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November 23, 2009

Raise:Raze or Tomato:Tomahto

The last post mentioned accents--the only thing worse are those crazy sound alike words known as homonyms. Awhile back I was attending a meeting and watching the interpreter (like we all do--admit it!) While she was working, I realized how much interpreters use our own experiential knowledge to make sense of what's being said. The speaker was talking about a building on campus that had recently been razed. What was fascinating watch was how the interpreter: 1. registered the homonym, 2. tried to get her team to give her a clue as to which word--raise or raze--was meant (the co-interpreter also had no idea,) 3. make a judgement--okay, we going with raise!, 4. sign it and check in with the Deaf person (who looked quizzical for a moment then realized what was happening and told the interpreter what she meant.) All of that occurred in about 5 seconds.

Now how experiential knowledge factors in here is that the interpreters working this meeting were both from outside the U. All of us here at the U are completely aware of the status of the building because if you have to walk to the west bank, you have to know you can no longer get to the bridge from the science classroom building as it's been razed!