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I started to learn signing 35 years ago. Seems like a lot of things have changed, especially what is listen within the lexicon of signs in ASL. Also the big use of classifiers. The following signs were considered a no-no n ASL but it seems they are part of the lexicon now: ALLOW, LET, FRUIT, VEGETABLE, TEAM, GROUP, CLASS(signed with a very clear C rather than the open C), AUTHORITY, many other contrived initialized signs. When being evaluated, are they considered ‘bad’ signs as used in school settings that the Deaf didn’t like? A few years into, the idea of SASS came up but now I guess they are part of classifiers. Don’t get me wrong, I really like classifiers but are they part of the language? Seems like a lot of changed or am I getting the wrong information? You know the book “A Basic Course in American Sign Language”, I had a trainer in one of the first Interpreter Training Programs that disliked the book great and said “The book might call itself ASL, but it really isn’t!” I had started his program but after that comment, I lost interest in his program and dropped out. Another trainer I had claimed to know all signs. She really liked Sternberg’s book. I had signed the concept of “Step-father”, and very quickly she told me I was completely wrong. I had signed FATHER but with the L-handshape. That was a sign also shown in his book. She didn’t know what tot say then, but at first I was very attacked. Who’s to say what was right. I was at a Deaf party once and it was getting late, and I had closed my eyes. Somebody nudged me at asked me what my problem was, and I answered “I got up early.” Gulp, which sign should I use for EARLY?!?!?! I opted for the fingerspelled loan sign as I thought that would be the “safest”, and the gentleman says “Oh no no this is the sign. It is signed ROOSTER.” Another gentleman was watching and he jumped in and said “You both are wrong, the correct sign is EARLY (the middle finger going across the top of wrist on the left hand).” Who as right?!? Another time, I was interpreting at a saw mill retraining, I would do my homework the night before. Here was a word I didn’t want to fingerspell all the time: DEBARKER. So I asked the three Deaf consumers separately, what is the sign. I got fingerspelled and two very different signs. So I decided when interpreting for all 3, I would just fingerspell it. That happened a lot. So when I got my evaluation, the two that was always showing me signs, rather cut me down for not remembering how to make the signs that had give me. Must to my amazement, the person that told me spell most of them, gave me a high rating but I thought he would be the hardest on me. When I took my NAD test the second time, I made sure I used base signs, no contrived initialized signs, and sign for the right meaning. I felt rather good about it. But when I got my results back, it indicated I had a rather low sign vocabulary and didn’t always pick the “right” sign. Of course, no specifics were given. Again, it reminds me of the time I was interpreting in court for a couple. For some reason the judge called an 2 hour recess. During that time, the Deaf couple talked to me and told me they were bothered by one sign I was using, it was when the word “CHARGED” was used. They read my lips so they know that is what was being said. Be they wanted to know why I was signing “BLAME” as they felt the sign should be “FINED” (PRICE). So I gave them my explanation, the court was ‘blaming’ (CHARGING) them for doing such and such crime, but if the judged found them guilty, then they would have to pay a ‘fine’(CHARGE). They thought about it and then asked “You mean if we are not guilty, we don’t pay a fine(CHARGE)?” “Correct” “So right now we are being charged for a crime. Oh I understand now. Your sign is correct.” I could take up volumes of examples but you get the picture. The worse time was recently in court, I was watching the interpreter the Deaf defendant asked for. Judge had his doubts but hired me to see if she was getting the right message across. But no need as the plaintiff changed their mind. So the judge said “The court case has been dropped.” Dutiful interpreter signs COURT BOX HAS(OWN) BE(initialized REAL sign) DROP-TO-THE-FLOOR The defended first looked puzzled then suddenly she thought she understood and jumped and started looking for the box on the floor. The interpreter and her advocate had to literally drag her out of the court as she wanted to find the box that was on the floor. Clearly what not the right concept but some things are not that clear cut. One that bothers me the most is LAST when it’s signed with a time indicator. LAST is often signed FINAL rather than PAST or do a number incorporation. I’ve got to stop; I’m rambling on. I hope I’ve made my point. But I still wonder who is really the judge if its’ the right sign? I know Deaf will sign something incorrect, but shame on me for saying that as I am a hearie.
William L. Long