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Breaking the Sound Barrier: A Look into Deaf Communication

Essay by   •  March 2, 2016  •  Case Study  •  849 Words (4 Pages)  •  908 Views

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The University Speaking Center strives to be inclusive, respectful of diversity, and to create an environment of sensitivity so that all speakers, regardless of background, can feel that they are in a safe space. Recently, I worked with a speaker who is deaf. The consultation was not so different than most, other than she had an interpreter. My reasons for writing this narrative are not only for others to learn, but myself. I conducted some research on Deaf culture, so that I could more wholly understand the ways in which communication differs in the Deaf community. This case study includes information from my own experiences, academic books on both deaf culture and American Sign Language, and journal articles.

Notice throughout this paper that I sometimes capitalize, “Deaf.” This is because I’m referring to a community of people: just like one would capitalize “Japanese” or “Catholic.” When the word is not capitalized, it refers to having the inability to hear. As Students Helping Students says, “judging a man to be incapable because he is deaf,” can hamper attempts to make connections (Ender & Newton, 2006, p. 60).

The Trainer’s Handbook describes ways to accommodate different types of learners. One accommodation described that trainer’s must be prepared for learners who have disabilities (Lawson, 2006, p. 78). I’d like to note that people in the Deaf community don’t see themselves as hearing-impaired. They see this as a part of their culture, just like if they had a different skin color or religion.

This specific experience I had started off like most other consultations I’ve had. The speaker explained the assignment and her own part of it. The consultant made sure to talk directly to the speaker, not her interpreter. This is important to note because the interpreter is not there to give opinions or participate in discussion; they simply interpret. The consultant also gave the interpreter time to sign out their words, so the speaker could respond with questions or discussion. The consultant also made sure to ask clarifying questions so that they knew the speaker was understanding her message. They also asked questions to better understand what the speaker was trying to get across.

Throughout the consultation, the speaker kept referring back to her previous speech. During her presentation, her message did not get across to the audience, because she and her interpreter were not on the same page. This happens so often because sign language is not literal. For example, if you wanted to say, “I’m fine,” you wouldn’t sign the words “I,” “am,” and “fine.” You would give the sign for “me,” then “fine,” then “me” again (Zinza, 2006, p. 4). Miscommunication can very easily happen between a speaker and interpreter. Our advice for her was to find out who the interpreter would be on her presentation day, and contact them



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