English, Please

“English at this table, please,” was a comment that I recalled while attending this early morning meeting consisting of executives and major stockholders.

During this meeting, I had an American Sign Language (ASL) interpreter sitting, facing directly me on the other side of the center of the conference table. Before the meeting started, I was having a brief conversation with the ASL interpreter using ASL, with no voice.

With both my hearing aid and cochlear implant turned on, I could sense that overlapping verbal conversations around the table had quickly ceased, while my peripheral vision inputs suggested some of the heads have turned to watch me.

Quickly scanning the table to my right and left confirmed that all eyes were on me. I knew instantly that everyone was starting to use their imagination in figuring out what was conveyed between the interpreter and me.

For example, the guy sitting across me, on the right, averted his eyes away while quickly attempting to fix the stubborn strands of hair standing up on his crown. Apparently he must have thought that both the interpreter and I were discussing this, thus attempting to correct this.

Simultaneously, the woman sitting next to me, slightly averted eyes in a different direction while making feeble attempts to cover the roots of her mane with her slender fingers as an attempt to conceal the discoloration, which indicated a poor dye job.

On one side of my peripheral vision, another guy sitting across from me to the left, quickly readjusted his jacket, which appeared to be small for his body frame.

Subtle behaviors around the table quickly became apparent that everyone was starting to use their imagination and feel conscious that I may be discussing their faults with the interpreter, and were starting to appear annoyed.

Upon quick assessment, an immediate rescue was necessary. That was when I started to use my voice and explained what I was discussing with the interpreter, which was my background.

Even my ASL has its own unique accent since “Olde ASL” was my first language at 6-months old, taught by my CODA (Children of Deaf Adult) mother with deaf parents, both whom attended the deaf school in another state around the beginning of 1900. Also, my sign language included some SEE (Signing Exact English), followed by modern ASL.

Oh. Everyone settled and returned to their normal selves around the table…

Everyone became assured that the conversation between me and the interpreter did not include their individual characteristics. Of course, had we done so, that would be unprofessional of both the interpreter and I, and this would go against the interpreter’s code of ethics. Also, this would go against my stellar reputation.

I noticed that everyone has relaxed, and shifted their thoughts to other things. Since then, I noticed that everyone had opened up to me, become warm towards me and began to trust me.

During another meeting a short while back, the official of that meeting verbally stated, while clearly enunciating the words “English at my table, please.” Everyone laughed when I found myself and the interpreter were the last ones conversing around the table and everyone was watching us. At first, I didn’t think this applied to me since my mode of communication was sign language. Quickly, I was astounded with this high-ranking official, and others around me respected ASL as established lexicon. It seemed like yesterday when ASL was yet acknowledged as a foreign language.

Upon adjournment of that meeting, during our hallway discussions, other professionals brought up a point, that everyone has imaginations which will be used to a certain length, in order to fill in the gaps and satisfy the unknown. Also since then, I’ve learned that I needed to include others within my conversations and allow them the opportunity to participate.

As mentioned within Col. Garrick Mallery’s address in 1881, as published in Science magazine, the richness of the information conveyed, through spoken word, or gestured via sign language has significant value between the conveyer and recipient. This referenced to the sign language among the American Indians.

This address was published within Science magazine in 1881 by Col. Garrick Mallery, who was Chairman of the Anthropology subsection of the A. A. A. S, during the Opening of the Anthropology Subsection within that year.

In summary, in order to have my input highly regarded among professional peers within professional organizations at this date, spoken English has been the most successful language for me to communicate with. Of course, any other language is excellent for establishing specific bonds within individual level while networking.

References:
ADDRESS OF COL. GARRICK MALLERY, U. S. ARMY, Science. 1 October 1881: 470-471. Accessed December 20, 2012 from http://www.sciencemag.org/content/os-2/67/470.full.pdf?sid=71e45a06-6c3e-4ca8-993d-fcf14cf317d4