Saturday, April 13, 2013

Can you see what I'm saying?

I sign 'yes' like I say 'yebo' (Zulu) and 'ewe' (Xhosa) and 'ja' (Afrikaans). Multilingual confusion but it all make sense. In my head at least.

I'm loving working with the Deaf. Just loving it. It's incredibly humbling to be on the bottom of the linguistic food chain again but it's so thrilling when I can sign something and be understood! My colleagues are overwhelmingly accommodating and kind and thankfully can lipread English so it's not as difficult if we had no languages in common. But I'm determined to learn as quickly as I can and not rely on what is called, Total Communication, where you sign in Sign Language but speak (to yourself) in English. It's a bit silly that people do this really, since you're actually communicating in two different languages at once which is impossible if you think about it. One language has to take the dominant role and unfortunately for your Deaf conversation partner, it will be English. But people do this for other Hearing people also involved in the conversation and also for the Deaf to lipread. For myself I do it because I still think in English rather than think in Sign Language. But I'm getting there.

It's also a bit of a total mind shift to work only with my hands to communicate. My language learning skill - mimicking - is not getting used as much. Now it's more deliberate copying than mimicking. I'm not sure if that's a real distinction but that's how it feels to me. It's not such an intuitive aural mirroring. I regularly get confused with my left and right as well as placement of my hands. I can manipulate my voice more easily.

I have about 50 pieces of vocabulary that I can sign and 50 more that I can understand. I can follow a (very!) simple conversation if I know the topic first. And after watching the translators practice Mark 7:31-37 and Mark 2:1-17 over and over and over and over and over and over again, I'm pretty familiar with those stories!

We have long and intense conversations about all sorts of linguistic and theological issues. What is faith? Why doesn't God heal me of my deafness? What kind of head coverings did Pharisees wear? What were the house roofs made of in Capernaum? Were the tax booths like the little huts that security officers use at the entrances to housing estates? How far is Tyre from Sidon from the Decapolis from the Lake of Galilee? And their respective elevations?

I'm so grateful that Shiri loves her babysitter so that I can work with the Deaf on Tuesday and Thursday mornings. It's a hard balance to maintain being a full-time mum and a part-time translation consultant. I did try to bring Shiri along to work since the Deaf wouldn't be able to hear her cry anyway (they didn't mind!) but it didn't work out. She's happier at home where she can run amok and have her babysitter sing to her German as they walk to the beach. Shiri is growing strong and healthy and is a wonder to behold. What a blessed privilege to be a mum. I love it.