+ About Us
+ Contact Us
+ Jobs DAILY!
+ Cite this Site
+ Bi-Cultural Mediation
+ Cloze Skill
+ Demand Control
+ Dynamic Equivalence
+ How to Become
+ Sign Negotiation
+ Silent Socials
ASK A TERP
+ ASL Students Ask
+ Children Ask
+ CoWorkers Ask
+ Deaf Ask
+ Employers Ask
+ HH Ask
+ Hearing Ask
+ Law Enforcement Asks
+ Neighbors Ask
+ New Terps Ask
+ Parents Ask
+ Relatives Ask
+ Schoolmates Ask
+ Store Clerks Ask
+ Teachers Ask
+ Who'd We Miss?
- Form & Function
+ Agency Finder
+ Videos & DVDs
TRANSLATE THIS PAGE
At this point, we should probably let you know that starting now the whole
learning-about-interpreting thing becomes a tad technical. Why?
Because language and interpreting are complex subjects, requiring multi-faceted
understanding and know-how. And, because you can't become a
whale-of-an-interpreter until you get it about language.
Would a professional linguist (of the Ph.D. variety) say that
professional interpreters are linguists in the sense that the linguist is?
Probably not. However, a well-informed professional
interpreter has a better than average understanding of linguistics because s/he
must. A professional carpenter cannot effectively create with wood unless
s/he knows how to use it and how it behaves; likewise a professional
interpreter. [What's the difference between an interpreter and a professional
interpreter? Click here
for that discussion. The discussion here is about language.]
The field of interpreting is rife with
In fact, for many of us, getting over the hump of written assessments
encountered along the way is one of the biggest challenges. Because the
assessments are tricky? Because the industry is trying to get one over on
you? Happily, the answer is no. But, there are beaucoup words used
to talk about what interpreters do and how they do it, and much of the
terminology comes from the field of linguistics. Most of the linguistics
jargon is simply lifted and applied to ASL/English interpreting wholesale -
because it's true and it works. A little of the jargon gets lifted and
then tweaked before being applied. Why? Because, as we've seen elsewhere
on TerpTopics.com, there are cognition (knowing, understanding, reasoning,
judgment) and production distinctions to be made relative to interpreters and
language mode (here, mode means form, variety, or manner).
Because an interpreter
between at least two languages plus a variety of language and
communication systems, codes, and modes, it behooves us to know a few basics
about what human language is, and how we get it, understand it and use it.
linguistics different from language? The terms seem to be used
interchangeably, like they mean the same thing. Not quite, but they are
related. The word linguistics is to language as archaeology is to
artifact. Linguistics is the study of language, like archaeology is the
study of artifacts. Just as archaeologists study artifacts (tools, chips
of pottery, crumbled old buildings), where they came from, how people got them,
how they evolved, and how they were used, linguists study language, where is
came from, how it is acquired, how it evolves, and how it is used. For a
linguist, language is a thing, sort of a huge artifact, to be discovered and
examined, discussed and written about, and then studied some more.
Blockbuster interpreters understand the basics of how languages are used and
employ this knowledge to render the most complete and meaningful interpretation.
How do we do it? TerpTopics.com takes a look at the idea of message
Here, we will talk a little about the idea of message meaning. After all,
interpreters can't very well change a message into a different language until
its meaning is known (imagine the chaos, holy cow!).
Among their many talents, great interpreters are master analysts. They
figure out what a person means with such lightening speed that to the
uninitiated onlooker interpreting seems like a piece of cake - the easiest job
in the world. However, other interpreters know that what the master
analysts do is nothing short of a miracle and are awed by such talent.
How do great interpreters extract meaning from a message? They analyze it.
In this way, they understand it the way a linguist does.
"The Building Blocks"
How many interpreters have wished for an opportunity to halt the action long
enough to put a client's message on a couch, grab a clipboard, don reading
glasses, and ask probing questions like, "How long have you felt this way?
What do you wish to achieve? How would you like to be perceived by
others?" Sorry. No such luck.
While interpreters may not be able to psychoanalyze a message, they are able to
- in fact, must - linguistically analyze a message and do so with varying
degrees of skill and success. Before we analyze meaning, it is convenient
to construct a sort of meaning map that we can use to determine where we are in
relation to other linguistic levels of expression and understanding.
Linguistic Levels of
few of the students were feeling disheartened because, no matter how hard they
studied, they simply could not grasp the mathematical concepts.
few of the students-were feeling disheartened because-
no matter now hard they studied-they simply could not grasp-the
few of the students were feeling disheartened because, no matter how
hard they studied, they simply could not grasp the mathematical
students tried hard; but, a few couldn't understand the math, so they
felt less confident. The presenter hoped to identify any flaws in
teaching theory and methods, to avoid the same situation next semester.
Arrangement of Words
words; meaninglessly arranged:
Confident few because
concepts a could mathematical of they the disheartened matter how no
simply not studied they were the grasp hard not students.
is a system (of symbols and rules) that is used for meaningful communication. A
system of communication has to meet certain criteria in order to be considered a
language uses symbols, which are sounds, gestures, or written
characters that represent objects, actions, events, and ideas. Symbols
enable people to refer to objects that are in another place or events
that occurred at a different time.
language is meaningful and therefore can be understood by
others who use the same language.
language is generative, which means that the symbols of a
language can be combined to produce an infinite number of
language has rules that govern how symbols can be arranged.
These rules allow people to understand messages in that
language even if they have never encountered those
Development in Children
develop language in a set sequence of stages, although sometimes particular
skills develop at slightly different ages:
infants can distinguish between the phonemes from any language.
around six months, infants begin babbling, or producing sounds
that resemble many different languages. As time goes on, these
sounds begin to resemble more closely the words of the languages the
about thirteen months, children begin to produce simple
about twenty-four months, children begin to combine two or
three words to make short sentences. At this stage, their speech is
usually telegraphic. Telegraphic speech,
like telegrams, contains no articles or
about age three years, children can usually use tenses and
language abilities continue to grow throughout the school-age
years. They become able to recognize ambiguity and sarcasm
in language and to use metaphors and puns. These abilities
arise from metalinguistic awareness,
or the capacity to think about how language is
may sometimes be used correctly but still have an unclear meaning or
multiple meanings. In these cases, language is ambiguous - it can
be understood in several ways. Avoid biting dogs is an
example of an ambiguous sentence. A person might interpret it as Keep
out of the way of biting dogs or Don’t bite dogs.
A lexicon is a
set of words known by an individual or a group. These are
the words people know and have available to use when expressing themselves or
when trying to understand others. When someone uses a word you don't know,
we would say that word is not in your lexicon, the set of words you understand.
Then, after you learn the new word, and maybe use it a couple of times, the word
is no longer new to you so is added to the other words you know, your lexicon of
Professional, national, social, or other peer groups have stores of words,
lexicons, that members of other groups may not understand. For example,
the lexicon of U.S. Postal Service workers includes about a million acronyms
that the rest of us probably do not understand.
Interpreters typically have lexicons that are extraordinary in size and scope
because they have facilitated communication in any number of settings (and
situations!). Before an interpreter can be said to be qualified for an
assignment, s/he must have a working familiarity with the anticipated lexicon
that will be required. Professional interpreters invest heavily in
expanding their English and ASL vocabularies to be as prepared as possible for
... to be continued.
Code: Dots and dashes represent English text. Morse Code is not
English, but can represent English - in code. Morse Code is not a
language; it is, well, a code.
Additional examples of code are: semaphore
(signals using flags); computer programming (programmers refer to
themselves as coders); wartime communications (cryptic messages); and all
written forms of a spoken language (writing it, is coding it). Just
for fun, here's a student worksheet
about codes from Scholastic.com.
In its strictest sense, even spoken
and signed languages are codes. Because we are unable to communicate
thoughts directly, we code them into language. In this sense, art is also
code, as the artist communicates using artistic expression.
Because TerpTopics.com is a site
written by interpreters about interpreting, for the most part we will use the
word language when we mean "language used to represent
thoughts" and we will use the word code when we mean "a
language used to represent a different language " (e.g. ASL coded into
Coding one language into another is not without its challenges. Much
original meaning is lost when a language is coded. This becomes glaringly
clear when coding a signed language through the use of a spoken language.
Signed languages are
three-dimensional, using space. For example, a signer can convey concepts,
events, and places, all simultaneously. Signed languages are non-linear.
On the other hand (no pun intended),
spoken languages (including their written code) are two-dimensional; they are
linear (like a line). Spoken languages are generally capable of conveying
a single word at a time, then stringing them together to form a sentence,
followed by more sentences, and so on.
Coding a non-linear
(three-dimensional) language through the use of a linear (two-dimensional)
language cannot successfully convey the full meaning of the original message.
We use coding, in spite of the
shortfalls, because it is helpful to second-language learners.
When you are learning ASL
grammar, it is helpful to code an ASL utterance using English words.
Because you know English, it is a useful reference in comparing and contrasting
a new language. You can understand something about the new language when
you can understand the ways in which it is different from or the same as the
language you already know. This is why we code.
... to be continued.
Manually Represented Phonics
Signed English Systems
... to be continued.
WHAT DOES "CONTACT
... to be continued.
This page has been visited
July 17, 2008.
TerpTopics is a trademark and service mark of TerpTopics, LLC.
All rights reserved.
TerpTopics™ is an
independent entity; as such does not claim or attempt to claim, represent,
or imply by any means whatsoever that it is associated with any other
entity that may or may not offer services, goods, or information of
interest to interpreter, Deaf, or student communities. The opinions
expressed here those of TerpTopics unless otherwise stated. Please
keep in mind that, while every effort is made to present correct,
appropriate, and reasonable information that is based on our experience,
anecdotal experiences of others, or developed during the general course of
study and professional development, we do not represent TerpTopics as
having cornered the market on wisdom (heck, no!) or experience; one reason
why links to several other good and reliable resources are made available
throughout this site, and we hope that earnest seekers of knowledge will
take advantage of them.
Did someone say
So many books;
so little time ...
Why waste it?
Discover films of interest to
ASL or interpreting students here.