Why Do Sign Language Interpreters Make Faces?

Why Do Sign Language Interpreters Make Faces

Written by Bernadine Racoma

January 19, 2021

Sign language interpreters are often hired when there are national emergencies and all people must be informed on the latest update regarding the disaster, what they should do, and where they should go. With the COVID-19 pandemic, you see sign language interpreters on almost all programs on TV.

American Sign Language (ASL) is like any other spoken language and the primary language for people who have hearing difficulties. It has the same linguistic properties, but with a different grammar, expressed through hands and face movements.

Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990

Sign language interpreting is often required legally in the United States because it helps hearing-impaired people communicate. The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) instituted several measures to prevent discriminative acts due to one’s disability. The ADA mandates that the communication needs of hearing-impaired and deaf persons are met, which requires the use of an ASL interpreter among others.

ADA specifically states that there should not be any discrimination based on disability in the equal and full enjoyment of privileges, facilities, services, goods, accommodations, or advantages of any public place by the owner or the operator of said public accommodation.

Moreover, the ADA considers the inability to deny services, segregate, or treat persons with disabilities because of the absence of services and auxiliary aids as discrimination, which is punishable by law.

Why do ASL interpreters move their mouths?

You may often see ASL interpreters on TV moving their mouths as they sign. Mouthing produces visual syllables. It is not present in all signers and all sign languages. It could be a vital part of the sign in order to present or emphasize a distinct word to prevent misunderstanding (such as in words with multiple meanings). At other times, moving their mouth helps make the signing more dynamic and complete. Mouth movements are also used in combination with hand movements to designate the sound. An example is the ASL sign for the phrase, ”not yet,” which includes a mouth gesture with a slightly open mouth with the tip of the tongue over the lower teeth. In many cases, the mouth movements do not correspond to spoken words.

Mouthing is likewise used to show an analogy. Further, mouthing is essential in cued speech, which is a visual system used by the hearing-impaired so that they can access traditionally spoken languages. Cued speech uses a few handshapes or cues representing consonants, in different areas near the mouth, which represent the vowels. The system helps convey the spoken language visually.

On the practical side, mouthing is a preference of many ASL interpreters because they think it adds more meaning to what they sign, helping viewers understand the information they are conveying better.

However, signers do not mouth the exact English word. They may be using reduced English mouthing, where they use a reduced version of a word. Deaf people who lipread only see the words shown on the external part of the mouth. For example, in the word, ”finish,” the lip reader can only see a word resembling ”fish.”

The signer may also use ASL mouthing where they produce mouth movements and shapes to indicate adverbial or adjectival words.

Why do sign interpreters wear black?

You might also be one of the many people who are curious as to why many sign interpreters wear black. ASL interpreters explained that their manner of dressing makes an impact on how viewers perceive them. Their presence can be distracting and draw viewers’ attention from the interpretation process, preventing the smooth flow of communication.

Sign language interpreters have to follow specific guidelines of behavior and appearance. Their attire should be unobtrusive, and they were taught during their training to wear black or clothing made from dark-colored fabric. Moreover, clothing with dark colors helps people with low vision to see them better.

They are required to wear clothes with a solid color to focus the viewers’ attention on their face and chest areas. They should likewise keep their hair tidy and away from their face. Keeping a neat appearance makes it easier and clearer to read their facial expressions.

Sign language interpreters’ role in TV shows

Almost all live TV programs now have an ASL interpreter. It is understandable because people are eager to get the latest information since the COVID-19 pandemic is still raging. Broadcast stations report breaking news and the latest updates on what’s happening outside, since almost all people are confined to their homes, with only radio and television as their primary sources of information.

ASL interpreters on TV allow the deaf and people who are hearing-impaired to access news and other programs. In the United States, broadcast stations are required to provide sign language interpreters to allow all people, even those with disabilities, to have equal access to available content on TV. Some shows provide captions, but people who are hearing-impaired may not be comfortable with the written words, preferring to receive information visually. On the other hand, several broadcast stations provide captions or subtitles as well as sign language interpreting.

Why do sign language interpreters make faces?

Facial expressions are an essential part of ASL communication. These facial expressions enhance the meaning of specific signs, increasing the emotion expressed. They are part of the non-manual markers that influence the signs’ meaning. It can turn the word ”happy” to ”very happy,” for example. Facial expressions are part of the grammar of sign language, working in consonance with mouthing to create effective communication.

Give us a call for your sign language interpreting requirements

With the mandate to provide equal access to information and prevent discrimination, you might need the services of sign language interpreters. eTranslation Services provides experienced sign language interpreters who are trained and experienced to sign for different industry sectors. Let us discuss your needs. Please send us an email at [email protected] or call us at (800) 882-6058.

 

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