My TV Interpreting and Former President Aquino

Former Philippine President Benigno Aquino III died on June 24. His ashes were laid to rest at the Manila Memorial Park today (June 26). I already posted my condolences to the 15th president of my country on Facebook and also changed my temporary profile photo in honoring him.

My Facebook Condolences….

However, I won’t be focusing in detail on the events leading to his untimely demise nor the other activities that followed. What I want to share with you is how, “incidentally”, because of him, we had our first inset sign language interpretation of a President’s State of the Nation Address (SONA) on national TV in 2010.

I placed the word “incidentally” between quotes because the ex-president never had a hand on this. These are the collaborative efforts of the deaf community, deaf advocates, deaf institutions, and like-minded individuals in partnership with national TV stations. Worth mentioning is the tireless efforts made by the Philippine Federation of the Deaf (PFD), Dela Salle – College of St. Benilde which is one of the pioneer institutions in advocating for this, and most of my colleagues in the interpreting world. It just so happens that he was the president at that time. Although the bill on Filipino Sign Language started to make headway during his presidency, the actual law was in full gear and eventually signed into law on 2018 during his successor’s time, President Rodrigo Duterte.

As I was remembering the former president, I googled photos of me interpreting for him. I was very much blessed that I was chosen by the organizers from Dela Salle-College of St. Benilde (DLS-CSB) to be one of the first sign language interpreters assigned for SONA together with DLS-CSB Dean Nicky Templo-Perez. The National Council on Disability Affairs even documented the first sign language interpreted SONA ever, on their official website. The site says,

NCDA lauds GMA7 for its history making streaming news on President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino’s State of the Nation Address (SONA) with sign language interpretation, last June 26, 2010. The Council cheered with thousands of deaf viewers this country’s  first-ever SONA, heard live  by thousands of deaf citizens through a sign language interpreter, thanks to GMA7’s  kapuso  network. Mr. Jojo Esposa interpreting through sign language the State of the Nation’s Address of President Noynoy Aquino.

Excited MCCID Training Director and PWAG President Remberto Esposa Jr. tipped off the Council day before the President’s SONA, that GMA7 News tapped him to interpret the event, most awaited by every Filipino here and in many parts of the world. For the first time, deaf Pinoys, felt one with fellow Filipinos with and without disabilities everywhere in the world, the same great pride over the new President’s humble but noble pronouncements. Loud and clear through the interpreter, they too applauded his marching orders to ban undue use of “wang wang” (sirens) and his call to fight corruption in his inaugural speech. Most of all, his “Kayo ang Boss ko” (You, the Filipino people, are my Boss), got the biggest public cheer of all.

P-noy's SONA with sign language inset.

P-noy’s SONA with sign language inset.

Original article appears here: Pnoy’s SONA Reaches Thousands of Deaf Pinoys Nationwide – NCDA

As I was googling for the actual interpreting on TV, I never found one. Only photos. However, I was very much surprised that I was interviewed by GMA Network, one of the largest media organizations in the country and saved it on YouTube. The interviewer candidly asked me if I was scared to interpret and what I would expect from this activity. I honestly said I was trembling because I don’t know what he would say. Also, the reporter asked what interpreting language I would be using, which I answered in Filipino Sign Language. She followed it up with a query if it is the same as the Filipino language. I explained to her that it’s not the same. FSL is a separate distinct language used by native Filipino deaf users. I added that we are just there to bridge the communication gap between the hearing world and the deaf.

Here is the YouTube link of the said interview:

Behind the Scenes: Sign language interpretation of the SONA

This activity was a trailblazer of sorts because, on the succeeding years, all TV stations broadcast the president’s SONA with inset sign language interpreting. With this, I can probably conclude that this is one of the former Head of State’s impacting legacy. Condolence again to the family of the late President.

Unboxing of a gadget the deaf way

You’ve seen many unboxing videos of the latest mobile phones and other gadgets. But have you seen one being explained by a deaf person and in sign language? Well, here it is!

For the first time, our school Manila Christian Computer Institute for the Deaf ventured into an Unboxing Video blog of a cellphone! Introducing the new player in town, Tecno Mobile. They started selling in the Philippines only this August 2020.

Check out our unboxing and first look of Tecno Mobile Spark 5 Pro as explained in SIGN LANGUAGE! This is especially dedicated to our Filipino Deaf community so that they can have access to the latest gadgets explained in their own language. However, an English voice interpreting is included for the general public. Our resident deaf Kennel Alonzo did the signing.

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Hope you all like it! Cheers!

Are deaf people deprived of their “mother language”?

Today, we celebrate “International Mother Language Day”. Held every 21st day of February as approved at the 1999 General Conference of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), it was born out of the initiative of Bangladesh and has been observed worldwide since 2000.

UNESCO commemorates this day to the belief that,

in the importance of cultural and linguistic diversity for sustainable societies. It is within its mandate for peace that it works to preserve the differences in cultures and languages that foster tolerance and respect for others. [link]

This recognition centers on the observation that native languages are increasingly threatened as more and more languages disappear. Dominant languages have been emphasized excessively that modern kids were discouraged in schools to use the language they use at home. Aside from that, books and other written materials using their mother language were scarce and readily unavailable. Nevertheless, progress is being made in mother tongue-based multilingual education with a growing understanding of its importance, particularly in early schooling, and more commitment to its development in public life.

But what about those who are deprived of language acquisition? What about those who were not able to access their “mother language” the moment they were born? How do we address those vulnerable sectors, most especially those who are deaf and hard-of-hearing?

What is Language Deprivation?

Language deprivation means, exactly, a language that is taken away from people. According to Therapy Travellers Website, Language deprivation is

 the term used for when a child does not have access to a naturally occurring language during their critical language-learning years. [link]

Deaf children are the most affected because they are not exposed to a language that would develop their cognitive growth. A deaf baby has not received any language exposure during the critical period between ages 0 to 2.

To illustrate,

stick figure of parent asking a hearing child what he wants and replies with milk, milk, milk
The hearing parent asks his hearing child what he wants. The hearing child replies by speaking what he needs which is milk.

 

The hearing parent can readily communicate with his baby what he needs because they both have access to sounds and speech. A baby with no hearing impairment would easily acquire speech and language. Studies show that the brain forms more than one million new neural connections every second from age 0 to 5. This means that they can accumulate emotional and physical health, social skills, and cognitive-linguistic capacities that emerge in the early years. [link]

 

 

stick figure of a deaf child asking milk but the parent doesn't understand
A deaf baby asking his father to give him milk. But the father asks “What do you want?” because he does not understand the baby.

Now compare that with a deaf baby interacting with his parents. Since a deaf baby does not hear her parents, he does not understand what they mean. He cannot associate any actions to the words or phrases that come out of their parents’ mouths because nothing enters his ears. No matter what the baby utters, the parent cannot seem to understand him. Does he need to pee? Is he hungry? Does he want to go out? Is he sick? Does he want to play? Situations like this often lead to frustrations, irritations, and tantrums. Eventually, this leads to ignoring the baby’s needs and thus stunt his overall emotional and intellectual growth.

That is language deprivation.

 

 

Worldwide, over 5% has disabling hearing loss, roughly 466 million people. 90% of deaf children are born with hearing parents. This means that their parents are not familiar with or even aware of how to deal with having a deaf child. So, their tendency is to just give the deaf kid what they perceived he wants without affirmation that it was really what he wants. Worse, the parents would just let them be and do their own thing. Problems in the delay in language development would appear when they are already in school, work, communicating with others, and even self-confidence.

Baby Sign Language

Research has shown that early exposure to a first language will predict future language outcomes. The earlier he can acquire a language, the better he can succeed. And since a deaf baby can learn a language using his eyes, he should be exposed to sign language at the earliest possible time.  Because signed languages are the only languages that are 100% accessible to a deaf child, we can be sure that the child’s brain is receiving language input.

Stick figure of a parent teaching his deaf child the sign for milk
A parent teaches his baby the sign language for milk while at the same time mouthing the words milk and holding the feeding bottle.

Deaf children who do not learn to sign until later in life are more likely to process signed languages not as linguistic input, but as visual input, contrasting with children exposed from birth, who process signed language in the same region of the brain in which hearing people process spoken language. Scientists suggest that the best guarantee of good language outcomes for Deaf children is to establish Sign Language as a secure first language before a cochlear implant program (CIP) is considered.[link]

I created an infographic about this today as part of our Deaf Sensitivity Series. It was posted on the official Facebook page of our school for the deaf. As of this writing, it has been shared nearly 50 times. Feel free to download the image below. 🙂

infographic

You may also view a very informative video below created by Nyle DiMarco Foundation of the hugely popular “America’s Next Top Model” deaf winner.

Happy International Mother Language Day! 🙂

What’s your super power?

I saw a t-shirt with this one written on it. It’s kinda jolt me a bit as to what sign language is. That’s probably the way some people who are skilled in sign language think about their ability. I agree with them. So I made a similar one using our very own MCCID FSL Font.

I know sign language. What's your superpower?
What’s your superpower?

Cheers!!!!

Have you thanked your interpreters today?

One of my Facebook friends and now my “kumare” since I’m the Godson of her baby daughter Dean Nicky Templo – Perez of College of St. Benilde, tagged me in his post about sign language interpreter’s day.  I didn’t know there is one? It turns out that Mr. Joshua Jones, a deaf-blind from Seattle, created a Facebook Group Account called “Official Interpreter Appreciation Day 2013” honoring sign language interpreters.  I was approved as a member a few minutes ago. 🙂

This is what appears on their page which currently has more than 1,800 members:

We should show our appreciation to the interpreters. They work hard to help people to communicate via different languages. It is time for us to give the shout outs for their hard works. We did the polls here. We decided to do first Monday of May every year. May 1st will be our very first official Interpreter Appreciation Day.

The group declared that:

We celebrate our nurses on May 6, our Armed Forces on May 18, our teachers on May 7, and even our bosses on October 16. Today (Apr 24), it just so happens to be Administrative Professionals Day. But what about appreciation for the nimble-fingered professionals who break down communication barriers with the hearing world?

I have been a sign language interpreter in the Philippines since 1991. I love this work, although most of the time, I considered this as a thankless career. Living in a developing country such as the Philippines, sign language interpreters are “thought” to be just a helper or “Personal Assistant” of a deaf person and not a service provider. Interpreting, from the perspective of my countrymen, is not a profession but rather a mission or vocation and you must not expect any compensation from your work except, the “crown in heaven”.  View my entire post on another blog here.

That is why our Deaf citizens who are in need of interpreters are often being served by half-baked, unskilled and even unprofessional interpreters. Their reason for not rendering a better service is that they do this for free so don’t expect an excellent work.

My primary goal in blogging for the past five years is in order for people to become more aware and sensitive about the needs of the deaf while at the same time appreciate the work being done by service providers like us TERPS.

Deafview.com has a wonderful list of suggestions a deaf person might want to do in order to show his appreciation to his sign language interpreter. Come visit their page. Among those are educating your friends about what sign language interpreter does, small gifts or flowers and vlog them.

So it’s “official”. Sign Language Interpreter’s Day will be held every 1st Wednesday of May. Since the first Wednesday falls on May 1, which fittingly coincides with my country’s Labor Day, then, May 1, 2013 is SIGN LANGUAGE INTERPRETERS‘ DAY. Happy TERPS Day to all my colleagues in the sign language interpreting world. 🙂

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