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…)
Some of Alicia Wimmer’s favorite moments from her January Field Period at the Pennsylvania School for the Deaf in Philadelphia are of playing with small children inside their classrooms.
Of course, with occupational therapy, each kind of “play” has a purpose.
For one little boy, moving water between cups helped exercise and strengthen a deformed arm. Manipulating Play-Doh was a common activity for others. And pumping arms and legs on swings inside a therapy room was crucial to calm and focus other children so they would be able to concentrate on schoolwork in class.
But therapy holds a greater challenge when the child working with an occupational therapist is also deaf or hard-of-hearing and relies on ASL (American Sign Language) to communicate.