, 18 tweets, 6 min read Read on Twitter
So I'm at a physics conference this week in Lecce, Italy. Some of you wonder how that works given that I'm Deaf and probably don't know Italian Sign Language. Well... 1/N #deaf #interpreters #asl #access #physics
In most cases, I can just request ASL interpreters (yes, American Sign Language interpreters) months in advance. Who pays for it? Good question. That's something I've fortunately been mostly kept out of the loop on, rather than the discussions that happen at the conference! 2/N
But so we get terps set up months in advance, great. They're ASL, because I've barely had the chance to pick up any other language and it's my secondary mode of communication. ASL terps are hard to find in non-English speaking countries... UK too! UK uses BSL primarily. 3/N
But anyway, so this is a physics conference in Italy. So pretty much every presentation will be in English (or English from ESL speakers, and so on). So keeping all that in mind, I always have a short list of terps I'll go through first -- not for physics content expertise... 4/N
Because literally there is no interpreter that has a PhD in physics. I do. So unless I become my own (certified deaf) interpreter... content expertise is not something I look for at first. I have a list of terps based on how clear they are, their attitudes, their behaviors, 5/N
how they handle accents, how they handle different cultures, how they handle various audiences, and knowing when to step in or step out. Teaching physics, I can do... teaching behavior, I can't. I already have to teach physics, and I already have enough prep to deal with. 6/N
So that's why I have things like an interpreting one-pager (giordonstark.com/#interpreting) so I don't teach behaviors... and can focus on what I'm good at - (particle) physics! The terps know they have to come in with an open mind, and that I'm watching and taking in a lot of info. 7/N
Just remember, these terps don't know physics... maybe some college-level physics... particle physics, especially at a grad level or beyond, is definitely a different ball-game. We're not even in the same sport at that point. On top of that challenge of entirely new jargon... 8/N
there's the added challenge of accents, and those for whom English is not their first, or second, or third, or fourth language... and those who are not self-aware of their communication (or reception of said comms). So when they terp for me, some things happen in their mind: 9/N
"Is that a regular English word pronounced differently?", "Is it physics jargon?", "Is it other science/tech jargon?", "Did I hear it before from another speaker?". They have to go through all these questions and more ASAP, in seconds or less. 10/N
The more a delay, the harder it is for me (and them) to keep up. In the meantime, they make a decision about what to sign at me. If they've signed it wrong, or I know what was meant, or I have a sign for it, I feed it back to them. Terping for me is two-way communication. 11/N
So the terps I pick need to handle criticisms, and be on their toes, and handle this real-time feedback. Because even though I may not know *everything* being covered in the conference [I am always learning!], I still have to understand enough to feedback signs. Why? 12/N
Making their job easier frees up more of their brain bandwidth to give me even more information, and gives them more time to listen and interpret, which gives me more access. So I pick terps based on that. 13/N
So when hearing people go up to the terps during the conference breaks and applaud them for their knowledge of physics... that's just a major side-eye. I'm the one with a PhD, they aren't. The terps I pick often tend to be humble here by default. 14/N
They understand physics is NOT their forte and they're more than willing to make sure everyone knows that. At the end of the day, they're just doing their best to feed me information that I've taught them at prep before-hand, or in real-time during the conference. That's it. 15/N
And lastly, at least for now... it often happens that a speaker comes up who is not very comprehensible. Maybe mic issues. Maybe how they speak (fast, slow, whispers, hard-to-follow, mispronunciations, etc...). When it happens, I know. How? Two ways. 16/N
(1) Terps tell me the speaker has an accent and they're hard to understand. (2) Terps tell me that people are looking at them to see if the terps understand anything being spoken. Often, hearing people will see in (2) that terps don't understand... and guess what? 17/N
Those hearing people tune out for that speaker! Instead of raising their voice to say they don't understand, they just put their heads down or open up a laptop... So that's my rant-ish... #Deaf #AbledsAreWeird #physics #particlephysics #ASL #interpreters 18/N
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