And Heaven and Nature Sing!

As I blog my 200th post, what better way to do it than to greet all my readers a Blessed Christmas from my family, my MCCID family and Filipino Deaf community!

In spite of the many hardships we experienced this year; typhoons, calamities, business collapse and even personal trials; we should not forget the real reason for this season.

Happy Birthday to our Savior and Lord, Jesus Christ! 🙂

My List of Deaf Related Groups in Facebook

Facebook Login Page

Facebook is now the most popular social networking site. To date they already have more than 350 million users. And with that many people, privacy will definitely be compromised. So when they recently placed a banner heading every time you login, informing us that they will soon be removing regional networks – or grouping of people based on where they live – , I got a bit scared.

I rarely tweet, never plurked, blog once in a while and despise Friendster because of its convoluted interface (I heard they already made a revamped Facebooky style). But with Facebook, I got hooked!

Now, when you’re in someone’s network, let’s say you belonged to the same school or company, you essentially “friend” everyone on that network, allowing others to see the entirety of your Facebook page (this can be changed in your privacy settings). With these latest developments, would other groupings be controlled next?

With that fear constantly entering my paranoid mind, I might as well share with you a list of my favorite deaf related groups and pages before it’s too late. 🙂

  • DEAF NATION (Language, Culture and Pride) – It has extensive deaf related features including Matt Hammil, the famous deaf wrestler.
  • DEAF CULTURE AND SIGN LANGUAGE – Their latest wall post says,

    hi everyone, we use ASL (American Sign Language) in USA and we use CSL (Chinese Sign Language) in China, right? how about you? would you please tell us what your sign language is? thank you.

  • THE CAPTION HUNT PROJECT – This is an on-going entertainment research project by 2GuysTaking providing entertaining yet detailed closed captioning reports for a continually-growing list of television programs, DVDs, feature films and more.
  • DEAF FILIPINO AMERICAN – This is a social networking group where you can meet new friends, keeping in touch with the old ones, Filipino culture events and of course, Deaf Filipino news.

I also have a list of favorite Fan Pages of schools for the deaf in the Philippines. These are:

These are only my initial lists. It will definitely increase so long as my enamor with Facebook is still there. Oh by the way, I would also like to share with you my current wall post:

Facebook is not a contest as to how many friends you have but as to how long you keep the friends you have.


Cell phones for Deaf People? Great!

Man signing in front of a cellphone

I got excited after reading this article from about a cell phone created by Cornell professor and colleagues that allow deaf people to communicate in sign language — the same way hearing people use phones to talk.

Sheila Hemami, Cornell professor of electrical and computer engineering, who leads the research with Eve Riskin and Richard Ladner of the University of Washington said that, “Deaf people can text, but if texting were so fabulous, cell phones would never develop. There is a reason that we like to use our cell phones. People prefer to talk.”

Actually it’s not an issue of communicating on the cell phone using sign language. 3G technology has been available since early 2000. You can do videoconferencing using your cell phones. The problems faced by this technology centers on its speed, the high price of the handset and most importantly, the connection cost.

In last year’s tech article, my country might hinder a 3G roll out because of low usage. According to National Telecommunications Commission statistics, there are now 57,344,815 mobile phone users in the Philippines but declined to give figures on the number of 3G users. High prices of 3G handsets could be one of the main reasons behind the technology’s slow take up.

I remember when we went to Korea last August, I saw many deaf people there that have been accustomed to videoconferencing using their cell phones. They were fortunate that their government subsidize 75% of their 3G costs. Some of them even acquired their handsets for free!

Major innovations from the cell phone worth noting are:

  • They solved the battery life problem by writing software smart enough to vary the frames per second based on whether the user is signing or watching the other person sign.
  • Because sign language requires more fluid motion capture, researchers had to make video compression software that could deliver video at about 10 frames per second.
  • It must also had to work within the standard wireless 2G network.
  • They learned that deaf people often use only one hand to sign, depending on the situation, and that they’re very good at adapting as needed. I’m not sure about BSL which uses both hands in fingerspelling. Fortunately, our FSL can be used on one hand.
  • Their research found that when two people are talking to each other, they spend almost the entire time focused on the other person’s face. Facial expressions are really important in sign language because they supplement the signs and provide a lot of information. They concluded that their cell phone video would have to be clearest in the face and hands, while they could spare some detail in the torso and in the background. The also honed in on the best areas to focus in their video.

If the cell phone they created would prove to be viable, then this is another exciting technology that deaf people would certainly look forward to since the invention of text messaging. 🙂

Interpreting 101: To mouth or not to mouth?

Seated from Left: ASP Head Nilo Sorongon, MCCID's Jerome Marzan, Me, Akap Pinoy's Daylin Taleon, Liliane Philippines' Tess Dela Cruz, NCDA Director Geraldine Ruiz and Nova Foundation's Noli Agcaoili

Two Saturdays ago, I was privileged to be invited in a workshop on disability in the Philippines sponsored by the Australian government. Since I’m used to attending these seminars with few or no representation from the deaf community, I decided to come with a deaf person with me, Jerome Marzan. He is a trainor in our school and at the same time a deaf leader in his hometown. It’s not a problem if I would interpret for him. It’s important that the deaf are represented in forums like these which aims to uplift their well-being through education.

Fortunately, they invited the right representative for the deaf community, Ms. Raquel Estiller-Corpuz, President of Philippine Federation of the Deaf. I was so glad that at last, the community was represented in that forum. I was also equally glad that she brought with her a sign language interpreter of her choice. I admit I’m already too old in remembering names so I’m sorry, that her name slipped my memory box. I only know that she is the daughter of one of my respected and admired Filipino deaf leaders, Mr. Rafaelito Abat. 🙂

Me interpreting for Ms. Heather Whitestone
Me interpreting for Ms. Heather Whitestone during her 1997 Manila Visit

Breakaway groups were formed. We joined with the Alternative Learning System for PWDs group. Deaf education was brought up and criticized. Sign language became an issue. One of our group invited a representative from the Department of Education to shed light on the matter. She passed the blame on teachers using sign language. She said that the DepEd is advocating for TOTAL COMMUNICATION and MOUTHING WORDS must be emphasized in teaching. She even commented that the interpreter hired by the organizer was a “pasaway” (too stubborn) because she signs while her mouth is closed. Ouch!

In my previous blog entitled Common Misconceptions about Deaf People, I mentioned that NOT ALL DEAF PEOPLE CAN READ LIPS. Lip reading is a high level skill. Not everybody has this ability. This brings me back to my title question, to mouth or not to mouth?

Five Key Elements

Based on my nearly two decades of experience in interpreting for the Filipino Deaf, I consider these five key elements when interpreting for them:

1. Specific Situations of Interpreting – Will I be interpreting in a legal situation? Medical? Religious? Job placement? Schools? Once I have established the condition, then I may adjust as to its needs and requirements.

2. Size of Interpreting Area – Will I be interpreting on a large congregation in an auditorium? A 15-seater classroom? Or a one-on-one session? Mouthing words in a large gathering is almost useless because they cannot see the movement of your lips, unless you are beamed to a white panel screen where your face can be seen from afar.

3. Educational Background of the Deaf – This proves to be the most difficult element when interpreting because of the diversity of the community. If you are interpreting on a school setting, you are most likely in front of deaf students with more or less the same cognitive levels. Church or social community gatherings are the hardest place to interpret because you can only guess the general educational background of the audience.

4. Language Used – The Philippines is a bi-lingual country. English is the medium of instruction in schools and government. We are the fifth largest English speaking country in the world with 52% of the population are English users. Filipino or Tagalog is widely used language for the rest of the sector including the very basic environment, the home. Since a pre-lingual deaf learns their first language in school, they would most likely acquire English. It may be fortunate if the speaker uses English for the whole duration of his talk. The SL interpreter can mouth every words. Now what if he intermingles the two languages? Worst, what if he uses straight Filipino?

5. Orientation of the Deaf – There are cases wherein we may encounter deaf people who are orally oriented. In this situation, mouthing words would be very beneficial. But then again, we might also consider element #3 wherein the speaker may use one or two languages. Another situation may be for deaf persons with severely restricted language skills. Since a low verbal deaf may not have attended formal schooling, they encounter mostly hearing people in their community. Chances are, they are most adapted to lip reading.

In a classroom setup where the teacher is the main actor, he may employ total communication as the best tool in giving his lessons. According to Ms. Jamie Berke’s guide,

Some parents and educators favor total communication as a catch-all that ensures that a deaf child has access to some means of communication (speaking as needed, or signing as needed). For example, a deaf child who can not communicate well orally gets the additional support of sign language, and vice versa. Using total communication can also reduce the pressure on parents to choose one method over another.

However, she also mentioned about its disadvantages. She said that signing and speaking at the same time can result in a compromise that affects the quality of one or the other. This can impact the quality of educational information received by a deaf student.

I hope that the people who run the Department of Education would make a more thorough research and study on this. I also hope that they would have an open mind and consider other aspects in handling students with various language acquisitions.

Considering the five factors I mentioned, it’s up to the sign language interpreter’s better judgement on how he can convey the speaker’s message across the majority of the deaf listeners. What’s important is that they understand what you are signing and not just aimlessly waving your hands in the air. 🙂

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