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:





Unknown said...

I do not appreciate you posting this on my video. It was marked as spam and I'm leaving it like that.

Not to disrespect your opinion. I see your point of view and I hear what you are saying. But my channel is not made to substitute for an ASL class. Its simply to peek peoples interest so that they WANT to take a class.

I DONT make lesson videos nor will I ever. I only make song covers and tutorials which I also use to correct mistakes made in the cover. Yes, I make mistakes and I try to correct them. my videos show my own progress and its a way for me to see my growth as well as let others learn with me.

It is also an amazing tool for learning. Have you ever considered that some people do not have access to an ASL class? By posting my videos, my viewers point out my mistakes. I have enough subscribers that nothing goes unnoticed. I learn from them correcting me. I improve because of these videos.

I may not be an interpreter but I do want to spread awareness of ASL. Some of my song covers may not be perfect grammatically, but my viewers come away learning a few new signs. They pick up words here and there and start to gain a vocabulary. They may not be fluent but they would at least be able to communicate with a deaf or HOH person if they happened to come across one. I know they are working because I have come across numerous Deaf or HOH people and been able to communicate with them flawlessly. They have even told me that I was a very good signer. That progress would NOT have happened if I didn't make these videos.

I know you want everyone to learn correctly or not at all. But with ASL, most people don't even know the language even exist. Why not learn a few signs and be able to communicate at a remedial level? Why does every video posted have to be completely accurate? Does the fact that they show interest in the language mean nothing to you?

I have no interest in arguing with you. I won't stop making videos. I enjoy it and it helps me learn. I can't afford to take an ASL class right now and my school doesn't offer one. So until I graduate and am able to take an actual class, I will continue using these videos as a tool to learn.

Faith Georgia said...

Dear ASL Anissa,

It's not "peek peoples interest." It's "pique people's interest."

Amy said...

ASL Anissa,

First of all, here's the disclosure.

I am Deaf and I use American Sign Language as primary form of communication.

First of all, I want to start saying something positive here, then giving you constructive feedback/criticism, and end up with something positive. That's what "sandwich" method is all about for people can hear. We, Deaf people by-pass this 'sandwich' method and will tell like it is...

Will I want to tell like it is? Yeah, but not this time. I hope this 'sandwich' method will make you bit more receptive to what I am trying to say.

Positive: I am glad you are learning American Sign Langauge and spreading awareness.

Criticism: Do not ever bastardize American Sign Language just because you want to give viewers some chance to learn few remedial signs. That is the sign of disrespect to ASL.

Positive: Thank you for not stopping making videos, and please add disclaimer statement that these videos are not used to learn ASL, it is my way of expressing myself with bastardized form of ASL. Keep it up with your work.

Anissa, you are making me angry how you come up with rational statements to defend yourself. Just. Write. A. Disclaimer. For. Every. Video. You. Publish. And... lastly, TAKE ASL class with DEAF teacher, and you will be amazed how much you will learn than just memorizing remedial signs.

Thank you and have a wonderful day, Anissa.

See ya around.

Amy (Very outspoken ASL Activist/Vlogger/Blogger of "Deaf World As Eye See It" and damn good friend of Faith Georgia.)

CDM said...

I agree with the blog writer. It should be the true ASL signers' videos getting the praise, not a student still learning the language. Just not cool when the general public highly praise a poorly done ASL translated song, while there are Deaf people doing the same thing (and doing a much better job at it) who barely get any online attention. ASL is a Deaf language, it should be respected.

As to what ASL Anissa said... yeah ok some places won't have resources for ASL classes, but going on youtube to try to pick up some ASL signs from a medicore ASL signer/student is most definitely not the way to go. There are much better resources online for those who are interested in learning ASL, but the best way to learn ASL to get involved with the deaf community if possible, or taking proper ASL classes if available. Not youtube videos posted by hearing folks who are not fluent in ASL.

Lauren Edwards said...


I have just lost all respect for you.

And it has nothing to do with your opinion.

WOW. I am disgusted.

Unknown said...

Hi Anissa*,

No matter how well-meaning you are -- and you absolutely have the right to do what you're doing -- I want you to just stop and consider if you are really spreading "awareness of ASL," which is an admirable goal.

The problem is, that your ASL is half-baked. It's obvious that you're trying. You aren't literally signing word-for-word what the songs are in English, and that's an important step.

But your output is still in "student-speak," and not what fluent signers produce. And it certainly isn't what good song-signers produce.

It's okay. Not everyone is cut out to translate music or verse. Heck, I've been signing for 30 years, including work on some pretty big broadway musicals, and I haven't made a music video.

But you know, I took a semester or two of Spanish, and I have a Spanish Dictionary. So, here goes...

Ella toca toda la noche hasta que el sol
Estoy despierto toda la noche para conseguir algo
Ella es toda la noche para una buena diversión
Estoy toda la noche para tener suerte

That would be Daft Punk in Spanish. And if I sang it... oy. Let's just say I'm no Luis Miguel. This is how your "ASL" versions of the songs "sound" to native signers.

A little respect, please. You say you love the language... is this too much to ask?



[*] I just can't call you "ASL Anissa" -- the name is based on a false premise

Meghan said...

Dan's comment is right on the ball.

Anonymous said...

My granddaughter is Deaf. Yet she has CIs (not her choice), no interpreters in mainstream school, and no ASL classes. Her father is Deaf, whom she is kept from. She didn't want to participate in juggling in school but asked if she could sign Katy Perry's Firework with the jugglers using signing. She did not use ASL, although I'm sure she thought she was. She was only 10, nearly 11 at the time. I explained to her that what she was really using was PSE and that it should be labeled that- not ASL. Soon after the video of her doing this was posted, a true version in ASL was posted. It went viral. Why? Because, it was the pure form. Should my grandchild's be banned?

Anonymous said...

Just another rude Deafie....I wish Dr Phil or one of the major talk shows would get out of their comfort zone and do a program on the Deaf vs. the Hearing communities....someday there will be a very small deaf community due to technology and the ability to hear even if you are deaf...can a hearing person step into a deaf persons shoes...yes we can..but can a deaf person step into a hearing persons unless you are ready to step up and get the equipment you can use to hear...personally I think the Deaf are afraid to hear and enjoy living in their own little world and hiding behind deafness...

Anonymous said...

Try turning off the sound and watching yourself sign. Maybe you'll see more clearly what people are trying to tell you.

Faith Georgia said...

To the poster with the grandchild. That video went viral I assume because it was a sweet little girl signing. It was not promoted as an ASL interpreter song. Completely different situation.

Anonymous said...

So if she changed her name or gave a disclaimer that her interpreting is not ASL, you would be ok with her videos? I know that the Deaf community it quite passionate about their language and culture, but there is a difference between passion and arogance. Why can't the Deaf community offer her help to learn and then I promote the language? I've noticed that the Deaf culture will shun people who are not like them. With that said, please check out my blog

Susan (a VERY outspoken mom who made the choice to give her deaf child access to sound via cochlear implants)

Jessica said...

I have to disagree with anonymous here - I don't think that wanting to protect the language of your culture from being appropriated by very non-fluent users who advertise themselves as willing to give sign language tutorials is "arrogance." ASL is the language of the Deaf community, and while I believe that someone like Anissa would be more than welcome in ASL classes and Deaf events, and even encouraged to progress in her fluency, it is quite another thing to post videos of yourself on the internet (which frankly invites criticism if you are not fluent in the language) and offer tutorials to other non-fluent users.

Jessica said...

Oh, and obviously your 10 year old grand daughter's video should not be "banned". (As Anissa's videos are, in fact, not banned). But the motivations behind the two are very different.

Anonymous said...

I agree with your point that we need to protect ASL from linguistic appropriation, and that we need to encourage ASL students not to post mediocre videos of them signing on the internet. It spreads misinformation about the language for sure.

However, I disagree with your tactics. Your reliance on bullying to "educate" is part of the reason why some of us chose to leave the interpreting field of Atlanta, GA (and Georgia Perimeter College). I really hope we can weed out people like you because you're holier-than-thou attitude is detrimental to the interpreting field as a whole. You are a very skilled interpreter, but your attitude has given you a bad reputation among my colleagues.

Faith Georgia said...

I don't consider myself a bully. In fact, the first comment I made to ASL Anissa was a simple..."You have a great presence, but I think you can do better."

My tactics are the culmination of years of trying to remain supportive.

I spend most of my time supporting and encouraging. The issue is...that people who do not have sufficient skills...won't accept that fact. If they would accept it and look for mentorship...I'd be here for them. Not everyone has to be superstar...but those working should be providing adequate service.

As for speaking out and speaking the truth...most people who speak the truth are disliked until their truth becomes the standard.

Anonymous said...

As for the issue with the music video that Anissa posted, I thank her for her passion in ASL and the fact she wants to learn and ASK for corrections. It is really nice to see people wanting to learn my language. Of course they may get some signs wrong or not understand the culture, but they are making an effort unlike others I know. Faith, instead of squelching her passion, give her resources so she can get better. You as an educator should always water the passion, not starving it. You are also held to a high standard as a representative from Georgia Perimeter College’s Sign Language Interpreter Program. As a member of the Deaf community, I have seen enough. I am tired of this. To build a bridge between two worlds is precious, and I am telling you that you are destroying the community rapports. You say you are “trying” to support…and I am seeing the lack of it. We have heard so many stories that student actually run out of the room crying. That is not a supportive action toward the interpreting community. That is not a value from the Deaf community. Not only has this happened toward the students and the interpreter community, this has happened to the Deaf community. This makes people to not like you. This type of behavior is not fitting as a professional educator.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your comment. I was once a student of an interpreter program but I had to quit. I almost did leave the room in tears due to remarks from my Deaf professor. My son wears a cochlear implant and before she was aware of that fact, she degraded hearing parents for their choices...but there I was trying to learn the language despite his CI. I hope that the two worlds can build that bridge and learn from one another. Again, thank you for your well thought out comment.

Anonymous said...

Faith, the problem is that your approach to students, newer interpreters and people you feel are beneath you, is appalling. You demean, use sarcasm and TRY to use humor to intimidate people. Ask almost anyone in the Atlanta community, Deaf or hearing and they will tell you. This whole blog shows how you attack and hurt people. Anissa DIDNT even asked for your “tough love”. You leave in your wake, brokenness and pain. But you are oblivious and frankly don’t care. That’s the saddest part. You intentionally hurt people and you DON’T CARE.

The last person was right, there are countless stories of how you have given feedback or critiques to younger interpreter, Unsolicited, or even solicited, and you just leave them bruised and bashed. I too have personally heard the stories of your students running out of your classroom crying because of how mean you are. That is not professional, called for or appropriate.

It is high time for you to take a hard look at yourself and start making some changes…! Changes; for the sake of your students, others and ultimately the Deaf community.

Unknown said...

Sir or Madam,

The aforementioned "equipment" is not a solution to Deafness, it is merely an assistive device. A device, that doesn't consistently work, and doesn't work for everybody the same way. If you have grown up in a signing household, are comfortable signing, etc, there is no need to take the risk and attempt to "see" if you can have a successful device. Some people who get cochlear implants, have to have the surgery repeated on both sides of the head, because one side doesn't work.

Faith Georgia said...

I take in all the comments (positive and negative). After all, if one puts oneself out on the web, one is implicitly asking for feedback. It is the same with ASL Anissa. Once she puts her work out there publicly, she similarly opens herself up to comment.

Unknown said...

I watch Anissa's videos over other (probably more accurate) ASL music videos because she puts in subtitles.
Because I know ASL syntax is very different from English, I have to know the order of the words being signed in order to learn them. While I know that Anissa is not perfect (she freely states that she is a student of ASL and not Deaf of HoH) but she makes the signs (even if they are, as you said, remedial) accessible.

Unknown said...

And in Britni's comment is a kernel of wisdom that we should all walk away with... caption your content, no matter what the primary language is. Failing that, provide a transcript. We're all about access here, right?