Sure, Assistant Professor of American Sign Language- English Interpreting (ASL-EI) Brian Cerney puts “ghost interpreters” to work in traditional courses.
But there’s nothing to be afraid of.
Cerney’s”ghost interpreters” are his ASL students, who attend a traditional class and take turns signing for one another. The practice is one of many employed by Cerney, who directs numerous elements in the discipline. Cerney works with fellow Keuka faculty to give ASL students real-life opportunities to “ghost interpret” traditional classes, such as those in psychology, English or other unrelated fields. With permission of the teaching instructor, a trio of ASL-EI students, for example, will rotate signing through the course lecture of a willing professor, switching every 15-18 minutes. The seated ASL students will check the interpreter’s message for accuracy.
Because no deaf student is dependent upon the interpretation, “ghost interpreting” becomes practice without risk, Cerney said. Added benefits for instructors and non-ASL students are that they can become comfortable with interpreters in the classroom.
“Dr. Cerney provides valuable first-hand opportunities that profoundly enrich students’ understanding of their chosen field– the epitome of experiential learning,” said Dr. Anne Weed, vice president for academic affairs.
Cerney initially hoped for five non-ASL faculty members to make a course and classroom available for ASL students to ghost interpret but received 20 volunteers, representing courses in organic chemistry, anatomy, English literature, and occupational therapy, among others. Students have also signed at special events and church services.
Ruthanne Hackman, assistant professor of social work, has welcomed student ghost interpreters to her Social Work Ethics and Diversity course. She said her own social work students get to experience what it might be like to attend a conference workshop with an ASL interpreter.
“In addition, in learning about diverse populations, we discuss reasonable accommodations for people with disabilities and ethical issues regarding working with interpreters for people with language isolation or English as a second language. Students can directly pull from their experiences with the ASL student interpreters, then expand the conversation to compare and contrast to populations with other disabilities, culture, or language needs,” Hackman said. “I look forward to having [ghost interpreters] in my class this coming semester.”
According to Cerney, an ASL student is not allowed to practice interpreting in one of the courses he or she is registered for credit. Senior ASL students complete 36 hours of ghost interpreting, as well as 15 hours of “shadow” interpreting, when students follow the two primary campus interpreters who voice lectures for deaf instructors Sharon Staehle and Dorothy Wilkins or sign voiced meetings as interpretation for either instructor.
“It’s a restricted set of opportunities which is why it’s a smaller number of hours,” Cerney explained. As students observe the work of the professional interpreters, if and when it makes sense, they may be pulled into translation with the professional, he said.
According to Dr. Doug Richards, chair of Keuka’s humanities and fine arts division, the ghost interpreting provides ASL-EI students “invaluable practical experience in ‘live/real world’ signing, and as a side benefit exposes a wide range of Keuka students to ASL signing – a win-win.”
Cerney concluded: “The Keuka philosophy of learning by doing is alive and well in the interpreting program.”
Editor’s Note: This is the fifth in a series of features on recipients of the Judith Oliver Brown Memorial Award.
Keuka junior Nicole Caparulo of Corning is combining her interests in special education and sign language this month by conducting a Field Period internship at a residential school for deaf children in Senegal, West Africa.
Caparulo is a unified childhood/special education major with a concentration in American Sign Language (ASL), and discovered the West African school through Martha French, associate professor of education. A friend of French’s, Dr. Angela Bednarczyk, worked 20 years at Galludet University’s Laurent Clerc National Deaf Education Center, and now works as assistant to the educational director at the Renaissance School for the Deaf (L’Ecole Renaissance des Sourds) in Dakar, the capital city of Senegal.
According to Bednarczyk, the Renaissance School for the Deaf was founded in 2007 and follows the Senegalese national curriculum with instruction based on the use of the Francophone West African sign language. The school serves 35 students and has five classrooms, five teachers, and a deaf teacher in training. Each year, students attend whose ages range from 4 to 16.
Caparulo said she expects some elements of ASL will carry over to the sign language used in Senegal, but compared it more to a dialect.
“I am very interested in deaf education, special education, diversity and being open and accepting differences and ways to do things. That plays a major part in education, because you need to be able to do things and experience them,” said Caparulo.
“Special education teaching just stands out for me, along with sign language,” she added. “It’s such a beautiful language, how could I not be drawn to it? It’s always been a passion and now I have an opportunity to learn about it. I’m taking advantage of that. (more…)
During the week, Alicia Wimmer is a mild-mannered, senior occupational therapy major at Keuka College.
On weekends, she becomes Rainbow Might, a hard-charging, take-no-crap roller derby jammer/blocker for the Ithaca BlueStockings of the Ithaca League of Women Rollers (ILWR).
“The team aspect of roller derby is great and my teammates are like sisters to me,” said Wimmer. “Joining roller derby has helped boost my confidence and I believe I am more assertive.” (more…)
In American Sign Language (ASL) classes, junior Alicia Wimmer can get away with the occasional whisper or verbal request for a clue about the correct sign to use from those who can also hear and speak.
Come January, the occupational sciences major will be forced to communicate with nothing but signs when she completes a Field Period at the Pennsylvania School for the Deaf in Philadelphia. That’s because nearly everyone at the school, from students to faculty to administrators, will be deaf or hard-of-hearing.
Wimmer was awarded a $2,000 Judith Oliver Brown Memorial Scholarship for her 2011 Field Period, and despite her occasional nerves, she’s looking forward to the “culture shock” likely for this Field Period.
The experiential learning scholarship is named for the late Brown, a member of the Class of 1963 who spent her junior year as a Norton Scholar in Switzerland. It assists students pursuing Field Periods that will surround them with a new cultural experience.
“It’s a different culture I’ll be immersed in for every day for a month,” Wimmer said. “From my understanding, most deaf schools try to aim for deaf instructors for the deaf students, so my primary communication technique is going to be ASL … I’m going to have to crack down and use any means to get across if I don’t know a certain sign.”
In her application essay, Wimmer wrote that while she wasn’t traveling to another country, “I will be entering into an entirely different culture complete with a different set of rules as well as a different language. I will need to adapt to their culture and community since I will become the minority upon entering their environment,” she said.
“It goes both ways,” she explained. “We have stigmas about deaf people and they have stigmas about hearing people.”
Wimmer said she will shadow the occupational therapist at the school to observe the differences in OT techniques for those students who come for assistance in a disability in addition to their hearing impairment(s).
“I want to be able to compare how the deaf OTs are able to do their treatments and how they handle people. I’m assuming it’s going to be similar in that we’ll be doing [various] treatment techniques in terms of their [the students’] functionality in every day life, but it’ll be extremely different because I’ll have to communicate without words,” Wimmer said.
Wimmer said she’s excited to bring back any new therapy techniques she learns to her classmates and instructors on campus.
She’s not sure if she will pursue employment at a deaf school after graduation, but will be paying close attention during this Field Period to see what touch points are shared between occupational therapy and sign language.
“My goal,” said Wimmer, ” is to see if I can someday mesh the two together.”
The latest recipient of the Keuka College Student Social Worker of the Year Award almost didn’t enroll at the College.
And when he did, it was as an American Sign Language (ASL) major.
During his senior year of high school, Todd Ray applied to two community colleges that offered ASL as a major.