THE EDITOR: Last week the deaf and hard of hearing community celebrated International Week of the Deaf. Awesome time to celebrate our culture and life experiences, right? But our week has been made even more enlightening because of one interpreter.
Many people were not comfortable with the interpreter’s signing of Bubbles’ song on the TV6 News, which she had performed at a school. Some people think it was rude and vulgar. But is it the sign or song that’s the problem?
I have been profoundly deaf for over 20 years, which is two-thirds of my life. I normally don’t worry about the lyrics of music because I can’t hear them. But thanks to the interpreter’s signing, the members of the deaf and hard of hearing community, who rely on sign language, totally understood what this song was about.
Sign language is a visual language. The sign codes reflect the information we don’t hear. Many deaf would not understand double meanings in songs, so interpreters have the job of giving us the real meaning of the song in real time. That is not easy to do, especially if they don’t know the song. If the lyrics of the Bubbles song talks about burning private parts, why shouldn’t the interpreter sign that? What was the “it” that the song refers to?
Why are we uncomfortable with the sign language and not the song on radio? Our children are hearing and singing the song but the interpreter is too rude? Why? Because our children now see what is really burning? In the video children were singing along. Who taught them? The interpreter?
To the people who think the interpreter was too rude, if this kind of music is what the hearing public enjoys, be prepared to see how it looks in sign language because we deserve to know what is happening around us. Having full involvement in public life is one of the articles of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
From this experience, I am proud to be deaf. Some of our music is not worth hearing. As a member of the deaf and hard of hearing community, I thank the interpreter, Kayleen Bangura, for involving us fully, to the best of her ability. Continue signing it real, Kayleen, we fully appreciate it.
JAMAL LEGEN, president of Voice of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing of T&T