Sign Language Interpreters Group announces 5th General Assembly

Heads up Philippine sign language interpreters! The Philippine National Association of Sign Language Interpreters (PNASLI) will be holding its 5th General Assembly from May 15-18, 2019 at Tagbilaran City, Bohol.

This year’s theme is “Beyond Filipino Sign Language Law: Moving Forward“. General election of new set of officers will be held aside from the assembly. This activity will also be in tandem with the 8th General Assembly of Philippine Federation of the Deaf which will also be held on the same date and venue.

For details please refer to the announcement poster below or email the group at philippinenasli@gmail.com. You may also go the our official Facebook page for further announcements. To register for the event, please click on this link: https://tinyurl.com/y7o4e2fv.

Kitakits po tayo mga terps!

PNASLI Poster Announcing the 5th General Assembly in Bohol, Philippines
PNASLI Poster
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Interpreting 101: Directional Signing


me interpreting in an sm eventI have been interpreting in a church setting for most of my “Interpreting Life”. Church interpreting is my first love, and still is, while school interpreting/teaching is my passion. The most scary is court interpreting followed by stage/events interpreting while hospital/clinic/doctor’s office interpreting is the most depressing (sigh).

DIRECTIONAL SIGNING simply means “moving from point A to point B.” It’s like going from this place to another place. You are establishing the starting location and moving to an ending location.

signing space
Direction of Signs and Signing Space as modeled by Deaf Moises

You can show a person moving from one place to another by mimicking a “walking fingers” going from your right side to the left. Your audience, in turn sees the walking person going on the opposite; left side to right. Remember that your audience sees you as a MIRROR. The opposite of your signs is viewed. You can also use this by including you as part of the “story”. You can make your walking fingers from your end (putting your hands near your chest) towards any direction.

moving from one place to another
Hand (person) moves from one place to another.

By directional signing, you can show “who did what to whom” through their movement. It shows the subject or the person talking and the act he is doing directing to another place.

For example, if I sign “money” and then I sign “give” starting near my body and moving the sign “give” going in your direction, then I’m signing “I will give you money,” or “I already gave you money.” This is the clearest and the simplest way of signing the action instead of signing each word “I – WILL – GIVE – YOU – MONEY”.

Let’s do the opposite. If I start the sign by holding the sign away from my body and most likely near you (or the person I am talking to), and then move the sign “give” towards me and ends near my body…that would mean, “You give me money.” Again, this is the most understood way of signing the action instead of signing each word “YOU – GIVE – ME – MONEY”.

Now, If I look at you (or an imaginary person I am talking to) and move the sign “give” starting from your position (assuming the person is on your right) and moves to the left, again assuming that there is a person on your left, then I am signing “Give the money to him.”

This “directionality” can be used for many situations which require actions. Here are some examples:

  1.  “May I borrow money?” Direction is from the person you are talking to –> going to you. “You borrow money from me.” is the opposite. You sign “borrow” start near you and goes out to the person you will lend the money to.
  2. Please help me.” Direction is from the person you are talking to –> going to you. “I help you.” moves in the opposite direction.
  3. I meet you/please meet me at…” You hold both index fingers in front of you pointing up, one finger near you while the other finger is far from you. Then the one finger near you moves smoothly toward the one finger far from you.  The index fingers symbolize two persons “meeting each other”. But you cannot limit yourself with just two persons. You can add three or more persons meeting each other by adding more fingers in each hand. So, your five fingers mean you, together with four of your friends will meet him.
  4. Please come in.” You must first establish the location where the person you want to “enter or come into”. If you want to come into your house which is right at your back, then use open hand face up pointing to the person you are talking to, then moving your hand to the direction of your house. It’s a very common gestural sign. Signing “PLEASE – COME – IN.” is a very inaccurate and confusing movement. Do you want the person to go inside (which is the sign for IN) your hands?
  5. Carry…“, “Take…” and “Bring…”. These three verbs are very specific in giving out directions.
      • “Bring” means to carry something towards yourself, or when the person making the request is at the destination.
        “Bring me your bag.” Sign “BAG” or point to the bag if there is one, then open hand face up moves starting from the person you are talking to and going towards you.
      • “Take” means to carry something away from yourself, or when the person making the request is NOT at the destination.
        “Take this bag to Pedro’s house.” Sign “BAG” or point to the bag or hold on to the bag, then open hand face up, then add Pedro’s sign name, then sign house.
      • “Carry” means to move while supporting, either in a vehicle or in one’s hand or on one’s body. Use “carry” when the person making the request is NOT at the destination.
        “Please carry my bag to the car.” Sign “PLEASE”, then “BAG”, then open hand face up going to the direction where the car is located.

Cheers and Happy Signing!!!

 

Ignorance about Filipino Sign Language

The issue about sign language and the deaf community has sparked renewed attention recently in the Philippines. This was after viewing the second State of the Nation Address of our very controversial and unorthodox (talk about all the badmouth words) yet very popular President Rodrigo Duterte last Monday, July 24.

#fslsaSoNA2017
Photo courtesy of Ms. Naty Natividad, current Vice President of Philippine National Association of Sign Language Interpreters (PNASLI)

I was assigned by PNASLI, the national association of sign language interpreters, to do interpreting together with Dean of College of St. Benilde and my “kumare” Nicky Templo-Perez at GMA-7, a regular or “suki”. Actually, it was in GMA7 where I first interpreted in SONA way back in 2010. This year, aside from the local private TV stations, it’s the first time the government TV Channel 4 aired the SONA with inset sign language interpreting. And they were very fortunate to have their interpreting right inside the halls of the House of Representatives itself where the actual action is happening.

However, they did not get their interpreters from the pool of PNASLI people. Instead they got the services of the Philippine Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf (PRID), the oldest existing organization which trains and deploys interpreters in the country. As an alumnus and a proud product of PRID, I was truly excited that they have participated in such a momentous event. Interpreting in one setting is what I really dreamed of. I have been aspiring that all TV stations will broadcast the President’s SONA using one interpreter.

bamaquino
Senator Bam Aquino (Photo linked from the Manila Bulletin)

But I won’t be dwelling much on that. I would like to emphasize on the recent news coming from Senator Bam Aquino pushing for the Filipino Sign Language Bill in the Senate. He said he was grateful for the sign language interpreters during the SONA because of their efforts to deliver the message of the President to our fellow Filipinos who are deaf. Aquino is the author of Senate Bill No. 966 or the Filipino Sign Language Act, which seeks to declare FSL as the national sign language of the Filipino Deaf and “the official language of the Philippine government in all transactions with the Deaf.” He also mentioned that many saluted or lauded the interpreters for making the sign language available to deaf persons during the two-hour SONA.

It was a really welcoming news item. But then, a handful of people who commented on the news in social media were so distasteful and exposing their ignorance about sign language and its use. Someone even suggested that the Senator should focus his efforts on how he can assist the deaf by putting more wheelchair ramps! Talk about mixed disabilities. Still another guy recommended that the Filipino deaf use the internationally accepted American Sign Language (ASL) so that he can compete globally. Really? Why would the Filipino deaf need that? Are they applying as Call Center Operators or work overseas? Yet another one opines that supporting FSL is for the sake of Filipino pride and acknowledgement of its existence. Well, what’s wrong with that? He even emphasized that sign language is universal so there’s no need to create a new one. Does he really think that it’s universal?

Did you know that Filipinos have different names describing rice, our staple food? We have palay for unmilled rice, bigas for milled rice, kanin for cooked rice, lugaw for rice porridge, tutong for burned rice, bahaw for left over rice and sinangag for fried rice. You might also be surprised that each of these words have distinct Filipino Sign Language.

Another distinct difference between ASL and FSL is through fingerspelling. Look at the illustration below.

difference between asl and fsl in fingerspelling.png

I have met people who brags by saying they are well versed in ASL. But when I observed their signs, I can easily distinguish it from Signed Exact English (SEE) or Pidgin Sign English (PSE). So it’s either they don’t know what they’re talking about or they are plain ignorant. (Is there a difference?)

Survey for Filipino Interpreters

PNASLI Interpreting Survey Form

To all my Filipino sign language interpreters, may I encourage you to answer this Interpreting survey form? This survey is being conducted by the Philippine National Association of Sign Language Interpreters (PNASLI). The group would like to get in touch with with all its members soon for the next General Assembly meeting.

You may click on the image above or this link to go the the form. Thank you. 😉

https://docs.google.com/forms/d/1PagO5wUcFg-KGx1fFuYOZOOCoeyNvPVj21dgg7FcU8U/viewform

Perils of being a sign language interpreter in the PH

This article really touched my heart. Not because I personally experienced this, but because in spite of the difficulties and almost thankless job of giving voice to the deaf, we are still here serving them.

It’s really hard to interpret for the deaf here in the Philippines! The process of converting spoken words into signs that the deaf can digest requires a highly technical person with superhuman ability because you need to do everything in split second. But then most of the people out there from the parents of the deaf up to our government would even like to make our services free of charge all because of charity. Try doing what we are doing and see if your brains will get blown out.  Thank you very much to JP, my idol from the south, for exposing the plight of these unsung heroes, most especially my closest friends Liza Presnillo and Ma’am Liway Caldito.

Here is the article from Rappler which I copy-pasted here from the original site.

Sign language interpreting is a back-breaking job, but is also one of the most noble professions in the world. Without interpreters, deaf persons would be disenfranchised.

John Paul Ecarma Maunes
Published 10:30 AM, July 10, 2015
Updated 10:30 AM, Jul 10, 2015

BRIDGING THE GAP. The late Liza Presnillo in one of her many sign language interpretation engagements for TV.

BRIDGING THE GAP. The late Liza Presnillo in one of her many sign language interpretation engagements for TV.

The entire Filipino deaf community is mourning the untimely demise of veteran Filipino sign Language Interpreter Flordeliza Presnillo on April 8, 2015.

She battled breast cancer for nearly 5 years.

She was one of the founding board members of the Philippine National Association of Sign Language Interpreters (PNASLI). She also pioneered the news inset sign language interpretation in Philippine television, as a news interpreter for TV5 since 2011. Her accurate and clear elucidation of information, including even the sarcasm and animated reporting of the Tulfo brothers, has gained her the respect of the Filipino audience.

Before her TV stint, she first became an icon in attending to the accessibility needs of the Filipino deaf community. She served as an interpreter in the academe, social events, national, and international conferences. She also helped individuals get through employment opportunities, medical and legal services.

Presnillo mentored a lot of aspiring signers and junior interpreters by molding them to become exceptional advocates for the rights of deaf persons. She also spearheaded a campaign for the rights and recognition of Filipino sign language interpreters.

She did all these despite her failing health.

In spite her dedication and undying sacrifice for the deaf community, she struggled financially and received no support from the government during her fight against breast cancer.

Same advocacy, same fate

Meanwhile, another advocate, had the same fate. Liwanag Caldito has been a teacher for deaf kids in Pasay for nearly 30 years, and yet, she was easily dismissed from work with only a small retirement benefit.

Her dismissal came after developing Parkinson’s disease. This, after a robbing incident while on board a bus on her way to school.

After losing work, she ran her own non-governmental organization in 2007.

Unfortunately, just a few months ago, she learned she has to undergo an operation for complications in her spinal disc. Caldito had to raise funds because the operation was too expensive.

She received no government support. All the help she got came from family and friends who rendered their services pro-bono.

These are just some painful misfortunes that sign language interpreters have experienced here in the Philippines. They also suffer from prolonged standing, carpal tunnel disorder, varicose veins, back and spinal cord injuries, among other degenerative health disorders caused by stress.

Many of them do not get paid at all times because they are stereotyped as volunteers or charity workers.

Hurdles

In courtrooms, sign language interpreters play a critical role in extracting precise information, especially whenever they handle cases involving abused deaf persons. At times, they may fall prey to death threats from abusers and syndicates. Some don’t receive security measures from the court or police, hence end up protecting themselves. Others are left with no choice but to withdraw from the case.

The most frustrating part is when they end up scrutinized by the court itself. This still happens even if the Supreme Court already issued a memo in 2004, saying that court administrators should approve requests of lower courts for the hiring of sign language interpreters. Contracted interpreters should be paid at least P500 to P1,000 per hour, including transportation and meals expenses per appearance.

Care

People and institutions that benefit from sign language interpreters should ensure that the likes of Presnillo and Caldito are well taken care of.

They should be provided with work benefits like medical and hazard insurance, secured employment, and ample time to rest in between interpretations.

Those who benefit from their services should take the lead in advocating and institutionalizing the rights of interpreters.

Sign language interpreting is a back-breaking job, but is also one of the most noble professions in the world. Without interpreters, deaf persons would be disenfranchised.

Interpreters are known to sharpen their skills well because they are aware of the growing demand of this profession. There are only less than a hundred enlisted professional interpreters in the Philippines.

Unless the Philippine government implements policies and programs that truly recognize the critical role of interpreters by passing the Filipino Sign Language Act, the daily oppression and discrimination of interpreters will continue.

Unless the Filipino deaf leaders, advocates, and other stakeholders take stronger action on this issue, the Philippines will continuously lose modern-day heroes like Presnillo. – Rappler.com

John Pael Ecarma Maunes is a registered nurse and the executive director of Philippine Accessible Deaf Services Inc.

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