Posts Tagged ‘CODA’

Why We Sign

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The basis for the post’s title is the title of the 9th episode for the epic WWII drama by Stephen Spielberg: “Band of Brothers”. As it so happens, the episode answers the question one particular soldier asked himself throughout the war: why did he fight and why did his friends have to die for it. He got a heart-shattering answer when he and his company discovered and liberated a concentration camp. It was probably also one of the most shocking and intense parts of the mini-series.

ISL school is fascinating enough when we deal with the origin and structure of this fascinating language, and with the tenets of translating and interpreting. Not surprisingly, it’s turning out to be more complicated than I thought. For starters, being a signer, apparently, does not make you a sign-language interpreter. Also, being an interpreter does not make you a translator. What’s going on?

To begin with, everyone in the program knows how to sign. It’s about 70% CODAs, so us CODAs obviously know Sign. There’s teachers and social workers and the occasional Interested Individual (probably my best friend in the program to date). On the whole, the sign-language part comes in-built in every one of the students.

So why do we need a program? Why 2 years?

Even though the rationale for interpreting has been clear to me all these years, I’ve never put it under the microscope. To me, signing was never designed to “act as professional proxy”. To me, signing always meant: “Do as your parents tell you”. I developed a relationship with Mom and Dad and I signed so I could help them.

Apparently, sign language interpreting does not focus, at least professionally, on helping the deaf.

Obviously, signing helps the deaf tremendously. They’re practically helpless, sometimes, without it (at least the old deaf population, which is far from being techno-savvy and isn’t going anywhere for the coming decades. Also, I’ve personally interpreted for techno-savvy deaf students. They’re not independent and aren’t going to be anytime soon).

But, and this is important, Cocoon (this is how I’m going to call the program administrator, a CODA whose husband is deaf) heavily admonished me for saying that I’m in this business to help the deaf. Cocoon says that such an attitude towards interpreting is not professional. A professional translator has to be 100% objective, with no bias towards the deaf nor the hearing. How do I reconcile that? In short, I don’t.

One of most pivotal issues in the program is Translation Ethics. An issue I’ve never dealt with and, says Cocoon, is of enormous import and is probably one of the main reasons for the establishment of a professional ISL-interpreters’ program.

It seems that I’ve violated the ISL ethical code when I stayed after class and helped my student with her homework, it appears that I’ve violated the code when I got involved, personally, with my clients and became their friend, helped them better understand the material, answered their questions before tests, etc. At one time, (and this, I admit, was wrong on every level), I even signed an answer to a question in a test when my deaf student looked at me with puppy eyes and begged me to help her with the test.

Well, I don’t know if I’ll have the minerals to say “no” to a deaf student in distress, but apparently, this is part of my professional responsibility. I might even lose my license if I do that when I go pro.

And here comes to the main point of the post, which is not why “We” (the interpreters) sign, but why “I” sign. I sign to help the deaf. It’s the reason I got into the program and without that reason, I have no place there. I come to impart my childhood habit of helping my deaf parents upon non-parenting deaf individuals. I come to reflect the love I had for my parents, deaf or not, upon all deaf individuals. It’s practically barbaric, in a way, but without it, I simply don’t know how to be so fatally enamoured with the deaf community as much as I am.

So this is a secret I probably should keep hidden from Cocoon, and it’s also reason enough for me to risk my license. I come to the deaf community in order to help them.

This does not mean that I’m going to be biased for the deaf as far as the contents of the signs is concerned. I am going to sign to them EXACTLY what the hearing person said, and I’m going to voice exactly what the client signs. I am, however, going to get personal with my deaf clients, and give them advice as far as I can. Not during the interpreting session, but as a friend. The certificate is only a bridgehead into the deaf community.

I will follow the ethics and rules to the letter, but I will not remove myself from the Deaf community itself. I will come to sign for them as a professional, hopefully model translator: Impartial to either Deaf and Hearing – but after the session is complete, I will address them as a friend of the Deaf, their hearing child as I’ve always been, and the de facto parent I always felt I was to the Deaf community.

I sign because I want to help.

I sign because I need to help.

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Child of Deaf Adults – Part 1

A.Introduction.

There was a beautiful woman called Jana Orbach who was deaf in one ear and almost deaf in the other. She was born completely deaf in her left ear and her hearing was slowly deteriorating (as is for all of us) in the other.

There is a very handsome and very tall man whose name is Menachem Orbach, who was born with two perfectly functioning ears, but, following a surgical procedure to cure his meningitis at 10 months old, his hearing was completely lost. Menachem is, in fact, as deaf as a deaf man could be. To illustrate his inability to hear, I could say that if you turn on your stereo and turn the volume as high as possible, he still won’t hear it.

Jana and Menachem are two people who made love sometimes in the late Autumn of 1984 and begat, doting and dazzled by their infant, the person who wrote these words, on the 28th of August, 1985.

Mom said it was an easy delivery.

I am Jana and Menachem’s second-born (to be followed by no other offspring), and my name is Shai Orbach. As a son of a deaf father and a hard-of-hearing mother, I proudly title myself as CODA, a child of deaf adults. Because my particular “CODA-ness” is a bit intricate (it’s not just “two deaf parents”, the hearing loss is not genetic, etc.) , I have chosen to begin this article in this fashion. From now on, I will focus mainly on what it was like to be an Israeli CODA, and what it is like, in general, to be a child of deaf adults.

As a short clarification of why it is that I chose to write of my parents in this manner, it is fit to mention that my mother passed away last April (April 1st, 2007), on the very same day I completed my 3 years-long IDF military service.

B.Childhood

It is hard for me to recollect much of what it was like being a young (infant, toddler, and eventually, boy) CODA. As an infant, I know as I was told by my grandmother and other family members that I was a quiet infant, crying very little and all-in-all, giving my two parents a good deal of serenity as is possible for any parent with a very young child.

My parents, at first, did not sign to me much, and rather chose (I would bet, due to family pressure for being “normal”), to communicate with me using their voices. This was not a big problem for mother, who was hard-of-hearing, and if I yelled really hard (even that eventually stopped working), she noticed that I’m calling her name. I did, however, know sign-language enough for very simple conversation, so the reason my sign-language today is fluent (and is enough for me to use it for interpreting) is because I was exposed to ISL (Israeli Sign Language) from a very early age.

It is, unfortunately, also important to point out that the fact that mom and dad chose not to teach me ISL caused a major communicational barrier between them and myself until young teenage, in which I began teaching myself the “missing words” in my vocabulary.

Regardless of the daily communicational hurdles my folks and I had to overcome, we, that is, my sister Keren, myself, Shai, my father, Menachem, and my mother, Jana, were a rather happy, rather normal family.

The most “not normal” thing about my family, and notably the only thing outstanding in our family (in a country with a huge variety of sub-cultures and customs) is the fact that we were, in plain terms, Deaf.

I consider myself and my sister, with our perfectly functioning ears, to be Deaf. The capitalization of the word Deaf in this instance is not a bizarre typo. I distinguish between a person who cannot hear or interpret voices into meaningful units of speech (words) as “deaf“.(this is not my idea, but I can’t recollect to whom the credit for this usage belongs to)

This, of course, is opposed to a person who belongs to the subculture of the Deaf. One might be Deaf even if he/she is completely without any disability, or, for all intents and purposes, armless, legless, blind, and anosmic.

I was Deaf ever since I was born. I was climbing chairs as a little ankle-biter during deaf-parties, utterly silent excepting a roar of laughter or a sharp intake of breath, and, of course, the “tsk-tsk” noises often made by signers who use their lips simultaneously (as far as I know, the most common of all deaf people).

Due to the fact that I signed very little, and hence spoke very little to my parents, I was a very, almost pathologically quiet young boy. At one instance, I was examined by a psychiatrist who merely stated that I’m “gifted”, an ego-booster that members of my family mention quite often. At this point, I wish to say that if I am gifted in any way, I would like someone to ruthlessly pinpoint what that gift is, as I’ve been wondering all my life whether there really is a gift I possess. (Off-topic, the meaning of the name Shai in Hebrew is “gift”. Usually a small, unremarkable gift, but a gift, nevertheless J )

Being a CODA is a huge, tiring, heart-tearing, emotionally-exhausting responsibility. A deaf parent should have a right, as any, to bear children and care for them, and, this I say of personal experience, have them well-bred as any other parent (and perhaps even better so).

But deaf parents must also be aware that their CODA offspring will endure the yoke of CODA at all time. This yoke is the ever-renewing “CODA task” that must be fulfilled. As young children, Keren and I learnt very quickly how to deal with bankers, technicians, correspondents, mailmen, neighbors, plumbers, etc. Needless to say, as two children who could barely sign, it was a bit short of a nightmare. But somehow, we fared through it. Keren managed most of the CODA work (but not all of it!) until I became a bit older. Then, at a critical point in every Israeli person’s life, Keren joined the IDF, which leads me to the next chapter of my CODA experience: Teenage.

C. Teenage

By my teens, doing CODA-work was something that Keren and I did somewhat alternately (with, I must admit, a bias towards Keren, older and more experienced).

When I was about 15 years old, Keren joined the IDF. I’m not exactly sure of the exact time when this actually happened, but at this point, it basically meant that at a time where “CODA-work” was plentiful, I was all-alone with two deaf parents. At this time, I decided it would be impossible to be their advocate without exquisite fluency in sign-language, and so, in about 3 months, I turned from an illiterate, mostly “lipping” CODA to a full-fledged ISL interpreter for both my mother and father, who, now older and more prone to medical care, daily required my help.

To explain what this period was like, I wish to introduce a term that I’m not sure exists in ASL (or in any other sign language that readers of this post might be using). In ISL, there is a word for “dad”, and a word for “mom”. The word for “parents” is, actually, a compound of these two words. Of this came the word between Keren and me, who, instead of calling them “the parents” (that’s the “Hebrew way of saying it”) –”momdad” (aba-ima in Hebrew).

So, as a lone CODA with a fresh (and ever sharpening) sign language, I became the mediator between my dad and the salesperson. I became the words in the mouth of the man on the phone, and my hands became the conduit for my mother’s part in the conversation.

I received, then, what I viewed and still view as the most noble of professions:

I became an interpreter.

To father, this was mainly dealing with the hurly-burly of his daily life. He dragged me down to all sorts of places.

To mother, to the very (painful) end, I became the man between her and the doctor. I signed words like “feces” and “menstrual blood” (at times in which I wasn’t exactly sure what these things were, but still knew how to sign). I took her to a myriad of clinics and hospitals to be examined and treated by a myriad of doctors, and have prescribed a myriad of medicine.

My mother, blessed forever be her indulgent name, was an ill woman. She became ill sometime during my early teens, I’m not sure which came first, the liver cirrhosis or the diabetes, but these two sufficed to create another (huge) responsibility for Keren and I: caretakers. We monitored her sugar-blood levels, and quite often accompanied her for the most meager of undertakings, and not, as it were, for “interpretation jobs”

TO BE CONTINUED…

Free at last!

טוב, מר אינקוגניטו עבר לוורדפרס. כן, אני יודע, זה לא בדיוק המהפכה הגדולה. קניתי אפילו דומיין ואני בתהליכים של להעביר את כל הבלוג לדומיין (שעלה כסף, וכסף טוב!) משלי.

אני הולך לכתוב כאן גם באנגלית וגם בעברית ספציפית משום שמדובר בבלוג חו”לי ולא ספציפית משום שאין לי מספיק חברים\חברים שאוהבים בלוגים\חברים שמתעניינים בקריאה שלי כדי לקרוא את הפוסטים שלי כאן, וחוץ מזה, הסיבה היחידה שאני “עובר לבלוג עצמאי” היא סנטימנטלית: אני אוהב להיות עצמאי בתור פרילנסר מבחינת העבודה שלי, ותמיד אהבתי לכתוב, ואני לא יכול לכתוב בשום צינור “פופולרי” וstreamlined כמו בעבר.

עכשיו אני הולך לכתוב כאן פשוט את כל העולה על רוחי. אני לא הולך לתת קטגוריות לבלוג. זה פשוט הבלוג שלי, ובבלוג שלי, אני אכתוב כל מחשבה שחולפת על רוחי.

To whoever may be reading this. This is my first post here in WP. I believe I have quite a lot to learn. Firstly, I want to emphasize that I have no qualms regarding readership in this blog. For all I care, this blog can be entirely deserted and, AFAIC, be a personal diary, de facto.

This blog would mainly contain text regarding my ever-so-turbulent psyche. Thoughts and ruminations regarding, well, the world and beyond, and that’s it.

This means that if anyone had any expectations that this blog would be full of shiny pictures and music videos, then I guess ya’ll gotta move on to the next blog.

Now that I’m done with my little pre-exposition, allow me to introduce myself. (I’ll be writing the rest of the post in English now, but I’ll try fiddling with the Hebrew posts after I interrogate some of my Israeli friends as to whether or not they can read these posts and cross-check that with anyone from abroad reading this)

Name’s Shai. That’s as far as I go. That’s my real name and although I’ve yanked lots of pen-names out of my ass, I think the true essence in whatever state of mind I had while thinking of any pen-name is now long gone. I’ve been writing behind a keyboard ever since I was quite young. Consider that with the fact that I ain’t too old right now as it is (As of the writing of this post, I’ve turned 23 just yesterday)

I’m not a clean-handed man. I’ve seen some pretty nasty shit and at one point of my life, pretty much went crazy and for a period of about a year, done crazy shit on a daily basis, alienating my friends, loved ones, and eventually, the person I cared about the most – my girlfriend… This is one part of my past that I wish I could bury, but the least it does is moor me back to reality if my brain starts fizzing with anxiety and agony once more. I’ll write more detailed posts about what could possibly lead a (more or less) normal dude into becoming a monster for one year and then jolting back into reality.

In the first post, I really want to give a little glimpse as to who I am. This is why this post is going to be, probably, but not assuredly, longer than the others.

I’m 23 years old. I’ve been born and raised in Israel all my life. For the most part of the last 10 years, I’ve been an avid Karateka, that is, a dude wearing a white robe and doing “Haiiiii-ya!” at randoms pedestrians. Oh, and push-ups. Lots of push-ups. Since I haven’t done much of that in, say, a year or so, now I’m just a slightly plump rather heavy-set fellow with a very strong recollection of beating people to a pulp in a friendly sort of manner (in this junction, I just wish to say that I’m not naturally a violent person. But sometimes, people just push you to become that way. I’ve always tried to refrain from it, at least until I had no other choice)

I’m a science freak. I spend at least 3 times a day clicking my way through science and science-related blogs. I’m an avid “evolution-defender”. If there’s anyone out there who’s been to the evolution-creation debate, he’d know what that means. But to be frank, the more science I learnt through university classes (I’m a first-year biology undergrad with miles of books read)  the more I figured out that the political attack against the theory of evolution is a lot more boring than the actual, well-proven science of evolution (and of course, biology)

Although this comes rather late in the post, it’s probably the attribute that defined my personality the most, and that is: I was born to two deaf parents. The official language in my house is ISL – Israeli Sign Language. Sign Language, the deaf culture, and being a CODA – Child of Deaf Adults – are with no doubt key factors in the development of my psyche. I’m rather sure that posts regarding CODA-ness and deaf-ness will be a-plenty.

Other than that, I’m just your average eccentric, slightly-geeky, venom-filled-sense-of-humor-ish kind of guy. It’s hard for me to step out of my brain and try to give it a thorough description, but if anyone should ever be interested enough as to not only read the blog, but investigate who the hell or what the hell I am, I’m sure answers will come promptly just by talking to me for a few minutes.

That’s all for now. I think my next posts would be a redux of what I think about Batman.

Oh, and it’s going to be in Hebrew, at first.