Sign-language and technical vocabulary

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Turin
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Sign-language and technical vocabulary

Post by Turin »

I've recently run into a bit of a challenge at the office that perhaps folks here have some insight into. I'm the CAD Manager/IT tech/part-time developer for a mid-size engineering firm. I work out of the main office, but I also support our remote offices. And one of the guys I support in one of those remote offices is hearing-impaired.

As this guy is the only CAD jockey in his office, I end up having to give him a lot of tech support. He has cochlear implants, but can't communicate directly over the phone. Fortunately, we have him set up with a videophone, and we use a service (Sorenson) where I can call him and there's an ASL interpreter in the loop -- I speak, she signs to him, he speaks or signs back to her, and she speaks back to me. Combining this with remote desktop software, I'm able to do a reasonably good job of helping him out when the problem is straightforward or something I can figure out without having too involved a discussion. But more subtle problems seem to be a big problem. What definitely makes this even more tricky is that English is not his native language, so email is equally tough as he's not particularly literate. Which occasionally leads to some frustrating exchanges like this one I had this afternoon:

"What's the dimension of the plotted page?"
"Yellow."

I've done a little research on this, and it seems that ASL has a way of using technical signs for a given conversation (or finger-signing?). But the interpreters are just randomly assigned based on the call -- they're all somewhere in the South as far as I can tell -- and they're obviously not technical people either. So I guess I'm asking if anyone has been in a similar situation before, or whether there's something I can do on my end to assist an ASL interpreter with technical language.
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Terralthra
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Re: Sign-language and technical vocabulary

Post by Terralthra »

If you're asking for a quantity, be absolutely certain to ask "how many," as that is a very different word in sign than "what," specifically to counter this sort of issue. Other suggestions are liable to depend a lot on your domain, unfortunately.
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Turin
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Re: Sign-language and technical vocabulary

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Terralthra wrote:If you're asking for a quantity, be absolutely certain to ask "how many," as that is a very different word in sign than "what," specifically to counter this sort of issue.
I was worried about exactly that sort of thing. You'd think a professional interpreter would realize the difference, but I'm sure it's not an easy job.
Terralthra wrote:Other suggestions are liable to depend a lot on your domain, unfortunately.
Damn -- with the interpreter being utterly ignorant of the domain, that's pretty much an impossible barrier, isn't it? If this guy knew cued speech, I'd even be willing to train in it and get a VP hooked up here. My (admittedly limited) research on the subject indicates that's a lot more powerful for technical language.
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Elheru Aran
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Re: Sign-language and technical vocabulary

Post by Elheru Aran »

As a deaf person, I would in this situation be quite willing to accommodate your telling the interpreter to finger-spell certain technical terms. Sending this deaf person a list of frequently used terms with definitions may help (ask first if he wants it though). Feel free to PM me if you have questions; while I'm not certain how much I can help, I'll try to the best of my ability.
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Napoleon the Clown
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Re: Sign-language and technical vocabulary

Post by Napoleon the Clown »

Turin wrote:
Terralthra wrote:If you're asking for a quantity, be absolutely certain to ask "how many," as that is a very different word in sign than "what," specifically to counter this sort of issue.
I was worried about exactly that sort of thing. You'd think a professional interpreter would realize the difference, but I'm sure it's not an easy job.
My dad does the IP Relay for Sorenson, and at least of him, anything said has to be repeated verbatim, both ways. So there's a reasonably good chance the people who do video relay have to do the same thing. It's a pain in the ass, but it's policy. Best bet is to make sure and use the most appropriate terminology possible.


It'd likely help you to learn about deaf culture, since I'd imagine your coworker grew up either deaf or effectively deaf. There most certainly is a separate culture versus what you find in the hearing world, and there are phrases and stuff that you don't find in English. ASL, remember, isn't really English. It has its own sentence structure and syntax. Learning some ASL yourself wouldn't hurt.
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Turin
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Re: Sign-language and technical vocabulary

Post by Turin »

Elheru Aran wrote:As a deaf person, I would in this situation be quite willing to accommodate your telling the interpreter to finger-spell certain technical terms. Sending this deaf person a list of frequently used terms with definitions may help (ask first if he wants it though).
Fortunately the guy I need to support is familiar with the domain (if a bit behind the times), so that's not too much of a problem. But the trick with the technical terms is that, as I've realized, many computer related terms are really metaphors (ex: "window", "file", "layer", "table"), so if the interpreter doesn't know the domain they're stuck with verbatim copying. And, as Napoleon has pointed out, there isn't really a one-to-one correlation between ASL and spoken English.
Elheru Aran wrote:Feel free to PM me if you have questions; while I'm not certain how much I can help, I'll try to the best of my ability.
Thanks for the offer! If I have more specific questions, I might take you up on that.
Napoleon the Clown wrote:My dad does the IP Relay for Sorenson, and at least of him, anything said has to be repeated verbatim, both ways. So there's a reasonably good chance the people who do video relay have to do the same thing. It's a pain in the ass, but it's policy. Best bet is to make sure and use the most appropriate terminology possible.

It'd likely help you to learn about deaf culture, since I'd imagine your coworker grew up either deaf or effectively deaf. There most certainly is a separate culture versus what you find in the hearing world, and there are phrases and stuff that you don't find in English. ASL, remember, isn't really English. It has its own sentence structure and syntax. Learning some ASL yourself wouldn't hurt.
Isn't "verbatim both ways" in contradiction to that idea? I get what you're saying, but that's not how the interpretation service treats it!
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