“B” is for Bi-Bi – A review of the ASL Manual Alphabet

B is for Bilingual-Bicultural. This is a model of interpreting (and thinking), where the interpreter not only functions as a bilingual conveyor of information (traditional interpreter), but also makes cultural adjustments between cultures in that interpretation. The overall goal in this model is equivalaence in the message from source to target language.

The Bi-Bi approach is also used as a model in deaf education, where exposure to educators utlilizing their native ASL and incorporating the culture of the majority culture with that of the minority culture (here, Deaf Culture). This educational approach has it supporters and detractors, and is a highly charged issue in deaf education today.

Back to interpreting. In the Bi-Bi model, expansion of concepts is often used to create equivalence between languages. Consider how many things in hearing culture and experiences differ from Deaf Culture and what their participants experience. Auditory cues, background noise, idioms, and many other factors affect language and, when not considered in the equation, create disparity in interpretation from source to target.

In Deaf Culture it is considered quite polite to be blunt in addressing a point, and not meandering from starting point to the actual goal of the conversation. In the minds of many deaf people, hearing people waste so much time when they fail to come directly to the point. However, in hearing culture/norms, it is considered polite and practical to take one’s time before coming to the point, or ”lowering the boom” in the conversation. The interpreter in such situations must take into consideration these differences, and accommodate for all of them. But woe to the interpreter who softens the words of a deaf person who intentionally wants their blunt point made with NO cultural adjustment. It is truly a sticky wicket that interpreters wield.

Another very important consideration is prosidy when delivering the message. Prosidy concerns the rhythm, tone, intensity/stress of speech patterns. This paralinguistic features is a tremendous influence on the message’s meaning, and something that sign language interpreters must weigh heavy when rendering an equivalent, bi-bi interpretation.

Did you know that sign language interpreters must maintain their certification via continuing education. The national certifying body requires all interpreters to earn 80 hours of continuing education in repeating 4-year cycles. This allows interpreters to remain current on interpreting developments and skill enhancement.

Translate »