on any given day.
Bringing the book to class can be helpful in a number of ways. If the teacher asks a question from the book
without mentioning the number of the question, by checking your copy of the book you can tell them where to
read, instead of laboriously fingerspelling the question which they may get faster by reading it in the text. If the
students are reading aloud an extended passage from the book, it may be beneficial to let the deaf students know
where the class is in the textbook and have them read along. Some (hearing) students are difficult to understand
when they read Spanish or speak it: having the book turned to the right page will help you decipher their
attempts at pronunciation.
Doing the homework is also very helpful, especially if the language is new to the interpreter or has been unused
for several years. If the interpreter does not wish to purchase the textbook and cannot get a copy from the
teacher or library, it is possible to order a desk copy (free copy for educators) by writing to the publisher. If that
doesn't work, xerox the pages you need, use an old Spanish text, or borrow the teacher's text at a regular time
when you are free and the teacher is busy with other things. Consider tutoring or working together with the
student if you are reasonably competent in the language. If you are just now learning Spanish with the class
you can still use the time to figure out together how Spanish works and what the student thinks would work best
for her/himself in terms of representing the language (i.e. using ASL, PSE, Cued Speech, etc).
Every
language has a slightly different phonology or way to pronounce its letters. The interpreter needs to find out
what the students want from their course. Do they want to learn how to pronounce, speechread, or only read
and write the language? This is a good discussion to have with the teacher present, so that s/he can become
aware of what modifications mit need to be made. This will bring up the broader questions of how the deaf
student should recite: using voice, fingerspelling everything, some sign and some fingerspelling, or Cued
Speech.
Moreover, Cued Speech could come in very handy for representing a foreign language if the consumer knows it
or is willing to learn it, since it represents the pronunciation (and the individual words) in a way that the eye can
take in, rather than fingerspelling every word. As mentioned above, phonologies differ, so special cueing
systems have been developed to represent phonemes that do not exist in English. Spanish examples are j, ll, r,
rr, and x.
One more avenue for learning Spanish is a teaching method using computers which is generally referred to as
CALL (Computer-Assisted Language Learning). Also, other specific programs have been developed with their
own names. If such programs are available at the school where the foreign language is being taught, the teacher
may be able to give the deaf person guidance on how to use the computer programs to good effect, since they
serve to promote reading and writing, rather than working through an auditory mode. See the bibliography for
some articles on this methodology.
An exciting recent development has been the blossoming of awareness about foreign sign languages. We look
forward to the day that Deaf people can receive academic credit for learning these sign languages as well. It
may be beneficial to skim a sign language from the country whose spoken language you are interpreting.
Consult with the Deaf person to see if they wish you to use foreign signs to represent some of the frequently
ocurring words in the foreign spoken language they are learning. However, they may wish to see the signed
language of a specific country. Spanish is spoken in many countries (such as Spain, Mexico, and Puerto Rico),
so you would need to decide which country's sign language you would want to borrow from and be able to find
such a sign book.
Foreign countries, especially if they have a strong contingent that supports oralism, may have an invented
system (parallel to Manual Codes for English) to represent their spoken language. If this is to be used, it
requires that you and the Deaf person work with a language or system that may be unfamiliar to both of you
while trying to learn the foreign language with the rest of the class!
Most interpreters for foreign language classes whom I have interviewed said that they used unvoiced Sim-Com,
that is mouthing (in our case) Spanish while simultaneously using conceptually accurate ASL signs and
fingerspelling. The method you decide to use should be negotiated with your consumer. If there is no one-toone match between English and ASL, which share some of the same culture, imagine trying to find one ASL
sign for a given Spanish word! This is where sign negotiation comes in.
Spanish letters
Fingerspelling every word would definitely represent Spanish exactly and would probably be the best way to
_teach_ Spanish. David Bar-Tzur has observed Larry Lomaglio do an outstanding job using this method at
NTID. But when you are _interpreting_, you can't control the pace, and fingerspelling without some sign
support would not be feasible. Excessive fingerspelling could lead to a Cumulative Trauma Disorder (such as
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome). In addition, it is just too much for most Deaf people's eyes and the interpreter's
hands. However, it is still necessary to fingerspell at least some words as shall be discussed below. Moreover,
Spanish has additional letters through the addition of diacritical marks - a', e', i', n~, o', u', and u". Some
decision needs to be made about how to represent these letters. Furthermore, it would be helpful to review the
rules for accent marks (diacritical marks) on a regular basis and possibly even have a chart that can be used as
reference during the actual interpreting.
One last thought in terms of Spanish words and fingerspelling: if a Spanish word has an English cognate, it may
be helpful to add that information as a side comment during the interpretation (such as, SPANISH, ENGLISH,
FINGERPELL SAME PLUS MEAN SAME). Similarly, if a word is a false cognate, let the students know this
so they can use the word correctly. Some examples of false cognates are "realizar" ("to accomplish or succeed"
as opposed to "to realize"), and "embarazada" ("pregnant" as opposed to "embarrased").
Fingerspelled words
Here is a guide to some of the words that we find are helpful to fingerspell. For all sentences we would
emphasize that one should mouth the Spanish: it emphasizes to the students that Spanish is being represented,
not English; it may remind the students of some of the Spanish words, if they can speechread them; and it helps
the interpreter attend to finding lexical equivalents for Spanish and ASL (no easy task!)
(1) Words that are being introduced for the first few times - " ?Como te llamas?" or " ?Que es tu nombre?
("What's your name?") = C-O-'-M-0 T-E LL-A-M-A-S? Later when the focus is off "?como te llamas?" and
these words have been learned, you could replace the fingerspelling with signs (YOUR NAME?) while
mouthing the Spanish.
(2) The conjugation of verbs should be reinforced through fingerspelling. For example, in the following
conjugation drill:
Yo am_o_, tu am_as_, el/ella am_a_, Usted am_a_,
nosotros/as am_amos_, vosotros/as am_ais_,
ellos/as am_an_, Ustedes am_an_
[I love, you (informal) love,
he/she loves, you (formal) love,
we love, you (group) love, they love, you (group) love]
the underlined portions of the verb (i.e. the part of the word that changes with the conjugation), can be
emphasized by setting up a system to represent the speed and manner in which the drill is being recited. One
possible way to do this would be to use the 5-CL handshape with the palm orientation toward the body (as in
the description of a list) and each finger (or element of the list) would represent the different conjugation
reference. For example, the "yo" ("I") form would be fingerspelled close to the thumb, the "tu" ("you"
informal) would be fingerspelled close to the index finger, the "el/ella'' ("he/she") form would be fingerspelled
close to the middle finger and so on. At first, the entire verb could be fingerspelled and as time goes on and the
drill speeds increase, the entire verb could be fingerspelled at the beginning and then the changed ending could
be represented close to each finger (just as before) always keeping in mind that the entire word is on the mouth.
In general, it is a good idea to pay extra attention to the conjugation of verbs. A basic understanding of
conjugations would greatly increase the success of the interpretation.
(3) Fingerspell _and_ sign the substituted words in a substitution drill. An extra emphasis may be added when
fingerspelling the article if the gender of the noun has changed during the drill. For instance, in a typical verb
conjugation drill, both masculine and feminine verbs are used. A good practice would be to somehow
emphasize the change from one gender to the other so the deaf student could be aware of it. In addition, it
would be a good idea to set up the elements of a drill in two different areas in the signing space. If the teacher
is doing a drill with an article and a noun, the article can be signed to the left and the noun to the right (or the
distinction could be made with a simple body shift). This would serve to help distinguish the two words being
signed. For example, in a typical drill the articles E-L (masculine "the") and L-A (feminine "the") could be
signed with a slight body shift to the left while the nouns can be signed with a body shift to the right (or vise
versa) A typical substitution drill is as follows (with teacher cue and student response): Teacher:
Student's
response: Teacher:
Student: coche
el coche
silla
la silla a'rbol
el
a'rbol
cama
la cama mesa
la mesa
plato
el plato
(4) Fingerspell and sign words that are being used in an idiomatic way - " ?Que pasa?" means "what's up?" so
the interpreter would sign Q-U-'-E P-A-S-A?, WHAT'S-UP?
(
5) Fingerspell more of a given sentence to reinforce old ideas when there is extra time. A particularly good
time for this is when the teacher says a sentence and the class is supposed to repeat it, or when students are
slowly responding to a question from the teacher. It may be that as the students get more advanced, they can
tolerate more fingerspelling in the foreign language and may need it to break away from thinking in ASL or
English and think instead in the fovign language itself.
Adding suffixes/prefixes to the root verb
Spanish verb formation differs from that of English and ASL. A prefix or suffix that is added to a verb can add
negation, specify the pronoun, and accomplish other semantic changes as well. For example, "arreglar" means
to "plan", "arrange" or "fix" something. When the prefix "de" is added, the word "desarreglar" is created which
means to "fall apart", "become disorganized", or "break-down". In addition, if you were to add the suffix "se",
the new word, "desarreglarse" would also include the pronoun. Thus, the meaning of the new word is that
"something is disorganizing itself" or "something is breaking itself down". A possible way to sign that
(including the fingerspelled word) would be: D-E-S-A-RR-E-G-L-A-R-S-E, ITSELF BREAKDOWN. The
possibility of changing the meaning of the root verb several times by adding a suffix or a prefix is common in
Spanish. Be aware of this because it makes the interpreting task more challenging. Something that is said in
Spanish using one word most be interpreted into ASL using several signs.
Conjugations and tenses of verbs
It is very helpful to understand the conjugations and tenses of Spanish verbs before you attempt to interpret,
because a great deal of class time is taken up learning and discussing them. Perhaps the creation of a chart
which maps out the different manners as well as tenses could be a good study guide before the interpreting
assignment and even serve as reference sheet during the actual assignment if a confusion would arise.
Working with the students
As mentioned before, find out the goal(s) of the students in learning the foreign language: do they want to be
able to speechread native speakers, write and read only, or also be able to pronounce the language? Remember
to negotiate signs, how much fingerspelling is desired, and how will the students represent the answer to
questions from the teacher - will they fingerspell the sentence, use voiced or unvoiced Sim-Com, Cued Speech,
or some other option? The student may know the noun and verb endings correctly, but the interpreter should
beware of unconsciously using cloze skills to fill in what the answer should be. If the students are not interested
in speechreading or speaking the language, pronunciation drills will not be helpful in themselves, so perhaps the
time could be used to merely spell out what the class is saying and interpret it, to give the students more
exposure to the language.
Working with the teacher
It is essential to be a team player with the teacher, and in foreign language classes it is inescapable. Show your
interest in doing the readings and homework, so that the teacher will realize early that the task of interpreting is
more than a lexical skill like taking dictation. Some language classes use TPR (total physical response), where
commands are given in the language, like "!Pa'rense!" ("Stand up!") or "!Sie'ntense!" ("Sit down!"). For such
situations, one strategy would be to interpret first and then fingerspell so that the deaf student is able to perform
the action simulaneously with the hearing students.
If students pair up for spoken dialogues delivered during a later class period as homework, the teacher might
simply give the deaf students more written work as a substitute. If there is an auditory comprehension part to
the tests, where the students listen to an audiotape and answer questions on what they have heard, the teacher
could have an additional written part for the deaf students' test. If there is group work and there is only one deaf
student, ask the teacher if it is best to interpret for a hearing partner or if the interpreter should work with the
student.
Summary
Interpreting for a foreign language course presents a number of interesting challenges for the interpreter, but by
working with the teacher and students and preparing well for each class, it can be made to work. The teacher
will have an opportunity to use creativity in redesigning some materials for the deaf students as well as to be
exposed to yet another language (ASL) which may make them think more deeply about the relationship of
language and culture. The interpreter will firm up his/her skills in the foreign language being taught and
intercultural mediation. Furthermore the deaf students will be able to gain access to a foreign language that will
broaden their way of thinking about the world.
Bibliography
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conversations in slow motion.
_Foreign Language Annals_ (New York), _25_, 5 (1992), 455-63.
Cabiedas, Juan Luis Marroquin, 1975. _El lenguaje mimico._ Madrid:
Soc. de Sordomudos de Espana.
Carmel, Simon J., 1982. _International Hand Alphabet Charts. _
Tall. gra'ficos de la Fed. Nac. de
Published by the author.
Clarke, Michael. Vocabulary learning with and without computers: some
_CALL _(Exeter), 5, 3 (1993), 139-46.
Kelly-Jones, Nancy and Harley Hamilton, 1981. _Signs Everywhere._
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thoughts on a way forward.
Los Alamitos, CA: Modern Signs