Interpreters have been a huge part of my life and after years of needing them for my parents, you start to become familiar with certain people. There were a few interpreters that essentially saw me grow up, since they always happened to be my parents interpreter for whatever event we needed them for. We usually would have my school hire an interpreter for things like plays or musicals that I was in.
However, interpreting has actually made its’ way into popular culture now, and it’s a really interesting thing for me to see. I grew up with people saying interpreters were almost too distracting and now, I personally feel like people seek out to watch them as an art form. I think a reason for that is the fact that there are young deaf people in the world and the culture has changed and grown.
An example of that is interpreting with music. I remember growing up and watching interpreters at concerts with my mom, and it was nothing like it is today. ASL wasn’t as popular as it is now and so the sign language was more direct and even though it was beautiful to watch, it wasn’t as passionate as I think it is now.
If you haven’t heard of her, I highly recommend looking up Amber Galloway-Gallego. I personally think that she is one of the main reasons that people are interested in sign language and why it has become such a big part of popular culture. She really is able to show so much emotion when she interprets and I think it’s amazing to watch. I feel like a new video of her interpreting will pop up on my Facebook every week.
It’s also different for me because rap and hip hop is popular now, and watching rap be interpreted is the funniest thing I’ve ever seen. Mostly because it’s something that requires a lot of body language and emotion and also, I know how hard it is. It’s hard to explain to people why this is so funny for me, but it’s just the most hilarious thing I can watch.
Growing up, my brother was a bit of a practical joker and loved scaring me. But not only did he prank me, but he often pranked my mom.
The most memorable prank is when I was about 16 or so. It was an early Saturday morning and I walked into the kitchen to get breakfast. In the room next to the kitchen, my mom was talking to a friend on her video phone. Suddenly, my brother came into the kitchen and yelled, “Get down and be quiet!” I’m not really sure why we needed to be quiet, but I was not quiet. I could not stop laughing as my brother army crawled across the dining room and under my mom’s chair. He got as far under her chair that he could and then grabbed her legs and scared the crap out of her. I still cry of laughter to this day. My mom didn’t find it as funny as we did.
We often would hide behind doors and scare her as she would walk into rooms, and normally I’m awful at pranks because I can’t help but giggle and I tend to shift around and just make a lot of noise. With a deaf mother, I can be as loud as I want as long as she isn’t wearing her hearing aid.
Although Sign Language is a non-verbal form of communication, there is still a decent amount of slang that still happens. Now the slang that I’ll talk about is not known to everyone, these are just things I’ve encountered in my community.
A few years ago, my dad came up to me and threw up the shocker and asked me if I knew what that meant. I’m not going to explain what the shocker is but you can look that up yourself. It’s not a very cute meaning. Hesitant, I told my dad “Do you know what that means?” He responded by saying “It means hi!” I’m not sure how many people actually used this, but it makes sense. The shocker does the sign for h and i at the same time, but I frantically told my dad to never use that in public.
There are many little signs my family use, such as the rocker sign for bullshit, like bull horns. I also made up many signs when I was younger, because I didn’t know the actual sign, and because of that, it’s become like slang in my family. Slang happens in all languages and varies between everyone, and obviously there are cultural lapses in slang, such as using the shocker just to say hi. It’s not the greeting I’d really like, so luckily, I’ve never seen it after that first instance.
So, since my parents can’t hear, you might wonder if my brother and I ever complained about them while they were nearby. And mom, if you’re reading this, I apologize in advance because the answer is yes absolutely, all the time. My brother and I learned how to talk without moving our lips and we would do it all the time to complain about typical teenage annoyances about our parents.
The thing is that sometimes, my mom would slightly be able to hear that we were talking, but she wouldn’t actually hear the words, just a muffled noise. And being the terrible and mischievous teenagers that we were, she wouldn’t actually be able to prove that we were talking and we would just tell her, “Mom, no I didn’t say anything. I’m just sitting here.” When really we were complaining to one another. (Again, sorry mom. Love you)
We don’t really do that anymore, but I can still talk without moving my lips. Not quite as good as most ventriloquists, but it’s fairly impressive still. As a CODA, you learn lots of ways to be sneaky, and my brother and I definitely had many sneaky tactics.
When I hear other people speaking a foreign language in front of me, I’ve wondered if they’re talking trash about me since I never know what is being said. In the case of my family and I, the answer is yes. We’re usually talking trash.
My mom and I were always the ones that would talk the most trash, things like “Oh, that girl has ugly shoes on,” or “What is going on with that outfit?” It’s not nice, but it’s a little funny and exciting.
One of the worst things is when I want to talk trash, but I realize there’s other deaf people around and that’s too forward and mean. An example of that is Deaf Day at Six Flags. When I was younger, we would go to Deaf Day, and it’s literally just a day when the park is basically full of deaf people because it’s a discount day and there are interpreters around the park. I would always want to either say something rude or just say something that I don’t want everyone to know and I wouldn’t know what to do. I couldn’t just say it out loud because there are still hearing people around, and I couldn’t sign because there are too many deaf people around.
My favorite thing is when someone is signing and talking trash about me or just someone around me, and they don’t realize that I understand everything that they’re saying. I can’t help but just laugh, and try to make it obvious that I may understand sign without saying anything.
A question that I thought was really interesting was if I’ve ever noticed hearing people in public that move their hands and possibly make an accidental sign. That happens all the time. Sometimes I’ll see someone just moving their hands while talking, and I always have to stop and stare because I’m not sure if they’re doing sign language or just talking. I notice this happening all the time. And then they continue to move their hands and do things very similar to sign language, and I have to stare until I notice that they’re just speaking. So if you’re a very animated person and you notice someone staring, there’s a chance they just think you’re speaking sign language.
Communicating with my parents isn’t the only thing I use sign language for. I depend on sign language very often to communicate when I’m not able to just talk to someone. I’ve found myself very often responding to someone in sign language if I’m on the phone and I’m being asked a question by someone in person, whether or not they know sign language. It’s something that I just subconsciously do, because its just easy and makes sense to my brain.
I also grew up doing that with my brother, like if he was on the phone, I would sign the word “who?” to him, or if we were at a party together and I was ready to leave, I would sign “ready?” I actually do the same thing with my current boyfriend! If we are at a party or even when we’re at dinner and I’m done and ready to leave, I’ll sign to him.
I’ve taught friends and my boyfriend sign language for this very reason. It is so easy to communicate with sign language when you’re at a bar and you’re going to slip away to the bathroom and you don’t want anyone you’re with to panic and wonder where you went.
For people that haven’t grown up in a deaf family, you may think that deaf drivers are so safe, since they use sign language to talk and driving requires full attention and use of your hands. To that, I say absolutely not.
I’ve had many situations with my parents where I have to essentially ignore them so that I’m not as worried about them not watching the road. Someone I’ve always related with on this is a comedian that I really enjoy, Keith Wann. He is also a CODA and honestly explains this better than I could even think to. I’ve linked the clip of his show below so that you can really understand what happens in the car. As he says, I also have vivid memories of my mom looking completely away from the road.
Another thing about car rides is that I think most people would assume that car rides are fairly silent since deaf people can’t really hear music. On that, it’s all about the person. My mom has always been more into things like dancing, whereas my dad has never been a very big dancer and is more of the quiet type.
So with my mom, she loves listening to music in the car. That might be a confusing thing to understand. She didn’t always hear all of the music, but she could feel the bass and the beats. That being said, her favorite CD to listen to was a J.Lo CD that I think I’ve heard about a million times, (which isn’t really a bad thing). But with my dad, he hardly ever has his radio on, and if it is on, it’s because I’m in the car.