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(Almost) Wordless Wednesday May 4, 2022

Posted by Jill (@bonnjill) in Random musings.
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Sign language interpreters and Gov. Mike DeWine April 30, 2020

Posted by Jill (@bonnjill) in Fun stuff, Random musings.

My state’s governor, Mike DeWine, has been doing a stellar job governing Ohio during the COVID-19 pandemic. I didn’t vote for him. His politics are not my politics. But I and many others are very impressed with the work he is doing and how decisive he has been. He relies on his Director of Health for the Ohio Department of Health, Dr. Amy Acton, when making his decisions. It’s so nice to have science-based decisions being made. Their daily afternoon briefings have become must-see television with many Ohioans (creating “Wine with DeWine” at 2 p.m.). One of my friend’s brothers has made a cartoon about “DeWine and Amy” that has gone viral and is a total hoot to watch.

Governor DeWine was one of the first governors to issue strict stay at home/shelter in place orders and quickly shut down all non-essential businesses. When criticized by his fellow Republicans he has continued to stay the course. As a result, Ohio has had a much flatter curve, with 17,000 confirmed cases and almost 1,000 deaths. He has allowed restaurants to operate with take-out services and then–just as I was missing having a drink with dinner–he announced restaurants could sell cocktails in to go containers. The peak appears to have been on April 27th, and the infection rate has been declining. A tentative reopening date has been set for tomorrow, although masks are a must and we are being urged to stay home if we can.

He surrounds himself with good, qualified people. He has a great team of sign language interpreters during his briefings, and he has a history of relying on trained interpreters. One interpreter, Marla Berkowitz, is the the only certified deaf interpreter in Ohio and has had a location front and center during the briefings. She has even stood out enough to have articles written about her. I assume she does some lip reading, but there is also someone signing to her, which she interprets and relays back in a very easy to understand and logical ASL and emotive facial expressions.

Happy 50th birthday to me! August 29, 2019

Posted by Jill (@bonnjill) in Random musings.

Happy 4th of July or… July 4, 2019

Posted by Jill (@bonnjill) in Random musings.
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A little holiday spirit December 16, 2018

Posted by Jill (@bonnjill) in Random musings.
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I just had to share this little story with you all. One of my best friends from high school is in Thailand to teach English at an orphanage for a month. She bought a large suitcase and organized a toy drive among her friends on Facebook. Lots of stuffed animals and games, and someone even bought the parachute game we used to play in grade school. She is on her way there today and had this status update this morning:

To paraphrase a common quote in English, “Be the good you want to see in the world!” Have a good week.

Contingency planning for translators interview January 23, 2018

Posted by Jill (@bonnjill) in Business practices, Random musings, Tech tips.
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Tess Whitty, Swedish translator and marketing guru, interviewed me recently for her Marketing Tips for Translators podcast. I demonstrate why I am not an interpreter at around minute 17 when I completely blank on the word for accordion. I hope you enjoy it.

As Tess explains on her website:

Many clients depend upon us freelance translators, and it is important to have a plan for worst case scenarios. This year has also been a year of many natural disasters and unfortunately colleagues passing away too soon. I was very happy to see that today’s guest held a presentation on contingency and crisis planning during the last ATA conference. In this episode she is sharing all her best tips.

Important things covered in this episode:

  • What contingency planning and crisis management is

  • Questions to ask ourselves to plan for unforeseen events

  • Things to have in place if we would get sick or pass away

  • How to deal with a crisis

  • How to protect our business

What to do when a translator disappears September 19, 2017

Posted by Jill (@bonnjill) in Business practices, Random musings.

I’ve been sitting on this post for about three and a half years. I initially was going to write it when one of my colleagues disappeared while working on a portion of a project I was working on. One of the documents was too technical, so I had asked my client to send that file to her. I delivered my files on time. My client and I then went 24 hours waiting for her to respond somehow. She did not respond to e-mails or phone calls. In the end she finally delivered, but really, really late. I have never heard from my client again. This colleague is no longer translating full-time and is in a position that hopefully makes her much happier.

However, this happened again with another colleague today. I woke up this morning to an email from one of my clients begging to me to step up to the plate and deliver the remaining 10 pages of a 27 page PDF of a quote on construction parts. I had initially turned it down two weeks ago because it is not my field at all, and gave her the name of a colleague who works in that field. So this colleague not only had had a fairly long lead time to do the translation, she also then renegotiated the Friday deadline to Monday morning and sent 15 of the 27 pages on Monday afternoon. That helps no one. She was not also responding to the client at all.

So my client ended up contacting me in a panic to see if I could help her deliver the rest asap. I wasn’t happy, but I accepted the rest of the job to placate my client. I worked on it for about an hour and a half and was then told my colleague had finally delivered the translation. I was also told to bill for my work and then told to increase my word rate and the rush rate once she received my invoice. At least this time my client is happy with me and will hopefully keep working with me, so that’s a plus.

That said, I will never be recommending this colleague again. This is the second time she flaked out on one of my clients when I recommended her. There will not be a third time. I kept an open mind after the first time, because she had a pretty good excuse of a death in the family. This time it was supposedly a medical issue. I felt badly for her; however, in light of the other factors I don’t accept the excuse. Each time she had what could be considered a credible excuse, but that is the thing – if there is a pattern you will never be trusted again by the people you burn. At what point do you just admit you screwed up? If she had said last week that she was having trouble making the deadline my client could have found someone else to do it instead of making excuses to her end client.

I know agencies unfortunately deal with this kind of behavior all the time, because it will sometimes come up in casual conversation. I simply don’t understand how anyone who calls themselves a professional translator can work like that. When I had an attack of appendicitis a few years ago I let my clients know to reallocate the translation from my Emergency Room bed. I would never dream of simply dropping out of contact for a day or two. If I ever do, you can be sure that I am unconscious or dead. Those are the only two acceptable excuses.

I would really love to start a dialog here in the comments. Whether you are a project manager or a freelancer, have you ever been bit by a flaky translator? How did you handle it? Have you worked with them again? How did you end up placating the end client? No names or identifying information please. I look forward to hearing what you have to say.

Giving Tuesday November 28, 2016

Posted by Jill (@bonnjill) in Random musings.
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Since its inception in 2012, Giving Tuesday has been celebrated across the globe as a day to give back: whether it be through donations, fundraising, volunteering your time and expertise, or simply by calling others to support a particular cause or initiative. This year ProZ has partnered with charity:water for Giving Tuesday. All donations will be matched by ProZ, so if you donate $10, charity:water will get $20. Water is life! For more information: click here.

(Almost) Wordless Wednesday mea culpa November 4, 2016

Posted by Jill (@bonnjill) in Random musings.

Next time someone please tell me when the queue stops posting! Not one of you said anything. LOL. I can’t believe I went almost a month without noticing. I thought for sure I had scheduled out past the conference. I’m blaming preconference and real life stress. New posts now scheduled. Sorry!

There is no universal sign language February 11, 2016

Posted by Jill (@bonnjill) in Random musings.

Note: I find this fascinating. Sign language is as much a language as anything we speak.


Gallaudette professor Carolyn McCaskill demonstrates differences in sign language between black and white users. Pictured left, McCaskill signs “stuck,” while Jason Begue signs “pregnant” (Bill O’Leary/Washington Post)

There Is No Universal Sign Language

(By Frances Stead Sellers)

Carolyn McCaskill remembers exactly when she discovered that she couldn’t understand white people. It was 1968, she was 15 years old, and she and nine other deaf black students had just enrolled in an integrated school for the deaf in Talledega, Ala.

When the teacher got up to address the class, McCaskill was lost.

“I was dumbfounded,” McCaskill recalls through an interpreter. “I was like, ‘What in the world is going on?’ ”

The teacher’s quicksilver hand movements looked little like the sign language McCaskill had grown up using at home with her two deaf siblings and had practiced at the Alabama School for the Negro Deaf and Blind, just a few miles away. It wasn’t a simple matter of people at the new school using unfamiliar vocabularly; they made hand movements for everyday words that looked foreign to McCaskill and her fellow black students.

So, McCaskill says, “I put my signs aside.” She learned entirely new signs for such common nouns as “shoe” and “school.” She began to communicate words such as “why” and “don’t know” with one hand instead of two as she and her black friends had always done. She copied the white students who lowered their hands to make the signs for “what for” and “know” closer to their chins than to their foreheads. And she imitated the way white students mouthed words at the same time as they made manual signs for them.

Whenever she went home, McCaskill carefully switched back to her old way of communicating.

What intrigues McCaskill and other experts in deaf culture today is the degree to which distinct signing systems — one for whites and another for blacks — evolved and continue to coexist, even at Gallaudet University, where black and white students study and socialize together and where McCaskill is now a professor of deaf studies.

Several years ago, with grants from the National Science Foundation and the Spencer Foundation, McCaskill and three fellow researchers began to investigate the distinctive structure and grammar of Black American Sign Language, or Black ASL, in much the way that linguists have studied spoken African American English (known by linguists as AAE or, more popularly, as Ebonics). Their study, which assembled and analyzed data from filmed conversations and interviews with 96 subjects in six states, is the first formal attempt to describe Black ASL and resulted in the publication last year of “The Hidden Treasure of Black ASL.” What the researchers have found is a rich signing system that reflects both a history of segregation and the ongoing influence of spoken black English.

The book and its accompanying DVD emphasize that Black ASL is not just a slang form of signing. Instead, think of the two signing systems as comparable to American and British English: similar but with differences that follow regular patterns and a lot of variation in individual usage. In fact, says Ceil Lucas, one of McCaskill’s co-authors and a professor of linguistics at Gallaudet, Black ASL could be considered the purer of the two forms, closer in some ways to the system that Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet promulgated when he founded the first U.S. school for the deaf — known at the time as the American Asylum for Deaf Mutes — in Hartford, Conn., in 1817.

Mercedes Hunter, a hearing African American student in the department of interpretation at Gallaudet, describes the signing she and her fellow students use as a form of self-expression. “We include our culture in our signing,” says Hunter, who was a reseach assistant for the project, “our own unique flavor.”

“We make our signs bigger, with more body language” she adds, alluding to what the researchers refer to as Black ASL’s larger “signing space.”

When she tries to explain how Black ASL fits into the world of deaf communication, Lucas sets out by dispelling a common misconception about signing.

Many people think sign language is a single, universal language, which would mean that deaf people anywhere in the world could communicate freely with one another.

Another widely held but erroneous belief is that sign languages are direct visual translations of spoken languages, which would mean that American signers could communicate fairly freely with British or Australian ones but would have a hard time understanding an Argentinian or Armenian’s signs.

Neither is true, explains J. Archer Miller, a Baltimore-based lawyer who specializes in disability rights and has many deaf clients. There are numerous signing systems, and American Sign Language is based on the French system that Gallaudet and his teacher, Laurent Clerc, imported to America in the early 19th century.

“I find it easier to understand a French signer” than a British or Australian one, Miller says, “because of the shared history of the American and French systems.”

In fact, experts say, ASL is about 60 percent the same as French, and unintelligible to users of British sign language.

Within signing systems, just as within spoken languages, there are cultural and regional variants, and Miller explains that he can sometimes be stumped by a user’s idiosyncracies. He remembers in Philadelphia coming across an unfamiliar sign for “hospital” (usually depicted by making a cross on the shoulder, but in this case with a sign in front of the signer’s forehead).

What’s more, Miller says, signing changes over time: The sign for “telephone,” for example, is commonly made by spreading your thumb and pinkie and holding them up to your ear and mouth. An older sign was to put one fist to your ear and the other in front of your mouth to look like an old-fashioned candlestick phone.

So it’s hardly surprising, Miller says, that Americans’ segregated pasts led to the development of different signing traditions — and that contemporary cultural differences continue to influence the signing that black and white Americans use.

(read the full Washington Post article »here)