Organizing Dialogue, Experience and Knowledge for Complex Problem-Solving

managing time while learning to understand

by • August 13th, 2010

There is a special quality to connections based on conscious cooperation that distinguishes them from relationships that stem from the automatic flow of using the same language. This is the zone where the intercultural communication skills of simultaneous interpreters have particular importance and special use. No other communicative practice has as much potential for forging individual, cultural, and systemic capacities for the equitable embrace of diversity and fair treatment of difference.

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Ethics of Interpreting

by • June 1st, 2010

Damage from a spring thunderstorm in New England

professional development workshop
certification maintenance, RID
Lebanon, NH (31 October 2009)

Real World Ethics

One thing I love about the sign language interpreting community is how seriously we take the matter of professional ethics. We have no choice, actually, because the Deaf community holds our feet to the fire on a regular basis. It is an extraordinary dynamic. The effects of participating in simultaneously-interpreted communication may appear to be concentrated in the interaction between the interpreter and the signer, but the significance of using interpreters extends as well to the entire group and among all languages. Patty Azzarello writes of a team-building activity without an interpreter, detailing the embarrassing lessons learned by the team that discounted the member who was not fluent in English.

He was the smartest guy in the room.

He tried to share his good ideas with us – over and over again.

We basically threw him overboard.

I cannot speculate as to how the dynamics in Patty’s team would have been changed if there had been an interpreter included, but I can say that interpreters witness Deaf people being “thrown overboard” on a far too regular basis.  Michael Harvey

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reading the demon: simultaneous interpretation and the in-between

by • April 28th, 2010


Voices from the In-Between: Aporias, Reverberations, and Audiences
Department of Languages, Literatures, and Cultures
University of Massachusetts Amherst

“When I saw you with the laptop,” Cecilia said to me, “I thought you must be really far behind on your presentation.”  More or less! I was in my “live” discourse and dynamics mode, self-interestedly collecting connections with other presenters (or at least with their topics). I wanted to show as well as tell about my findings and speculations based on the research I’ve done concerning language, meaning, and simultaneous interpretation.  The conference would have gone by in a blur for me, otherwise. As it was, I had a handful of heartfelt conversations with fascinating human beings, beginning at the banquet, smuggled into the quiet of rehearsal/prep space in presentation rooms, and during breaks over the abundance of food.

Warning! Relationship implied!

Huda did not believe that I really wanted to quote her presentation. “You really are dangerous!” exclaimed Nimmi, before vanishing back to Texas. Jiwei questioned the possibility of as fluid an identity as I propose – that I am ‘called into being’ by the interactions I have with others, especially those that are overtly communicative. (I’m not

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Showing Empowerment

by • April 10th, 2010


By asserting their right to have a major, influential voice in the workings of the professional sign language interpreting organization, the American Deaf community scores a victory for minority language users everywhere. This is a story that needs to be told!

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Retaking RID: A Story of Deaf Empowerment

by • April 4th, 2010


Haverhill, MA
New England Deaf Studies Conference

The following timeline is an outsider’s view over twenty years of involvement with the American Deaf Community. It was presented as one of four keynote presentations at the New England Deaf Studies Conference on Saturday, 3 April, 2010 at Northern Essex Community College. Please comment with additions and corrections!


Workshop at Ball State University, Muncie IN, involving Deaf, CODAs, and non-Deaf family-friends leads to establishment of RID.


Al Pimental (Deaf) named first CEO of RID


RID incorporated as a tax-exempt 501(c)(3) organization
“Reverse Skills Certificate” established


RID has become an organization run by non-Deaf people for the perceived professional needs of non-Deaf people.


MJ Bienvenu proposes that RID recognize ASL as an official language of the organization. Denied.


Deaf request for “Voice off!” at the RID Region 1 conference (Nancy Becker?) (Mary Gorman?) interrupt a Phil Donahue-type entertainment event to ask interpreters to sign for themselves, instead of relying on English interpreted by their colleagues into ASL
Joan Wattman, 8 or 9 years into her career, discusses this with Linda Carroll, and experiences a paradigm shift in thinking about fluency & flows of interaction



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Testing, testing! Consciousness-raising in a cynical age

by • February 17th, 2010

Circuit Breakers

UMass Translation Center

I recently gave my first talk on paradigm consciousness. The ideas have been floating in my mind since the spring of 2003, but only in the last few months has the knowledge come together well enough for me to try teaching them. My own mode of learning is through action research, and there actually is a sub-division called action learning, which is how I labeled my methodology after fending off the attacks of my dissertation committee’s self-appointed “bad cop” faculty member during the defense of my research proposal.

My main objective for the presentation was to test a method for raising “paradigm consciousness,” because this is a pre-requisite for understanding what motivates action research. There is a variety of literature about action research, much of which tends to skirt the really hard stuff: like what to do when someone in an organization really does not want to learn, grow, or otherwise be open to, let alone support, dealing with new knowledge. By being transparent about my method, I am attempting a parallel task with social research as Yonjoo advocated when she said that it is not whether a particular translation is “right or wrong,” but that the

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Brains: “an entity yet to be seen in world politics”

by • August 20th, 2009

International Relations Theory
(political science)

The quote above is from a comment by blenCOWe to a blogpost, Theory of International Politics and Zombies, by Daniel W. Drezner. Drezner’s blog entry is an example along the lines of this youtube video, Gay Science Isolates the Christian Gene, and a powerpoint presentation made by MJ Bienvenu at the recent biennial convention of the Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf, in which she offered deconstructions of audism from the organization’s official website. For example:

“English is not ASL on the mouth.”

The pedagogy of this style of teaching is aptly captured by Erin in her comment to Drezner:

“As Daniel Nexon and Iver Neumann write, “The mirror approach is broader than simply deploying popular culture artifacts as a teaching aid. IR scholars can examine popular culture as a medium for exploring theoretical concepts, dilemmas of foreign policy, and the like.” (12).”

The mirror approach operates on the simple principle of substitution: take an existing discourse, and

a) reverse the key tropes (as in “Gay Science” or unveiling audism in “The Heart of the RID Organization”),

b) replace the key actors with an abstraction, or

c) combine both.

A View from Communication Theory
The engagement spawned (ha) is impressive. A communication theorist has

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Make NERDAs the linguistic minority (proposal)

by • August 14th, 2009

the future

Building on the potential for a paradigm shift is matter of recognition, marketing, and design. These processes can proactively influence each other, interacting and changing through the development of a project. All are contained within the conception and application of strategic planning.
Strategy has to involve conceptualizing the outcome in two different yet complementary ways. First, you must imagine what you want in terms of place. In the case of the next national conference of the Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf (RID, US-based), the physical location will be some hotel in Atlanta, GA, but the more important issue is how the space of the place will be designed and implemented in order to generate the desired kinds of intercultural interaction. The second dimension that must be considered is time. By time, I do not mean the logistics of scheduling or considerations about the length of the event or even its parts. These are obviously important logistical factors that require detailed attention. However, the most important temporal factor to consider is how the conference contributes to long-term patterning of habits and attitudes for engaging in intercultural social interaction.

Not Even Related to a Deaf Adult: Buffered by Monolingualism
That would be me,

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The Wrong Side of The Law

by • August 11th, 2009

FCC announcement1.jpg

Federal Investigation (ongoing)

Before I get all dreamy-eyed about the potential for the Deaf community and sign language interpreters to make a significant contribution to global linguistic equality and transnational social justice (see yesterday’s entry), we have some business to clean up.

Nothing written here should be taken as legal advice. I am not a lawyer – not even a legal interpreter. What I write is only my attempt to make sense of this messy situation for myself.
Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Officer Jay Keithley told a room crammed full of interpreters, “you don’t want to be on the wrong side of the issue.” It was the second information meeting he held during the conference of the Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf. The room was inadequate for the 100 or so interested interpreters. Squeezing the chairs together, lining the walls, and sitting on all available floor space still left people overflowing into the hallway. Some were repeats, they had attended the first session (two days previous) and returned again, hoping for more clarity concerning liability and the definition of fraudulent behavior.

“This is huge,” one interpreter explained,
“We want this cleaned up way more than you do.”

My motivation to attend was

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Framing the Future: Atlanta 2011

by • August 10th, 2009

Jimmy & MJ.jpg

Imagine RID as a group (of the type called an organization) constituted by criteria distinguishing who is a member and who is not. Lou Fant explained how the history of the organization shows two clear phases divided by the moment, when membership shifted from cultural insiders and close friends of the Deaf to a larger population requiring acculturation and accommodation. Looked at historically (over the long term), these two phases correspond, roughly, with the first two stages of group development as identified by U.S. and British social science researchers in the 1940s and ’50s.

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