Sunday, June 18, 2017

EIPA Levels & Business Cards

Dear Friends and Colleagues (and others),

As my blog says, this is my opinion. I have no power, no authority. If you have an opposing view, please post.

My opinion today is that I do not agree with having the acronym "EIPA" on business cards, email signatures, etc.

And here's why:

The EIPA is NOT a pass/fail performance test. It is a rating system. You can take the EIPA and receive a 1.5 score and be able to say "I have an EIPA rating."

It is a test that gives you a rating and that rating can high enough that you can work in Florida, but not in Georgia. Or low enough that you can't work anywhere ethically.

A former student asked if she should put EIPA on her business card. I said, "No, not unless you include the score." Her response was, "I don't want people to know the score." To which I said, "Then leave it off."

So I guess the litmus test for me is asking yourself the question, "Am I willing to put my score next to EIPA?" If not, then putting EIPA gives a false impression to individuals who do not know about RID, NAD, CASLI, EIPA.

I support the EIPA-- the performance materials, ratings, feedback and what it has done to improve educational interpreting. I do not support the misrepresentation that I see on individual's business cards.


Faith Powell, MA, CSC, (Plus I took the SAT, GRE and MAT.)

Saturday, July 30, 2016

September 11, 2001 I was working as the staff interpreter at a school for the deaf. I was between assignments saw the news. THE news. At that point, only the first tower had been hit. My first instinct was "Go tell all the deaf people!" I went from classroom to classroom, telling the deaf teachers. Within minutes everyone gathered in the library in front of the big TV and I began to interpret. I knew that what I was doing was not a product of my JOB DUTIES, it was a product of my CONNECTION to the deaf community.

Which brings me to "Live Access ASL." During the Democratic National Conference, Shonna Magee posted this on Facebook:

Any interpreters willing to join and interpret for DNC tonight?

And then soon there was a schedule and then there were live videos going on Facebook from interpreters from all over the country making the DNC accessible in ASL and Signed English. What a brilliant use of social media!

It was a grassroots movement. It was people coming together to try and do something innovative.

Of course, there was at least one nay-sayer. Luckily I did not see his comment.  I think it was the great philosopher Taylor Swift who said, "Haters gonna hate."

A few years ago, I wrote a blog post in which I said "Using ASL only as a source of income is an abuse of privilege and exploiting a language community." Some people balked at this, saying they didn't have the time and energy after working all week and taking care of family. My response was that, it wasn't always about pro bono work. It was about being open and willing to seize opportunities to give back.

Something as simple as a hearing interpreter asking all his or her health care providers if they provide interpreters and being willing to change providers if the answer is "No" --- is an act of solidarity and social justice.

Not everyone one is willing to put their skills out on Facebook, but for those who did...mad kudos! For others, "Think globally, act locally."

Saturday, July 19, 2014

I appreciate the political and philosophical blogs and vlogs found on-line that discuss interpreter roles and ethics, community activism and power,and  Deafhood and Deaf Heart. Kudos to DeafRead and Street Leverage! 

As for me, I’m a bit of a language nerd (oh, let’s be honest I’m a BIG language nerd). For 20 years, I have been observing, documenting and analyzing a growing lexicon of signs and gestures used in everyday ASL narrative and discourse.

My goal has always been to work out the definition of these signs but NOT IN ENGLISH WORDS. I have been working on creating scenarios, reactions, emotions and settings that prompt these signs. This way, as I continue to teach interpreting I am able to help student break out of the English mode by encouraging them to develop a “gut feeling” about these signs.

There is a workshop I have been presenting for many years—Semantic Clusters. This workshop organizes this lexicon into groups of closely related or oft confused signs. Over the years, the number of Semantic Clusters has increased as had my evidence of their meaning.

I believe that interpreters and advanced ASL students are hungry to understand the depth of meaning of signs, particularly those signs for emotions, actions and reactions,

While I continue to present this workshop, I have created a Facebook page “Semantic Clusters” to continue to put forth my ideas and encourage dialogue.

This past week, I began a discussion of a group of signs (with video) that relate generally to the idea of “being quiet/not talking/not saying anything/keeping one’s own counsel”

Please feel free to visit and “like” and participate. 

Sunday, February 16, 2014

It's NOT Music to My Ears (or Eyes)

You might consider this a rant. I consider it to be more of an outpouring of "tough love."  My topic is the posting of interpreted music on YouTube--more specifically, the posting of music interpreted into ASL *cough* by ASL students and other hearing signers.

This is not a blog about whether are not music "should" be interpreting into ASL. This is not a blog about those individuals who have the experience, the training and talent to do so (Deaf or Hearing).

This is a blog about the hundreds of videos posted by, I would hope, well-meaning and enthusiastic hearing signers who, frankly, have not a clue how to interpret music. Not. One. Clue.

This afternoon I searched YouTube and found more than 15 different ASL *cough* versions of "Royals"-- a wildly popular song. As an interpreter, interpreter trainer and sign language linguist, my studied opinion of each one was, "What the WHAT?" But that is not even the problem. The problem really is in the comments.
These are actual comments:

awesome job, I am only in asl 2 and that even showed the ideas of the song not just the words. amazing!

Beautiful job! <3 nbsp="">

Crisp and understandable, good job!

The videos from which I copied these comments are not shining examples of ASL interpreting (music or otherwise). The commentors often identify themselves as "ASL 2 student" "Want to take ASL classes."

These commentors lavish love and adoration upon these signers, beg them for tutorials, request them to interpret other songs. And if someone posts feedback or someone (say someone who is ME) points out errors, mis-production, etc., then the commentors responses because incredible defensive:

Are you a ASL teacher or interpreter or something? Because you are taking the fact that she signed something wrong too seriously.


So let me get a couple of things out of the way. First, I have no problem with ASL students or interpreting students interpreting songs into ASL. Whatever floats your boat, I say. I may not want to be in the boat with you, but I defend your right to have a boat. But I beg not post the video of your work on YouTube. You do a disservice to current and future ASL students. You set a BAD, yes, BAD example of what music interpreting could and should be. And there is a domino effect. The more we worship mediocre and less-than-mediocre work. the lower expectations become. This is especially important for those just entering the field. Those future interpreters need to be exposed to quality work.

Let me explain it this way. You see, I love to sing. Sadly, I have a terrible voice. That fact does NOT stop me. I sing in the car, in the shower. I sing in the morning and I sing at night. It makes me happy and (so far) the neighbors haven't complained. However, if I were to post a video of me singing...let's say "Royals" by Lorde on YouTube...I guarantee that I'd get lots and lots of negative and perhaps nasty comments and I'm sure those commentors would  confirm what I know...I can't sing. I'm sure, though, that they would say poetically, "You cannot *#!$%-ing sing."  Since most of the viewers on YouTube can hear and KNOW what good singing is...I'm not likely to build a fan base.

I believe these "bad ASL video" posters are looking for that adoration...since they know that the overwhelming majority of viewers do not sign.

My message to these signers is this:




Sunday, October 31, 2010

From The Trenches

I've been teaching Simultaneous English to ASL this semester. I have twelve students and this is what I can say about all of them:

1. They have learned to trust me, to trust that what I tell them is what I truly believe will work.

2. They are willing to make changes in how they think about language, culture and interpreting.

3. They all want to "convey the message faithfully."

4. They are all making progress.

Now here's what I can say about me as the instructor.

1. I do not have enough time in class (1 hour, 15 minutes, twice a week) to instruct, then model, then have them practice. I leave classes wanting to have done more,

2. I owe part of any success I am having to for providing my students with a virtual language community.

3. I owe another part of any success I am having to iTunes and the free podcasts they offer, which provides unlimited numbers of source material on a variety of subjects. (In particular, TedTalk video podcasts.)

4. I finally got them to stop signing "HAPPEN" "WILL" and "HAVE" in every sentence.

It's a daunting task to teach this class. As much as it is on them to "do the work" so it is on me to "guide the work."

I pray I am on the right track.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

You're either IN or you're OUT!

Being an interpreter makes you a part of a language community. Make that...being an interpreter "should" make you a part of a language community, since my previous statement assumes that you use the language in social situations as well as business.

Using ASL simply as a source of income is, in my opinion, an abuse of a privilege and is,in essence, exploiting a language community.

It is a privilege to be invited into the deaf community and to be trusted enough to be present in situations that impact their income, their health, their business, their families and their very personal issues.

Being a part of the ASL community doesn't mean that you "love" all deaf people, participate in the "long goodbye," or tell everyone where you are going when you get up from the table. It means that you understand that the language belongs to the people who use it as their primary means of communication, it means that you value and respect the language users and strive to have as fluent abilities and as complete an understanding of that language as possible.

In my experience, those interpreters and students who are not part of the language community, often plateau early and rarely develop skills that are valued or sought after by deaf people.

So, are you IN or are you OUT?

Sunday, May 16, 2010

I say 2 + 2 = 5!

Oh, wait...IT DOESN'T??!! Well, my friend said it did and he knows math. And it totally could be 5, if you think about inflation. Okay, maybe it's not five, but I think you understood what I meant...I meant 4. Also, 5 is very close to 4, isn't it?


Rarely in math is there room for discussion regarding addition, subtration, multiplication or division. It's right, or it's wrong. Accept your B- and keep moving. Try to work on the problems in the back of the book.

But, can this work with the process of learning ASL? It seems that everything leads to a discussion..."my deaf friend says..." "I saw an interpreter sign..." "The client understood me anyway..." And the instructors say, "What I do is..." "What I've seen is..." "One time, at band camp..."

No wonder interpreting students are so confused so much of the time. They don't always have great language models around them and there's so much hedging and waffling from instructors who are reticent to say:
"That is the wrong sign." "That is not grammatically correct." "This is the correct sign, this is the grammatically correct structure."

I'd like a nickel for everytime I've heard a five minute "you're okay, I'm okay" speech before the feedback even begins.

While I do not believe language learning can be as black and white as math, I do think we can learn something from math teachers. Math teachers always tell their students to "show your work." Not only does the math student know that their answer was incorrect, they also get feedback about where they went off track. Interpreters show their final answer (the interpretation), but not their "work"---which is the processing that goes on in their heads.

We need to not only be strong enough and kind enough to be direct and clear about what is right and wrong...we also need to explain when there is "good, better and best".

And we need to figure out ways for our students to SHOW THEIR WORK. Engage them in discussions about why they used a rhetorical question. If they have no reason...what a perfect teaching moment!

Ask students to explain what they really thought that phrase meant, what purpose did the classifier serve, etc.

We have to ask better questions, to get better answers and to understand the students' process.

I have no magic plan for this. But as I will be returning to teaching interpreting in the Fall, I plan blog about my successes (and near misses and flops!).