WWYD? #5 – Side conversations

WWYD? #5 – Deaf People’s side conversations:
Now I have a question for you as a continuation of my “What would you do?” series. In a recent workshop, there were about 25 to 30 people who attended, including both Deaf and hearing participants. Toward the end of the day, the Deaf participants ended up being scolded for having some side conversations/discussions, even though the conversations were relevant to the day’s presentation.

Wait a minute…there’s some other relevant points to consider. Watch the vlog and think about it…. What would you do?


  • merle 16 years ago

    Mention that Sign Language is a lot quieter than talking with voice. We can ask hearing people which is more polite talking with voice or using sign language in the audience when the speaker is on the floor.

  • Adam Stone 16 years ago


    Quick transcript:

    Two points:

    1. Maybe it depends on the setting. If it’s a really formal presentation in a fancy auditorium where everyone’s dressed up, maybe side conversations should not happen. But in Joey’s situation, it sounds like an informal workshop where people are there to learn new strategies or new methods.

    2. Side conversations are IMPORTANT to promoting understanding. I’m in an education training program now at UCSD and my professors are telling me now that it is IMPORTANT to let children talk among themselves about new ideas and concepts. They need to discuss in their own words and language. Many teaching methods now involve having the teacher introduce an idea, and then letting children “turn and talk” and discuss in partners for 30 secs-2 minutes and then listen to the teacher again, or discussing in small groups for a few minutes. Letting children talk to each other really promotes understanding.

    So it’s up to the workshop director what she wants–a quiet and obedient audience, or an audience who is engaged, interested, and making an effort to understand the workshop content?

    I know that because of what I’ve learned at UCSD, any future workshops I give will definitely include time for people to talk to each other and discuss whatever I’ve just talked about!

  • Ramon Woolfe 16 years ago


  • Allison Tyler 16 years ago

    wow… its sad that it is “rare” for us to get a wonderful interpreter. Well, this situation shows how brilliant Deaf people are and how hungry they are for wonderful information that Hearing people receive so easily.

  • Margaret 16 years ago

    Wow, I did not know I could leave an audio-only comment. Maybe I try it next time. JK!

    Anyway, hearies have known to aggravate others at a movie theater by incessant yapping and would not shut-up. Even at church, library, court or opera house, theatre, etc, where silence is expected so others could enjoy or read or listen. Which is why they try to whisper even unsuccessful at times. Some places are super quiet that the hearies could hear a pin drop and if should anyone make the slightest noise while the lecturer is talking… ahhh… you’d be summon to get out.

    I was doing a play some years ago. A ground floor stage. A mix of hearing and deaf sudiences were seated on 3 sides. There were several deaf elderly people in front row who chatted in large signs… and it was hard on us, deaf and hearing performers. Very distracting. One guy was talking about our shoes (actually pointed at) to where to eat, etc. He waved someone at the other end to try to get her attention but she tried to ignore because I was giving eye. Several deaf students actually brought bags of McDonald’s and ate during our performance. Imagine NY Times theatre critic reviewer was there. (I’m laughing just to think about it… too funny).

    Ok… in classroom setting at my university, professors never complain about me talking with my interps. However, we try not to cause any distraction. At meetings, not a problem. Hmm, I’m thinking… perhaps it would be good to enlighten the lecturer ahead of time so they’d know what to expect or feel more assured of themselves. Otherwise, the announcement be as follows: “turn off your cell phones/pagers, no flash camera, keep your hands in your pocket and your mouths shut for the duration of our lecture!”

    Again, thinking… sometimes if we have a terrific interpreter, usually if we are there a little early, we’d introduce and have a little conversation… showing some enthusiasm. It helps…. I think.

    I did talk to this deaf guy after the show and asked him why he did what he was doing during my performance. He claimed he loves to discuss and that he loved the play. I said yes but he has to think about ME and others. I nearly lost my lines. It took awhile to get him to realize the difficulty he has set upon us and he apologized.

    Again, thinking… I do bring a notebook to make notes and they get the impression I do listen although I chat with other people during meeting or lecture.

    I feel that scolding in front of others does spoil the day. Leaves a bad feeling. They should handle it discreetly.

    I’m sleepy!

  • Barb DiGi 16 years ago


  • Barb DiGi 16 years ago

    Right before 2:01, there was a slight bump missing out the part of what I said. I was trying to say the Deaf should be praised for engaging in the discussion and those who are not as involved should be questioned or chided.

  • Red CJ Mayfield 16 years ago

    Instinctively, I sense a hint of discrimination at the beginning. Hearings may not be aware that we deafs are “visual-listener”. To avoid escalations and disrespecting, perhap the only fair solution for both hearings and deafs to show equal respect to the speaker would be for hearing to not bring books and notes and for deafs to pay attention the whole time. If it was an all deaf workshop, naturally we all know how we are without owing an explanatory.


  • Ecnarb 16 years ago


  • Lucky 16 years ago

    Was the “scolding” a power trip from the coordinator of the workshop?

    Often, deaf people don’t understand the context, and will not feel comfortable asking the interpreter or the group. So they will ask a seatmate, “What does xxx mean?”

    HOW they do it, makes all the difference! A “whisper” of signing is one thing, but a “loud” (visual) conversation is another.

    In another situation, what if it was a CDI who was re-phrasing for a consumer. That could be just as distracting, yet a vital part of the communication access.

    Regardless, those in the room have the choice to pay attention or not. That is what freedom is all about.

  • Dean Sheridan 16 years ago

    I agree with Barb DiGi’s and Margaret’s points-of-views. It’s definitely a complex situation that has happened, and it was unfortunate that it apparently ended in a “sour note”.

    (1) As a rule-of-thumb: Audience (Deaf and Hearing alike) attention span lasts about 20 minutes. Really, REALLY, really fascinating talks lasts about 35 minutes, all straight nonstop. (If you look at designing PowerPoint presentations, that rule of thumb usually shows up). After that, distractions occur. It’s human nature.

    (2) Q&A format and “upfront expectations” are always helpful. Reduces misunderstanding for everyone.

    (3) Side conversations and other distractions (reading books, textings, etc): Welcome to the new Century! Years ago, we used to have Hearing ushers at movie houses to “shhh” the movie watchers. Today, we have noisy chatters in movie houses. Side conversations always have occurred (Deaf and Hearing alike)…it’s just unfortunate that our signing hands are more visible compared to 2 hearing people whispering into each other’s ears.

    (4) Is the presenter’s attitude discriminatory, audism…ignorant…inappropriate, typical of Hearing?

    No, it’s just common sense. If there’s a formal situation (classroom, religious ceremony, stage play, etc), it’s polite to listen to the speaker and keep distractions to a minimum…for all Deaf and Hearing alike. If anyone has questions, why didn’t they raise their hands in the first place? This way, it opens their “private conversation” into the general public, for ALL to see. THEN, it’s up to the panel or Presenter to consider “opening the floor” to questions…or to hold all questions till the end.

    (5) Were there some rude Hearing people (reading books, otherwise not paying FULL attention): Yes, there’s no excuse for it. Was it distracting? Not really. To me, it seemed that the person was a bit confused and needed some background information during the talks. Why didn’t THAT person raise their hand and ask? Again, it points back to format…the lack of opportunity to ask questions.

    I think the Presenter is like a good Host (like Oprah)…if the presentation is not “happening” then the Host needs to be the leader and help channel the audience’s interest together. “I see some discussion over there…is there anything you want to add to this discussion?”

    This way, no one is left out. Just my opinion.

    It was wonderful to see that a FANTASTIC interpreter was able to convey all info, all thoughts, making the crowd talk & discuss further. It’s great for the viewer’s eyes and exciting to see it happened. A big hand-wave to that interpreter and another hand-wave to whoever booked the interpreter (someone could always have chosen a cheaper or lesser-quality interpreter).

    Okay…I think I spoke too much…there’s people reading this blog, lol.

  • deafmommy 16 years ago

    Joey, I am super glad that you are bringing up this topic. Sometimes deaf people are lonely, they are hungry for some side conversation, so it is same thing for hearing people but we make it so obvious that it is easy for people to point fingers at us instead.

    At deaf schools, we were taught to be very quiet and to pay attention to the teacher. Even we could not have side conversations with our friends, it was incredibly frustrating. I think it is our way of breaking the rigid rule and I definitely agree with Adam Stone that side conversations are a good thing especially for childrent to develop positive social interaction skills.

    Another topic I would like to see it being introduced is how to deal with audistic people and how to work with them to make sure they don’t oppress you indirectly. I would love to see the tips, suggestions and advice that some of you may have and it will help us in learning how to educate hearing people and to respect us.

  • Candy 16 years ago

    It is considered an insult. But, deaf knows no better. I’m not putting the deaf down. I have done the same thing, we feel we can engage in discussion of the presentation and pay attention to it yet, it is considered an insult. If deaf expects hearing to adhere to our cultural norm then we should adhere to theirs.

    Most hearing tend to write notes about the presentation and listen at the same time.

    Like one commenter said, it depends on the formality of the presentation, too.

    I have seen hearing people being scolded for whispering too much to the person next to them, as well.

  • Candy 16 years ago


    I was over at DVTV and watched the comments. Funny. Yeah, I liked the part where Brance said “we can’t see you, is it because you’re a white ghost?” LOL

    Anyway, Mike, I think helping people understand the message on a vlog/blog is good. No need to assume and insult people, really. 🙂

    I thank WG for alerting me to this interesting discussion. I just had a discussion with my husband, who is deaf as well, and he thinks it is nothing wrong to sign while speaker is talking. Well, I guess it may be ok if one is discreet? See, even I and my spouse have difference of opinion. oh well.

    But, I think many people do not realize that it is bad manners to speak or sign when someone is speaking or signing. That’s my view. I have been in both situations and see it happening all the time, not only deaf, ya know? It goes both ways and it is dis-respectful towards the speaker regarless.

  • jean Boutcher 16 years ago

    I can perfectly well understand what you were trying to say. However, based on my epxerience at numerous workshops, the flying hands would distract a deaf or hearing lecturer. Even one of the great British actor, Jeremy Irons, hates all sign language interpreters because of his bad experience with one during one of his plays in Great Britain. Some people are nervous speaking or signing to an audience while something or someone makes a movement.

  • Sandra Goldstein 16 years ago


    Let me tell you something. When I went to the funeral, the preacher along with the interpreter stopped preaching because deaf people signed and conversed. When hearing people whispered in their ears, the preacher did not stop preaching.

    Deaf people are noisemakers. they moved their lips making noises because they cannot hear themselves.

    We just ignored their criticisms. We , deaf people should not talk or discuss the issues related to the workshop. They can jot things down to remind to discuss after the workshop. It is a real distraction to people when deaf people sign .


  • Sheri A. Farinha 16 years ago

    What would I do? I would first ask the workshop coordinator, if this was something the Presenter himself/herself said or was it the workshop coordinators opinion, which?

    Why? The workshop coordinator shouldn’t impose his/her feelings for the Presenter. A skilled Presenter would notice discussions and could simply target a question to the deaf group if they had something to add or comment about what was being shared during the workshop. This would allow us the opportunity to speak freely and share what we were discussing and ask more questions. Granted it is distracting when you see people having sidebars either signing OR talking but a good Workshop Presenter will know how to handle it.

    However, me being me…since I paid for the workshop, I would try and get the most out of it and more likely would have raised my hand and asked questions that we deaf were discussing to get clarification and or share whether I agree or not. I was never a “silent” student. Smile.


  • Rima Cornish 16 years ago


    I am glad you bringing up this topic… people definetely will bring their own opinions. I experience a lot of this for years. I am a chatterbox! In enivroment of deaf or hearing, it doesnt matter when it comes to me. I got scold many time. I even always try get myself to quiet as much as I can.
    If I was at that workshop, at first I will quickly apologize for my part when corrdinator talk with us. I also would discuss with the coordinator about the side conversations we had was related to the workshop. Also, I would discuss improvement for next workshop and what would be best for deaf group. Basically, in any workshops, we should be quiet as possible as we can and take notes unless we comminicate with coordinator before the workshop about side conversation. We cant assume if it is informal and it should be okay for side conversation. Side conversations do distract both deaf and hearing people. I got plenty of distracting from my own side conversation that I cant hold and I implusive quickly with what I think with people sitting next to me. It is difficult for me and I bet it is for some others. It is something we need to keep in mind for other people who is in the workshop or meeting.

  • DeafPAH 16 years ago

    The speaker should ask the deaf to share what they were discussing among themselves instead of scolding them out. That is how teachers do in their classroom when the students talk among themselves during class or presentation. Instead of criticizing or treating us like kids, the teacher would ask for their feedback to keep the class motivated. The speaker should recognized the hearing group not participating and try to get their feedback after listening to the deaf’s side.

  • BR 16 years ago

    If there was such a large number of Deaf people, then clearly it should be considered a Deaf culture event where Deaf culture rules of etiquette apply.

    Of course, rules of etiquette in the “visual world” of Deaf culture can be much different and this causes hearing people to misunderstand what’s going on. I

    If there is a small group discussing things using sign off to the side, then this group is not in anyone’s line of sight. That’s important to keep in mind. If the group was in the center directly under the presenter, then the group would be in the line of sight of everyone else. That would be much different.


  • Sandra Goldstein 16 years ago

    Good morning, Joey!

    Last night I attended a professional meeting along with a good number of deaf participants. There were two RID certified interpreters who happen to be CODA ( Children of Deaf Adults). What a perfect timing for I already viewed your VLOG.

    Several deaf people signed and conversed and discussed relating to the issues while one of the interpreters translated. That interpreter blew her top to tell those deaf people to stop signing. She told them to respect her and watch her translate.

    It gave me a thought about your comment respect the speaker. The deaf people should respect the interpreter who worked so hard to translate for the deaf audience. Respect the speaker as well the interpreter.

    I would say it is very rude for deaf people signing while the interpreter signs ( translates).


  • Joey Baer 16 years ago


    I humble disagree with your assessment that interpreter have the right to blow off his/her head and tell the audience to respect him/her. Interpreters are paid to interpret what is being said NOT supervising the audience’s behavior. It is a mistake when interpreters cross the lines by telling us what to do.

    Like Mike Schmidt explained on Deafvideo.tv under my same vlog I posted over there, Deaf people has visual linguistic process. Deaf people will need to converse a little on the side to keep the stimulation going. Go to http://www.deafvideo.tv/video/watch/28122/ and see some interesting video comments there.

    Sandra – you are very lucky that you are able to pay attention for long time without conversing with other Deaf people. That includes me but for many other Deaf people, they will become lost if they are not allowed to have side conversations. Again, look at some excellent video comments on deafvideo.tv.

  • John Dunsmore 16 years ago

    Sure it did happen to me way back at the University of Minnesota …. it is sad that we have to re educate people when that happened…it never ends here or there.

    What would I do?

    I would challenge that person whoever complains about or scolded us, the deaf group and have him/her to look the other side of hearing group and teach him/her to be careful on how you say about the deaf group.
    She/he should take Deaf Culture class for continue education. :0

  • Jac 16 years ago

    I had not been that happened in the any workshops for years as most lecturers were understanding so well about deaf people, since they are fimilar with the deaf culture. They respect their deaf to communicate or debate each other, they can even ask questions. If that happen to me in a near future, I would speak out to a lecturers with my interpreter to educate him or her to understand our deafness. If he or she want me to involve their discussion in their workshop to share with hearing people, then no problem with me.

  • Janna 16 years ago

    Interesting interesting….. It depends on situation, how long the side conversation was going on, etc.. If hearing people having side conversation, it will distract the speaker/audience audiologically and Deaf people’s side conv can be distracting visually. That’s comparable – not to hearing people’s reading book, writing notes. It’s all about etiquette. Not only that, I will be missing alot if I get myself into side conversation(s).

    Does it have to do with stimulations? Yes and the question here what do we do about it? I would be more concerned about missing out information when I’m into side conversation. If it’s less than a minute or so, I can handle that. But if it’s more than few minutes, I dont think it’s called side conversation. It’s more like a conversation. If person next to me drop a line or so, I would respond in a sentence or so. If this person want to discuss away , I would redirect us to the speaker and take notes for the “aftermath” discussion.

    Thank you for bringing it up!
    Have a good day!

  • Joey Baer 16 years ago

    Penny – thanks for the “pinch”. Today was unexpectedly busy for me but yes I will respond by tomorrow.

  • Joey Baer 16 years ago

    My video comment are for #2 – Adam and #3 Ramon.

    Since I posted same vlog on deafvideo.tv, I ended up getting involved with discussion there simply because it is in ASL. My apologies but will respond to some commenters above.

    Adam (#2) – I liked how you discuss that the presenter should allow some quick discussion in between to keep ideas and thoughts brewing. A great teaching strategy!

    Ramon (#4) – Out of all commenters, I think I like your description best. The presenter should have an ability to read the audience and involve them by asking what they just said.

    On to other comments…

  • Joey Baer 16 years ago

    My video response to my response on #30:


  • Sarah M 16 years ago

    Wow, if it was me, I am a very assertive person, I would have fought back with the coordinator. I would tell the coordinator why not tell the hearing audience to stop reading or doing other works or whatever? Our side conversations are no different than hearing people doing their own stuff.

    I have seen it happen all the time, whether or not the audience is deaf.

    And the coordinator is not the one who was presenting. Maybe the side conversations did not bother the presenter. The most important thing is that the side conversations did not distract anybody.

    Also side conversations allow for a better understanding among the peers at the workshop, as one of the earlier posters mentioned.

    If the coordinator is adamndant (sp?) about this, I will leave and complain to somebody who is above the coordinator. Nobody mess with the Deaf community, especially me.

  • Joey Baer 16 years ago

    This is to response up to #12.

    Penny – it was not about interpreters and their certificates. Or did I miss what you were trying to say?

    We need to praise those people who engage in discussion rather than scolding them for talking. In our society, we need to be more positive rather than focusing on negativity. (responding to Barb #7).

    Dean (#12) also offered nice suggestions on how to resolve this. Thanks Dean!


  • Joey Baer 16 years ago


  • Valarie 16 years ago

    Hi Joey,

    I have seen it time and again, a presenter, or interpreter, coordinator etc. scold the Deaf for having side conversations, particularly as it relates to the information being discussed. Many times the scolding is in my oppinion degrading. You are right, their needs to be more understanding of how the Deaf vs the Hearing process information and the need for the Deaf to consult their peers or others in side conversation for clarity and a better understanding. And yes, a good speaker will read his/her audience and engage them. I am happy that you are doing this discussion. Thanks

  • Deaf Oregonian 16 years ago

    It is very distracting to the speaker who is trying to do her/his best to give a good presentation, only to see the audience signing. I think it is very rude. It is more courteous and respectful to give your full attention to the presentation. then discuss the points of presentation during lunch or dinner.

  • Adam 16 years ago

    I think a number of people are right. I think it depends on the formality of the workshop. Many presenters now-especially in education encourage small group conversation, but at appropriate times.
    If it is a more formal presentation, 1. it is not the interpreters role to correct the audience and 2. If a big conversation is taking place it will disrupt everyone-including the presenter. A quick little comment I think is OK to say to a neighbor-but a full conversation-speaking or signing is distracting to other people.

  • AZred 16 years ago

    I think respect is a 2-way street. 1- the workshop is being held to present information and stimulate learning and growth. Therefore conversations (that are related to the topic) are a good thing. They however should be brief because to have a prolonged conversation naturally means you are not continuing to watch/isten and take in more info.
    Also, they should be discreet (small and quiet) as well as being brief because I think too many Deaf people take the “right to sign” attitude a little too far. We Deafies must realize how distracting it is to others (hearing AND Deaf) and possibly embarrasing to some as well.

    That said, I DISAGREE that there should be any “scolding.” “Reminders” yes (but then again, subtlety is lost on many deaf people, and there is a need to be blunt….)

    Act like mature respectful adults, chances are you’ll also be respected and not scolded. Act like the world revolves around you and you’ll be treated as someone at that stage of mental development (a child).

    I guess it all depends on whether the workshoppers were being discreet and polite while having their discussion on the stimulating information being presented (should not be scolded) or if they were being a little bit too oblivious to their effects on others around them (maybe should be reminded)

  • CKaniski 16 years ago


    Unbelievable! I was shocked that only Deaf were scolded — the conference was for adults, right? I’ve been at conferences for teachers where the same teacher knits her way through every seminar. Others work on their computers doing who knows what?! AND there is always side conversation in several different languages (I’m HOH). No one is ever scolded.

    So long as the conversation isn’t “loud” (big), who cares what we talk about? My sister and I will sign in a crowded room or across the class at my daughter’s back to school night. Never have we been scolded…thank God!

    Someone needs to educate the presenter on differences in Deaf culture from the hearing culture!

  • Tara 16 years ago

    It happened to me once and I let the interpreter know it is not her place to be doing – scolding. The interpreter role is to interpret not care giver! It is my responsible as adult to recieve the information fully. 🙂

  • Kate 16 years ago

    This is such an interesting discussion! Really it is all about the cultural differences, I guess.

    In hearing culture holding a side conversation during a lecture is BEYOND rude, especially if it is prolonged and there is no effort to include the presenter in a dialouge. If the coordinator was hearing he was probably embarassed to even bring this up because it is just known that you do not do this.

    I didn’t know that in Deaf culture this is accepted and encouraged! Wow! Every day I learn something more abotu Deaf culture.

  • Kara 15 years ago

    I think this is a matter of cultural differences.

    Hearing culture is a “low-context”/individualist culture. The hearing people are processing the information as individuals by taking notes.

    Deaf culture is a “high-context”/social culture. They are processing the information by discussing, relating and sharing their understandings and experiences.

    It might be effectve in the future for the Deaf participants to contextualize the discussion as a cultural difference. It teaches the hearing participants something about Deaf culture, and gives some understanding as to how people learn and process information differently.

  • CynthiaK 15 years ago

    for Adam (#2):

    Adam, I teach Jr Hi. we call the method you describe as “10:2 Chunk and chew” The teacher instructs for about 10 mins then the kids discuss it for two minutes. Sometimes they’re just telling each other what they understand at their own level. sometimes they’re answering something the teacher tells them to discuss. It’s quite effective. I teach Math (among other things).

    Side bar: Does UCSD have a good ASL program? my daughter is considering that school. She’s hearing but wants to work on her ASL in college. If UCSD is able to do that, then that’s another plus for her to go there!

  • CynthiaK 15 years ago


    As i was going through comments here again, I remembered something that happened to me and my daughter a few months ago. We were at church (hearing, I’m HOH) and periodically would sign something to each other during the course of the mass [1 hour]. she also has problems with blood sugar so had to have a snack so she wouldn’t pass out. When we came back from the communion line, there was a note in my purse from the people who sat behind us. (Obviously new to the church because I’d never seen them in the 18 years i’ve been there.) The note berated me and my daughter for talking too much! This couple and their adult daughter were mad at me and my daughter for signing during church?! we were mad! They left after putting the note in my purse. when I told my priest what had happened, he couldn’t believe that! People are always having quiet conversations because there are so many different languages spoken by those at my church.

  • connie bowman 15 years ago

    as a hearing person i agree with u all – if hearing can text, work on laptop, write etc…then side conversations should be permitted – hello – u are all adults right! if the coordinator wants total attention that should be announced at the beginning of the workshop – no side conversations, laptop, text etc….

  • Matt 15 years ago

    hmm… I support the speaker. I have given many presentations over the years and while I appreciate our communinity being excited about my presentation I have always had a hard time staying focused and the side conversations have been incredibly distracting. I would prefer people hold their comments and take notes, or if they are truly stimulated by my presentation they should bring those conversations to the floor and discuss openly with both sides – hearing and deaf. I feel it is not fair for us to have side chats, while we would be offended if the hearing were speaking to one another and we were not included.

  • William 15 years ago

    Now that’s a definitely an issue that hit a little bit too close to home. I’ll outline it in a “SAO” fashion (Situation Action & Outcome)

    Situation: A couple of us (deafies) attended a training seminar by this guy who basically gave a 4 hour lecture on the concept of leadership, with about 30 or 40 hearies in attendance. The seats were arranged in a “U” manner with the lecturer in the open end of that U. During the lecture, he covered plethora of points and kept flicking through the power-point which consisted of 10-15 bulletin points per slide. (Needless to say he sucked at giving presentations and the terps just made things 10x worse). The Terps had zero voicing capabilities whatsoever so it was actually better to keep your mouth shut and not volunteer your opinion and end up sounding like an idiot. (cue Mark Twain’s famous quote here).

    I ended up explaining a few key points to my deaf colleagues, during the lecture, who happened to miss some of the cross-references that were made. One of the people in the workshop stood up and basically glared at me and said “I think you’re being extremely rude by signing in class and taking advantage of your deafness”. Needless to say. . . she crossed the wrong man when she made that remark.

    Action: I calmly said “Excuse me lady, but did it ever occur to you that perhaps we were conferring about the topic, and ensuring that we understood the points being covered, showing respect to the material, as opposed to falling asleep and tuning out in which you probably were since you found our conversation far more fascinating than the professor, to the extent that you had to say something”

    In other words, it was a beautiful back-handed slap that would’ve done one of those “Yo Mamma” Episodes proud.

    Outcome: I ended up feeling really pissed throughout the lecture (inside, of course, I couldn’t show that she had any effect on me, externally, whatsoever). The sad thing was . . . the other 3 deafies I was with totally shut-up after that and didn’t really bother to discuss the topic, which just even further infuriated me for they gave this woman the power to control their feelings/thoughts and willingness to participate.

    I think they were all in a shell-shock because 3 days later, it all finally sunk in and registered to them, and they ended up thanking me for standing up for them.

    Go figure. . . It’s a dirty job, but someone gotta do it.

  • Heary McTalks 15 years ago

    This is very fascinating to read all this. You’ll are very good writers for the most part.
    I prefer the term ‘Talker’ to hearing or “heariers.” We don’t really listen anyway. That the ironic Greek tragedy of the whole thing. Do deaf people actually listen to what others have to say?
    Thank you to all who transcripted their posts. Whatever to the rest of the comments, I’ve been choking on Kush and ya’ll sounded retarded. I’m sorry i don’t speak sign language. I think i might learn though. Is there much of a market for interpretors?
    The Hearies

  • John 15 years ago

    What I do before every workshop is to go to the workshop coordinator and explain that there will be Deaf attendees of workshop and educate the coordinator that it is “Deaf culture,” and work out some compromise. I would suggest to coordinator to explain to the presenter the logistics of things.

    In order for me to do this though, I have to get there earlier and catch the workshop coordinator and have my five minutes of time hatching out an understanding.

  • Dean Overstreet 15 years ago

    That is great that the interpreter can stimulate well to them and they can feel connected to that interpreter. Yes, it doesn’t happen often. I would very thrilled and would be watching the entire workshop….

    However, unfortunately , in the workshop, either informal or formal, they should be watching and be quiet in the entire time. You can bring their own notepad and write down what you would like to discuss with your peers about new ideas. And they can discuss after the workshop. Workshop often give educational and essential information that you wouldn’t want to miss. That would be more appropriate if you don’t do side conversations. Give some respect to the presenter and the audience.

    In my personal opinion, that does distract me if someone try to talk side conversation with their peers right in front of me. How can I ignore this distraction if I can see them in signing that obvious while I am trying to concentrate to the interpreter/presenter? It happens to me a few times.

    If you don’t understand anything or at least some of things what the presenter says, you could raise your hands and ask for clarifications on parts you don’t understand if the presenter has some time. Or you can come to the presenter and discuss with her or him after the workshop.

    I hope that helps.

  • Betty Colonomos 15 years ago

    I find it ironic that people are upset by this. When I interpret for a large group and see the Deaf audience discussing the subject, I am thrilled because this is the best way to know that I am doing a good job. That’s the best feedback ever! I am assuming that the “conversation” was not with voice and was the way Deaf people sign to people close to them. If half the audience is Deaf that’s even MORE reason to follow and respect the rules of BOTH cultures. The person who set up this event is responsible for letting the speaker know that this behavior is a very good indication that the Deaf audience is involved in the speaker’s presentation.

    As a coda myself, I am disturbed that some people from Deaf families have issues with controlling or bossing Deaf people around. This is a serious sign of Audism and unhealthy ideas about who they are and who Deaf people are. Frankly, these interpreters who behave this way need to work on their anger issues. I understand that this may have been how they grew up; however, they are interpreting for Deaf people who are NOT THEIR PARENTS!

    By the way, other minorities also have these kind of norms about the audience making comments to show the speaker support ad encouragement. Just check out what happens in a church with a preacher and congregation that are mostly African American.

    The interpreter is there for communication not telling Deaf or hearing people what to do. In some situations, the interpreter may provide the consumers (Deaf and hearing) with cultural information so that they have enough information to figure out the message correctly.

    Thank you for bringing this up. We need more dialogue like this and interpreter’s need to have the Deaf cultural viewpoint.

    Betty Colonomos

  • Carole 14 years ago

    To me this is a clear cultural misunderstanding. In hearing culture, one must stay silent–staying silent and taking notes shows respect to the lecturer. This is not true in Deaf culture–making comments and asking questions during the lecture (as long as it’s about the subject) is showing respect because it shows that you are interested in the subject. Also, as you mentioned, Deaf people can’t take notes and watch, and also ask for clarification from each other. I think either a savvy Deaf person or the interpreter should have explained this cultural difference.

  • Caroline 14 years ago

    I think you should tell them that, for Deaf people, having a side conversation is the same as hearing people taking notes. Therefore, the side conversations help you process the information and save it for later — it means that you are paying attention and that you are interested!

    Here is the comparison:

    Hearing people: When hearing people take notes, we can listen at the same time. Plus, whatever we write down is in the same language (English) that the speaker is using. This way, it is easy to engage with the speaker by listening and writing.
    Side conversations are different. Hearing people cannot listen to the speaker and have a conversation at the same time. If we start talking to somebody else, it means that we are ignoring the speaker. If we have a question or a comment, we should write it down in our notes and discuss it later.

    Deaf people: Taking notes can be very distracting. Looking away from the speaker means that you stop listening. Also, you have to translate everything into English to write it down, and then “listen” in ASL when you look up. (I have problems listening in ASL and then writing in English and I’m hearing!!)
    Side conversations are better. Even though you can’t listen and have a side conversation at the same time, either, at least you are using the same language for both. This way, it is easier to stay engaged in the presentation if you can ask each other questions and make comments during the presentation, instead of writing them down.

    It might be very distracting for the presenter to see Deaf people signing, when she doesn’t understand why you’re talking to each other. In hearing culture, it is *very* rude for people to have conversations during a presentation (even though hearing people do it sometimes). Therefore, it is important to explain to the speaker that Deaf culture is different: side conversations are just like taking notes, and they serve an important function in helping you process and engage with the material.

    At least, that is what I think. But I am hearing, so I can’t understand 100%. What do the rest of you think?

  • NANCY RARUS 14 years ago

    JOEY, stewpid me…new to mac dunno how to vp back my comments, at any rate there are a few avenues. 1. have a meeting with the terps and those who frequent workshops.
    2. that terp who got into the act should have called all to network during a break or lunch.
    3.im tryijg to think of a third avenue and right now i can’t 🙂

  • Emily Crisco 14 years ago

    It’s unfortunate the the deaf participants were scolded for having related side conversations.

    As a hearing person, I agree with Caroline a lot. The speaker, who was hearing, probably thought your signing was very distracting. And, not knowing what you were signing about, could have taken it as you not paying attention.
    The hearing participants may not have been paying attention but their actions, like reading, would not have been as distracting for the speaker.

  • Jess 13 years ago

    In my opinion, during any kind of presentation I always notice the Deaf clients (I am an interpreter) having side conversations. I think this really fits with Deaf being a collectivist group. Making sure everyone understands clearly, discussing individual thoughts, and sharing experiences related to a topic. I wish the Hearing community was more engaged and social in those types of situations.

  • Ken Arcia 13 years ago

    Good discussion and topic Joey. Thanks for bringing this up. Speaking from personal experience, I learned ASL at later age so sometimes during presentation, I need to really focus on the presenter (either ASL user or the interpreter…whichever is signing). If others nearby are also signing, its distracting for me. I understand they may need to discuss or clarify issues and that is fine..but need to find balance and not just have a full “visit”. This could be distracting to others and right..could be viewed as rude to presenter. But usually is ok if just short discussion or clarifications. I like Adam’s idea of short breaks for conversation, but also enjoy Sheri’s comments about asking questions of hte presenter or the presenter asking the deaf group “did you have a question or need clarification on something?”. Thanks!


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