AI can turn spoken language into photorealistic sign language videos

Image from NewScientist

Newscientist website published an article regarding an Artificial Intelligence (AI) that “can produce photorealistic videos of sign language interpreters from speech could improve accessibility by removing the need for humans.”

According to the site, Ben Saunders at the University of Surrey, UK, and his colleagues used a neural network that converts spoken language into sign language. The system, called SignGAN, then maps these signs on to a 3D model of the human skeleton.

Although I consider this as a very remarkable development in AI, this technology may still be far off due to many aspects that need to be considered such as language idiosyncrasy, facial expression and idiomatic peculiarities. But what really worries me is my fear of eventually “removing the need for sign language interpreters.

Still this development is a step in the right direction. We cannot prevent advancement of technologies unless we suppress science. You may view the entire news article by clicking on the link below.

https://www.newscientist.com/article/2261113-ai-can-turn-spoken-language-into-photorealistic-sign-language-videos/

Note: The website is a paid site. You need to subscribe to get unlimited access. 🙂

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Sign Language Interpreter’s e-Conference 2020 and Workshop

Are you a sign language interpreter, a student of sign language, an ally-advocate of the Deaf community, or just curious about what it takes to be a sign language interpreter?  We know you want to improve your skills in sign language interpreting and hopefully build a career as a sign language interpreter.

Quaranterps Rise Up

As part of this year’s celebration of International Day of Sign Languages, the Philippine National Association of Sign Language Interpreters (PNASLI) created an online event just for you. Dubbed, QUARANTERPS RISE UP Sign Language Interpreters e-Conference and Workshop 2020, this activity

is centered not just on skills but on the core fundamentals of being a sign language interpreter.

The event will be held on September 23-25, via Facebook Group  and September 26 via ZOOM. It will happen right at the comfort of your own homes. It is timely also that during this time we also celebrate the International Week of the Deaf.

Topics to be presented in the 4-day e-conference together with their respective facilitators are as follows,

Day 1 – September 23 (Wednesday)

  • Developing Signs for COVID-19 Terms – Yvette Apurado
  • Knowing Filipino Sign Language Law – Dr. Liza Martinez
  • Discoring the History of Sign Interpreting in the Philippines – Febe Sevilla
  • Profiling Filipino Sign Language Interpreters – John Xandre Baliza
  • Deaf Relay Interpreters – Marites Raquel Corpuz

Day 2 – September 24 (Thursday)

  • Interpreter’s Role Shifting Skills – Jeffery Bowden
  • Message Analysis Skills – Bayani Generoso
  • Voice Interpreting Skills – Nick Templo-Perez
  • Signed Song Performance Skills – Ace Dela Pena

Day 3 – September 25 (Friday)

  • Seeking Out Interpreter Mentors – Mike McMillion
  • Examining Interpreter’s Work with Authenticity – William F. Ross III
  • Understanding the Language of the Church vis-a-vis the Language of the Deaf – Michael Jose Autencio
  • Above Anxiety: Coping in the New Normal – Elmer Mores

Day 4 – September 26 (Saturday)

  • Role Shifting Skills – Jeff Bowden
  • Self-Monitoring Skills – Bayani Generoso
  • Making Ethical Interpreter Decisions – Naty Natividad
  • News Interpreting Skills – Junjun Sevilla
  • Signed Song Interpretation Skills – Ace Dela Pena

Although the e-conference is a paid event, you may click HERE to join for the FREE PASS via Facebook Group and via Zoom only on September 26. However, Here is the Rise Up Plan for the investment fee.

You may send your investment fee through these options:

OPTION 1: BANK
Deposit the amount to:

BPI Family Savings Bank
Savings Account Name: Philippine National Association of Sign Language Interpreters, Inc.
Savings Account Number 5273-3516-73

OPTION 2: GCASH
GCash number 0915 591 0124
c/o PNASLI Treasurer Junjun Sevilla

OPTION 3: PAYPAL
Email: philippinenasli@gmail.com

REGISTER ON THIS EVENT BY CLICKING ON THIS LINK => https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSda5Wqex1eXMp9nDOpl4v6q2cT9N66BrT3Biwv0jUZSdV1fYA/viewform

To know more about the event and other details, please go to their official website at

QuaranTerps Rise Up

 

At a time when we are being QUARANTINED,
you’re a hero for choosing to RISE UP!

Can a deaf person be a reliable witness?

I chanced upon an article in Nikkei Asian Review which exposes the misleadings done by hugely popular internet search engines Google and Baidu which forcefully directs us to “floods of advertisements and micro-targeted results” and recommended the use of lesser-known but becoming increasingly popular sites such as ByteDance of China and DuckDuckGo of the US. I got curious about these two alternative sites so I tried them out.

I opened only the DuckDuckGo site since the other one is only for the Chinese market. The screen looks like the minimalist web style of Google.com. But what’s strikingly good is what appears at the bottom of the search box which says “The search engine that doesn’t track you.”, the tagline “Privacy, simplified” and the popup box advising us that “Your data shouldn’t be for sale.”

I then tried typing “deaf Philippines”. I was pleasantly surprised that the top search was rightfully one of the first non-profit foundations that work to educate impoverished deaf in Bohol, followed by the Philippine Federation of the Deaf Wikipedia article which I created in January 2008 using my Wiki name Jomanila. Our school for the deaf landed in the top 20. However, I was a bit shocked that the hugely popular and limelight hogging college in Manila is nowhere to be found in the top 50 results.

Deaf on a witness stand
Deaf on a witness stand (not the actual event)
Google Photo courtesy of http://www.interpretereducation.org

Enough of the long intro. I like to focus on the article in Philippine Star Online Edition that did not even rank among the top results in Google which I only discovered in Duckduckgo. It’s about a case of a “deaf-mute” (a term used in the article which I so much disdain) person who became an eyewitness in the rape-slay of a single lady, Erica. Here is the entire story as narrated by a famous Filipino lawyer, Atty. Jose C. Sison which appeared in his column on June 27, 2017:

Deaf-mute witness
Jose C. Sison (The Philippine Star) – June 27, 2017 – 4:00pm

All persons who can perceive, and perceiving, can make known their perception to others may be witnesses in cases being tried in court. But are deaf mutes competent witnesses? What must be shown so that they can qualify as witnesses? These are among the issues resolved in this case of Erica.

Erica was single and working as a bookkeeper in a Credit Cooperative located in Manila. On the first working day of the year, she reported to the office bringing with her a camera to take pictures of her officemates for souvenir before going back to her hometown on the occasion of their town fiesta. At 5 o’clock, she left the office bringing with her the camera and P3,000 cash money for expenses in the celebration.

She arrived at about 7:30 pm and alighted along the highway about 300 meters from her house. Across the highway was a waiting shed with four persons inside, namely Andy and his brother Tony alias “Baba” because of his elongated chin, Rolly, alias “Boy Tattoo,” and Sergio, alias “Pipi” because he was deaf mute. The four just came from a beer house where they had a drinking spree with four other barkadas since daytime. They left when they got drunk going to a rice field. On the way, they pass by the waiting shed where Andy and Rolly took “Pidol” cough syrup.

Then Andy, Tony and Rolly left the shed when they saw Erica on her way home along a road which was very dark and silent and surrounded by tall trees and grasses. They asked Sergio to leave already. But instead of leaving, Sergio hid behind the bushes and trees, and thus saw the ensuing incident.

He saw his three barkadas caught up with Erica, as Rolly pushed her while Andy got her shoulder bag. Then Tony and Rolly pushed her against a tree and stabbed her several times in the neck. At this point Andy also joined the two and stabbed Erica until she fell down. As Erica was lying on the ground, Rolly pushed the bottle of cough syrup into her private parts aided by Tony. Then Andy hugged Erica who was still alive and resisting the assault. Together, they undressed Erica and successively raped her, starting with Andy, then Rolly and then Tony. As they take their respective turns in raping Erica, the two others were holding her hands.

After raping Erica, Andy took her bag, Rolly got her camera and cash money while Tony got her ring, earrings and watch. Thereafter, Rolly and Tony went to the rice field while Andy proceeded to the opposite direction.

When the already stiffed body of Erica lying on her back was found by the rice field owner the next day, and upon investigation by police investigators, the Provincial Prosecutor filed two Informations for rape with homicide and theft against Andy, Tony and Rolly.

Andy was arrested and arraigned first and pleaded not guilty. His brother Tony went into hiding upon learning of Andy’s arrest and was apprehended only one year later in the course of the trial. He also pleaded not guilty. But Rolly remained at large.

On five different dates of trial over a year, Sergio the deaf-mute eyewitness narrated what he saw through sign language interpreted by an expert who had 22 years of teaching experience in a school for the deaf, exposure in TV programs and had testified in five other previous court proceedings. So after trial, the RTC found the brothers Andy and Tony guilty as charged despite their denial and alibi that they were at home when the crime happened.

In their appeal to the Supreme Court, Andy and Tony contended that the RTC should not have given full faith and credit to the eyewitness account of Sergio who had no formal schooling in a special school for deaf mutes so that conjectures, surmises and inconsistencies in his testimony could not be discounted. They also attacked his character, claiming that he is a drunkard and a drug addict with appending case of rape.

But the SC still affirmed the RTC decision. The SC said that deaf mutes are NOT incompetent witnesses as long as they: (1) can understand and appreciate the sanctity of an oath: (2) can comprehend facts they are going to testify on; and (3) can communicate their ideas through a qualified interpreter. In this case, the interpreter is definitely qualified with a special training and education for interpreting sign language. The imperfections or inconsistencies in Sergio’s testimony do not detract from the credibility of his testimony much less justify its total rejection. What is material is that he personally knew the accused, was with them when the incident happened and had personally witnessed the rape-slay and theft three meters away from the scene. He did not waiver in the identification of the three accused despite the rigorous cross examination and positively pointed to them as the persons who raped and killed Erica and took her personal effects.

The character of Sergio and the pending case against him does not disqualify him from becoming a witness. For the test to measure the value of a witness’ testimony is whether or not such is in conformity to knowledge and consistent with experience of mankind.

The defense of alibi must yield to the positive identification of Andy and Tony by Sergio. Moreover the place where the crimes happened was just ten to fifteen minutes away from the residence of Andy. In the case of Tony his flight should be taken as an admission of guilt. There was also conspiracy among the three accused.

So they are really guilty as charged and sentenced to two death penalties upon each of them for the rape with homicide and imprisonment of 6 months to 2 years, 11 months and 10 days for theft (People vs. Tuangco et.al. G.R. 130331, November 22, 2000)

As per the narration, Sergio, the deaf witness did not attend formal schooling so he is what we call low-verbal deaf. He is also a hearing-friendly person judging from the buddies he accompanies with. But he is also very strong-willed, and unafraid to tell the truth even though the criminals were his barkadas and even if they counter-charged him.

The Supreme Court of the Philippines affirmed that a deaf person can become a competent witness so long as he/she believes in the sacredness of oath, understands the facts and, most importantly, CAN COMMUNICATE HIS THOUGHTS THROUGH A COMPETENT SIGN LANGUAGE INTERPRETER.

So, to answer the title question, YES, the deaf can be a reliable witness. Oh, I just wish I knew who the sign language interpreter is so that I will hug him/her so tight and shake his/her hand congratulating his/her awesome skill and dedication. I hope he/she reads this article and contact me. 🙂

You can read the original article on the Philstar Online Edition page.

  • – Highlights and all caps mine

To wear a teacher’s hat or an interpreter’s hat?

If you are a sign language interpreter in the Philippines, there is almost 100% chance that you are also a teacher for the deaf. Although there is a significant upsurge of interpreters due to an increasing number of institutions that teaches sign language lessons, still, the most readily available place to seek their services are in schools for the deaf even though only quite a handful of them is experienced and qualified.

With these conditions, situations may arise wherein you are compelled to wear either a teacher’s hat or an interpreter’s hat. It is certainly not at the same time. But what if you are in a situation where you want to wear both hats or even switch hats in midstream?

interpreter or teacher

A month ago, one of our former deaf teachers in MCCID messaged me requesting for an emergency interpreting for our former deaf student. To protect his privacy and for ethical concerns, I will try not to mention anything that might reveal his identity.

Our teacher explained to me that the student’s mother died a few days earlier and is on the funeral wake. His father died a few years ago due to complications from alcohol abuse. Since the deaf is an only child, his aunt together with his uncle were the ones who took care of the funeral preparations. The aunt and uncle are siblings of his mom. They are also doing the legwork in processing their sister’s benefits and claims. His uncle and his family started living in their house when his father died. The deaf needs to know what is the cause of her mother’s abrupt demise and more importantly, what will happen to his future. Since no one in his family knows sign language, he is at a quandary. He needs someone to interpret for him clearly what was going on. So he requested for my service.

In our school, we conduct personal home visits to the families of our deaf students. As my former student, I am familiar with the situation of his family. When I went to the funeral the next day, I was greeted by his aunt and some of his relatives. She was very happy that I came and very relieved that finally, she can explain to her nephew about his situation through a sign language interpreter. With this, I safely wore my interpreter’s hat.

house visits
MCCID Conducts Home Visits to Families of Deaf Students

Now here is what I gathered. The deaf’s mother was a public school teacher for nearly three decades. So she is entitled to many benefits like pension, burial, funeral, etc. Aside from that, her co-teachers and school staff raised up a substantial amount of money as their contribution to the family. Her former students also collected money as a donation. She was a Philhealth member and has health insurance so her hospital bills were all taken care of. But what is highly significant is that her mother owns a sizeable parcel of land within the center of a highly urbanized part of Metro Manila where they have been residing since the deaf was still in his grade school.

The deaf confided in me that he was very much suspicious about what was going on. In fact, his friend messaged him through FB cautioning him about what his relatives might do with the property and money. He then suggested that the deaf consults a lawyer about it. What’s weird is that when the deaf showed the message to his uncle, he immediately took his smartphone away from him, scolded him while telling him not to believe whoever is advising him. I sensed that his relatives want to keep him in the dark.

At first, his aunt wanted to talk to me alone to inform me about the entire situation and requested me just to relay everything to the deaf. I refused. I want the deaf to be present when both her aunt and uncle explain everything. I told her that I was only called there as her nephew’s interpreter and they need to talk directly to him. They were adamant. So I started to talk loudly voicing what the deaf wanted in order for other funeral visitors to hear. Because of that, they had no other choice but to accept the deaf’s demand. We then started our lengthy interpreting session.

I don’t claim that I have vast knowledge about family code and jurisprudence. But with this situation, I believe that it is the child who should be the main beneficiary regardless of his disability. Upon further inquiry, I found out that the mother did not leave any last will and testament. But still, it does not negate his rights as the sole inheritor. Why are they not telling everything straight to the one and only heir of the family? I felt that they were trying to hide something from him.

I was very much egging to switch hats because I really felt that he was being taken advantage. As a teacher, I have the moral authority to give advice to my former student and remind his relatives about his rights which are guaranteed by the state. Besides, I was not expecting that they will pay me for my services which they actually did not. So technically, I can wear the teacher’s hat. But then, I still restrained myself and went there just to interpret. It’s unfortunate but it’s life. In hindsight, did I do the right thing?

Now, if you were in my situation, which hat will you wear?

Government agencies involved in implementing the FSL Act

Several days ago, September 11 to be exact, Philippine Senator Salvador “Chiz” Escudero proudly twitted about very good news regarding the passage of the Filipino Sign Language Act (FSL). He announced that,

The Senate version of the Filipino Sign Language bill was adopted by the House of Representatives last night sans a bicam. I thank our House counterparts and all those who worked hard for the passage of this bill. I hope PRRD will sign it and be enacted into law soon.

To clarify the twit, in the Philippine legislative system, both the House of Representatives (Lower House) and the Senate (Upper House) will create two separate bills on the same topic or issue. Then both houses will study their own versions of the bill in the first, second and final reading. Once they reached that stage, then they must present the two bills in the Bi-cameral Conference Committee (bicam) which is composed of selected members of both houses. They would then consolidate or unify the two bills to come up with one version. Afterward, the “final” version will be presented to the current president, President Rodrigo Roa Duterte (PRRD) for signature for it to become a law of the land.

Now that the Lower House adopted the Senate version, then there is no more further delay in the process. After more than a decade of painstaking research among the deaf community, debate and even strong opposition from the schools teaching the deaf, the government through the Department of Education and even the general public who are basically ignorant about the situation of the deaf, the bill has finally reached this crucial stage.

As the final version is already on the President’s table, I want to make a simple analysis on the roles and responsibilities of each individual government agency that was mentioned in the “law”. Here is the list of the specific national government agency and the summary of the task that it must do to implement the “law”.

  1. Department of Education (DepEd), Commission on Higher Education (ChEd) and Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) – They are required to coordinate with each other on the use of FSL as the medium of instruction in deaf education. FSL must be taught as a separate subject in the school curriculum for deaf learners.
  2. Professional Regulation Commission (PRC) – This agency is assigned to use alternative assessment procedures in the licensing of Deaf Teachers.
  3. University of the Philippines (UP), Early Childhood Care and Development (ECCD) and Komisyon sa Wikang Filipino (KWK) – They are responsible in developing guidelines for the development of training materials in education of the deaf for use of state colleges and universities as well as teachers and staff.
  4. Komisyon sa Wikang Filipino (KWK) – With the involvement of the deaf communities, they are tasked to establish a national system of standards, accreditation and procedures for FSL interpreting
  5. Supreme Court, Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) – Their duty is to create a national system of standards, accreditation and procedure for legal interpreting in FSL. They must also make sure of the availability of sign language interpreters in all proceedings involving the deaf.
  6. All government agencies with deaf workers – They are encouraged to use FSL including the conduct of training seminars for their co-employees.
  7. Movie and Television Review and Classification Board (MTRCB) and National Council for Children’s Television (NCCT) – They are tasked to require TV stations to have FSL interpreter insets in news and public affairs programs. They must also participate in the promotion of FSL in all other broadcasts.
  8. Commission on Human Rights (CHR), Council for the Welfare of Children (CWC) and Philippine Commission on Women (PWC) – They are involved in making an annual assessment on the implementation of the law.

Even though their task may be mentioned in motherhood statements within the sections of the act, conspicuously missing are the following vital government agencies:

  1. Department of Health (DOH) – Although the entire Section 8 of the act is devoted to the health system, only the state hospitals and other government health facilities are given the responsibility to ensure the access of FSL interpreters for deaf patients. Probably the framers of this “law” do not see a need to involve the topmost department since all government hospitals and even barangay health centers are under DOH.
  2. Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) – Ever since the plight of Persons with Disabilities has always been a social welfare concern, the DSWD has played a lead role in implementing programs and services for them. However, their agency is not taking an active part in this act. It was only mentioned because their agency employs deaf people.
  3. National Council on Disability Affairs (NCDA) – Deaf people are considered as Persons with Disabilities. NCDA is the one and only national government agency tasked to formulate policies and coordinate all activities concerning disability issues and delivery of services to the sector.  Although the House of Representatives version mentioned them as one of the agencies tasked to formulate guidelines in the development of training materials for government employees of specific agencies, they are removed in the Senate and final version.  Ironically, a national government agency serving the sector does not play a significant role in law concerning the sector.

Although this is about language and its use, it is hoped that the three agencies mentioned above would still continue to participate in making the “law” implemented by everyone. DepEd was specified five times in nearly all sections while KWK or the Commission on the Filipino Language in tandem with UP appeared four times.

The FSL Act which has eighteen (18) sections are titled “AN ACT DECLARING THE FILIPINO SIGN LANGUAGE AS THE NATIONAL SIGN LANGUAGE OF HIE FILIPINO DEAF AND THE OFFICIAL SIGN LANGUAGE OF GOVERNMENT IN ALL TRANSACTIONS INVOLVING THE DEAF, AND MANDATING ITS USE IN SCHOOLS, BROADCAST MEDIA, AND WORKPLACES”.

Signing it into a law is a very big leap towards recognizing the language commonly used by Filipino deaf which has been suppressed by so-called “deaf educators”. However, much still needs to be done to fully implement the law.

To the Deaf Sector, “Congratulations and here’s to better times ahead! Cheers!!!”

 

 

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