Examples why English is hard to Interpret into Sign Language

Do you think interpreting for the deaf is like a walk in the park? Think again. Duplicate words within the same sentence have different meanings. Some sounds differently, but are spelled the same. An interpreter must sign the correct meaning, not just the word. Now how do we sign the following?

1. The bandage was wound around the wound.

2. The farm was used to produce produce.

3. The dump was so full that it had to refuse more refuse.

4. I had to subject the subject to a series of tests.

5. He could lead if he would get the lead out and find the electrical lead.

6. The soldier decided to desert his dessert in the desert.

7. Since there is no time like the present, he thought it was time to present the present.

8. A bass was painted on the head of the bass drum.

9. I did not object to the object.

10. The insurance was invalid for the invalid.

Do you think you are having a hard time interpreting? You need to think only of English and ASL. But what about us Filipino sign language interpreters? Our job is more mind-boggling. We are more brain multitaskers than you. We must first understand what the speaker meant. Then we translate his spoken Tagalog to English. Then we convert it to Filipino sign language. Sometimes this process interchanges whenever it fits. Tagalog or Filipino language too has same words with double meanings.

The Tagalog word order is opposed to the English word order. We generally follow the VERB-SUBJECT structure. Now how do we sign these sentences?

1. Ang bata pa nung bata na bata nya.
[The child who belongs to him is still very young.] (Translation mine but can still have other meaning.)

The first bata means young, the second bata means child while the third bata means someone belonging to someone or his ward or sweetheart.

2. Paso na ang paso na nabili niya sa Pasong Tamo kaya siya napaso.
[The pot that he bought at Pasong Tamo is already expired that’s why he got burned.]

The first paso means expired, the second paso means pot, the third Paso is a street name while the last one means got burned.

3. Ang baba naman ng baba mo kaya ka pala bababa sa baba.
[Your chin is so low that is why you want to go down below.]

The first baba means low, the second baba means chin, the third bababa means going down while the last baba means down below or downstairs.

4. Ang tanda mo na para di mo matandaan kung saan mo nilagay yung tanda.
[You are already too old to not remember where you placed the marker.]

The first tanda means old, the second tanda means remember while the last tanda means marker.

5. Bababa? Bababa. (Elevator conversation.)
[Going down? Yes.]

English is a crazy language. Tagalog is even crazier. Sign Language interpreters have a mentally challenging job to make the meaning clear. Otherwise you won’t get the right information you need!

So to the deaf people out there, go easy on us. Our job is not easy. 🙂

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