When you interpret a musical drama or a live stage event for the Deaf, you have a tremendous responsibility to be clear and precise while honoring the originating spirit of the base text.

Too often on the live stage, you will see interpreters who are ill-prepared for even a rehearsed performance.

Instead of interpreting the meaning — by taking the original English and then translating it to American Sign Language — most interpreters just do a Pidgin Signed English translation and that satisfies nobody because it is not English and it is not ASL.  PSE is merely a meme to an anxious end.

The challenge every interpreter must take on when agreeing to interpret the live performance of a script is to re-imagine the writing in the context of the Deaf Community and then to re-birth that original intention into ASL. 

That is not an easy task.  If a song lyric rhymes in English, an ASL equivalent must be found — or the interpreter is not doing a proper job. 

It is never good enough or barely acceptable enough to do a straight PSE
translation of any text in performance for a Deaf audience but, unfortunately today, the first withering in a stressed and compressing world is doing things the right way as the easier route takes precedence — even at the expense of true meaning and a wholesome and fulfilling understanding of the performance in context.


  1. It’s really sad when language is butchered in any way and cheapened to make it easier for the conveyor of the language. It would be like using Google Translate to translate a Russian romance novel.

  2. Love this article, David. Who would think such things happen? You would think the interpreters would be doing right from scratch. Good warning to know

  3. Yes, one would think a great amount of effort would go into making the interpretation match the performance, Anne, but that rarely happens because it takes tons of time, effort, individual practice and group rehearsal.

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