Sometimes I find myself at get together birthday, wedding, works do parties. Trying to listen. Asking for enquiry. Or. Replying to broad spectrum statements from others. With no indication of them having heard. Certainly no confirmation responses. Maybe a nod, a shrug or a turning of the head to look elsewhere. Maybe my low voice frequency, external overwhelming noise or the others you are chatting, nay shouting to, are in a state of excitement or intoxicating alcohol induced lack of focus. The conversation exchange should be given up as a frustrating exercise. It’s like this at party’s where the disco is so loud you can shout yourself hoarse. If it were a music band, then there is focus. So, I sit and sink back into reverie. I’ve never been an interested watcher. A people watcher. So, the party becomes one of a strange waiting game. Waiting for it to finish and then go home. Unless you dance. I don’t dance. I don’t find Dad dancing style a nice experience. People video you and chuck it onto Facebook so people can laugh.
If I have my profoundly Deaf nephew at the party? Then, my sign language skill is being used in order to communicate with my nephew. Suddenly I notice eyes on our interaction. Visual interest with the onlookers having, possibly, no idea of conversational content. But they still look. My family sign. So we, as a family, suddenly all communicate. Despite the noise. It’s a shame there is no universal understanding. How enriching it would be. Talking universally. And more intimately. Chatting at parties.
I remember accompanying a profoundly Deaf friend to Bristol and being the interpreter for him at an assessment process so he could join a Circus for Performing Arts. He paid me by paying for some egg, chips and peas in a Fish and Chip shop/restaurant. Two older ladies sat at the next table making statements. “Ah! Look at them. Isn’t it wonderful that they can talk to each other. Looks very strange though. All that pulling of faces. A bit off putting isn’t it?” Other comments that made me feel I was observed as an oddity. I spoke of what they were saying to my friend. He just smiled and laughed. “That’s the way it is…..always” he says. With his hands. Three signs. “Happens always same” accompanied with a world weary smile and a shrug of the shoulders.
At the end of the meal, we stood to go. I smiled at the two ladies. “They make superb chips don’t they?” I said to them. “Yes they do”, one replied. Not an insight, jaw drop or blush or stammer of awareness of the way they had spoken. I often wonder if the penny dropped later.
A voice is a powerful tool. Words are powerful tools. Sign language is also a powerful tool. I have supported students through their courses in both Further and Higher education. I have argued with lecturers for long periods regarding my voice overs of, what was then, video presentations from Deaf students. They watch the visual expression of British Sign Language and it’s own conceptual inclusions and try to link it to the recorded spoken word accompanying the video presentation. My translations were based on both the manual hand shapes vocabulary signs and visual non manual features. If they described sadness, confusion, happiness, shock, interest, etc. then the facial expression would be presented as to the enormity of those feelings. Placement, directional verbs, timelines, question techniques, plurality, orientation, direction and perfection of hand shapes. This, when translated over to an English format, invariably confused lecturers and teachers. Once I explained the grammar process, their inquisitive minds became fascinated.
So, why the title ‘Facetime, emails and new promise?’ Because the Deaf community now have access to each other and are able to get on with their lives. Immediacy in the new, modern world and how it has developed. When I was employed in the field, it was all Minicom telephone typing if you had no face to face opportunity. Wonderful thing technology. And those chips did taste good, despite the close company sitting at the next table.