A former co-worker asked me to translate songs for the Deaf into American Sign Language, my native language, for the Gay & Lesbian Pride Rally on Father’s Day, June 21st. I said, “Sure, give me a call.”
When the call actually came, I had no idea I’d have the grandest opportunity to “sing” with Cyndi Girls Just Wanna Have Fun and True Colors Lauper! While I’m neither Gay nor Lesbian nor Transgender, I still felt I could play a support role in contributing to the event by providing a Deaf interpretation of Cyndi’s songs for the Deaf.
The coordinator for the sign language interpreters assigned all three of Cyndi’s songs to me! I was thrilled. I am Deaf and I depend upon vibrations and some hearing in order to perform these artistic interpretations so I really had to practice and I only had one week! I was given an audio cassette of Cyndi’s songs along with a lyric sheet for each song. Using both the tape and the words, I was able to de-construct the song down to its ASL core.
(NOTE: I also interpreted a song from the hit Broadway musical, Rent, but this article will deal only with Cyndi.)
The Interpreting Trick
When people see other people use sign language, it is generally assumed by those not in the know that they are really watching ASL (American Sign Language) when they are actually seeing PSE (Pidgin Signed English). At the rally ASL was used. ASL is a language that has its roots in French with its own unique syntax and rules that are not English.
ASL is a visual language where facial expression and body movements are as important as nouns and verbs in identifying people, place and time. If you happen to see someone signing without very obvious facial expressions, you are not seeing ASL. You are seeing PSE and that isn’t the same as pure ASL.
Continue reading → Interpreting for Cyndi Lauper