Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Sign Language Interpretation: The Facial Expressions Have It

Sign Language Interpretation: The Facial Expressions Have It


Thamsanqa Jantjie considers himself a “champion of sign language”. That depends on your definition of champion. If you consider a champion to be someone who brings attention (positive or negative) to an issue then sure, he’s a champion. But if you think that a champion has to do good for a cause or is a winner in some way, then Jantjie’s self-proclaimed title is in doubt. You see, Jantjie is the sign language interpreter who caused a righteous furore at global peace icon Nelson Mandela’s memorial service.

sign language interpretation facial expressions Sign Language Interpretation: The Facial Expressions Have It

The attention he garnered may all have been negative (putting South African security protocols in a bad light), but he did underline the importance of qualified and talented sign language interpreters at major events.

There’s more to sign language interpretation than meets the eye

Spoken languages depend on subtle vocal inflections and nuances; meaning varies according to the emphasis placed on certain words and even certain parts of words. It stands to reason that sign language is just as affected by subtle changes in gestures and facial expressions. This means that it takes more than technical knowledge to be a sign language interpreter; it also takes bodily and facial animation and, more importantly, control.

This was perfectly highlighted by Lydia Callis in November 2012, when she interpreted New York City Mayor Bloomberg’s many public addresses as the state prepared for Hurricane Sandy – and then tried to cope with the storm’s devastating effects. Callis went viral on social media networks as people were captivated by the energy and animation with which she imbued her sign language. According to The Atlantic’s Arika Okrent, she was dubbed Hurricane Sandy’s breakout star – the tastefulness of which may or may not be questioned.

Okrent makes a point of saying that Callis’ animation shouldn’t be considered outstandingly amazing because all sign language speakers – the eloquent ones – use big gestures and facial expressions when they talk. The simple fact is that sign language is visual, so it has to be vibrant. The movements and expressions, according to Okrent, are essential components of sign language grammar. Meaning is lost without them.

Becoming a sign language interpreter

According to Jamie Berke, sign language interpreters are increasingly in demand. As demand grows, so does the demand for regulation – as the dust settles on the Jantjie debacle, you can see why. In the United States, for example, professional interpreters need a bachelor degree (associate degree at the least) and it’s strongly recommended that they be properly certified. The National Association of the Deaf and the Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf provide three levels of national certification: National Interpreter Certification (NIC), NIC Advanced and NIC Master.

In addition to the technical skills, professional sign language interpreters need certain personality traits and social skills. According to Deaf Expressions, this includes awareness of and sensitivity to different cultures (this is very important in increasingly multi-cultural communities and global business environments).

The ability to dissect social situations is also essential. For example, interpreters may be called upon to interpret conversations in large groups where more than one person is speaking at the same time. So, the ability to weed out unnecessary chatter and focus on what’s important is critical. It’s also important that interpreters are aware of the jargon, slang and intricacies of the job, culture or language of the job. For example, they need to be able to convey puns or complicated technical explanations. As Deaf Expressions points out, there are often no accepted signs for highly specialised terms or jargon, so interpreters have to spell them out. This takes time and patience, not to mention smarts and dedication.

Finally, as with all translation and interpretation, sign language interpreters need to abide by a code of ethics. Confidentiality and impartiality are essential, as is honesty. So, if interpreters find that they are struggling in a certain situation, they need to tell their clients, otherwise they risk serious miscommunication and possibly even offense.

has a face that gives away her thoughts before she can put them in words. Unfortunately she has no control over it, and this, combined with an inability to remain impartial, mean that she is wholly unsuited to any interpretation job, let alone sign language interpretation.

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Language Development In Toddlers – Is Late Speech A Serious Problem?

Language Development In Toddlers – Is Late Speech A Serious Problem?


When you have a new child, waiting for them to begin to express themselves vocally (aside from crying!) and begin to learn how to use language to make themselves understood can be one of the most exciting and joyous parts of parenthood. The average baby begins making speech like sounds, though they may not really mean much, in the first few months of life, and usually has a basic vocabulary and a willingness to use it by around age two. However, there really is no such thing as an average baby, and many children don’t become vocal in accordance with the expected pattern of progression. If your child isn’t developing as fast as others in their peer group when it comes to speech, is this something you need to worry about?

language development toddlers late speech Language Development In Toddlers   Is Late Speech A Serious Problem?

Physical and Mental Causes for Late Speech Development in Children

language development toddlers late speech1 Language Development In Toddlers   Is Late Speech A Serious Problem?

In some cases, learning or being comfortable talking or trying to talk can be caused by physical problems such as hearing difficulties or problems with their mouths or throats. Generally, these kinds of things can be identified as part of normal routine baby check ups, so if your doctor has not found anything physically to blame for the fact your child isn’t talking yet, it is unlikely that he or she has a physical issue. Other syndromes that can be harder to detect like autism and Asperger’s syndrome can also cause delays in speech in kids. However, these are usually accompanied by other symptoms. If your child doesn’t say anything but still seems to be able to recognize you, your facial expressions, and some of the language you use, and shows normal signs of emotion and affection despite not communicating verbally, it is also unlikely that they will be diagnosed with these types of issues.

Do Late Developers Catch Up With Their Peers?

language development toddlers late speech2 Language Development In Toddlers   Is Late Speech A Serious Problem?

Most studies on children who develop speech later in their development than average have shown that there is no link to later intelligence, learning or confidence issues, and these studies have shown that normally these children catch up before or around school age when they begin to socialize more with other kids. Studies which followed kids with signs of early developmental delay as babies and toddlers into childhood, and even later, showed that the majority had no signs of these issues once they were a little older.  Most actually turned out to be just as capable with language as other children who had been speaking when expected. This means that unless you have seen other signs that your child might have different issues which are causing the speech delay, you can usually just let nature take its course and allow the child to develop speech in their own time.

There are however, products and programs you can follow that can help to support and encourage them to use words as you go, and there is no harm in trying things like this, provided you don’t allow yourself to become frustrated with the rate of progress.  Remember that every child is different and will progress at their own rate.

The author of this post is Chloe Adams, an employee at Board Book Albums, specialists in kid’s photo albums. Chloe is also a gourmet chef and takes special interest in continental culinary arts.

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