Friday, May 05, 2006

CFI/CWA: The Word 'Professional' Has Many Meanings

EEOC: California Court Certified Interpreters Are Professionals

Indigenous people's rights denied in courts: ALS

The are claims Indigenous people in Western Australia facing the criminal court system are being denied natural justice because of a lack of interpreter services.

The Aboriginal Legal Service (ALS) has called on both the state and Commonwealth to fund an appropriate interpreter service for Western Australia.

The ALS says the State Government provides such services for other cultural groups but not for Indigenous people, even though they make up 40 per cent of the state's prison population.

ALS chief executive Dennis Eggington says Indigenous people are being denied rights simply because many of them do not speak English as a first language.

"It's happened here in WA where people have been remanded in custody because the court haven't got a speaker of that language to be able to carry on that court case," Mr Eggington said.

"That coupled with the fact that the majority of Aboriginal people do not speak standard English and in fact a large percentage of those people speak English as a second or third language and [that] presents a real problem."

The Attorney-General, Jim McGinty, has been contacted for comment.

Accused ‘influenced to point out scene’

By Piet Van Niekerk

ONE of the suspects in a High Court murder trial accused the police of not allowing him a lawyer before he was taken, allegedly against his will, to point out a murder scene in Sydenham, Port Elizabeth.

Mzololo Ntlabathi, 27, of Masangwana Street in New Brighton made the accusations in a trial within a trial to verify the validity of the pointing out after the murder of Casparus Johannes Daniel Matthee, 32, of Sydenham.

Matthee suffered severe head injuries after a break-in at the Suds industrial laundry during the evening of December 26, 2004. He died in hospital on January 13 last year.

Advocate Elsabet Theron, for Ntlabathi, objected to the pointing out conducted by Captain Gert Schoeman of the New Brighton detective branch being handed in as evidence. She said her client was denied his constitutional right to a lawyer and was influenced to point out certain scenes linked to the murder.

Judge Chris Jansen called a trial within a trial to allow the State to prove why the evidence should be allowed.

State advocate Jason Thysse called Schoeman to testify how the accused was advised of his rights and told that he could ask for an attorney and that any pointing out could be used in court against him. Schoeman said the accused indicated that he understood his rights.

Theron accused the police interpreter who accompanied Schoeman, Inspector Mfisi Dokwana, of threatening Ntlabathi that he would not get bail if he refused to point out the scene.

Dokwana denied this.

The case continues

Cinco de Mayo events set

Restaurants, patrons enjoy parties during busiest day of year
Herald Staff Writer
MANATEE - Tongues will tingle from the spicy salsa, mariachi music will blare and margaritas will be mixed throughout the area as "Cinco de Mayo"- Fifth of May - is celebrated today.

Often mistaken as Mexican Independence Day, which is Sept. 15, Cinco de Mayo celebrates the Mexican army's defeat of an invading French army in the 1862 Battle of Puebla. It has long been celebrated in the United States as a day of revelry.

Even those not daring enough to participate in Alvarez Mexican Restaurant's jalapeno eating contest can still enjoy the festivities the Palmetto restaurant has planned.

It will shut down at 2 p.m. to prepare for a block party held outside the store starting at 4 p.m. The party will feature contests, live music, and plenty of authentic Mexican food, said owner Ana Alvarez-Sarmiento.

"We use Cinco de Mayo as a way of thanking the community for patronizing us all these years," said Alvarez-Sarmiento., of the restaurant, which opened in 1976.

Similar celebrations also will spill into the streets, with outdoor Cinco de Mayo festivals planned for downtown Bradenton's Old Main Street area and Lakewood Ranch's Main Street.

Though Lakewood Ranch's separate subdivisions have often hosted private Cinco de Mayo celebrations, Sondra Guffey, spokeswoman for Lakewood Ranch, said the public festivities planned this year for Main Street are on a much larger scale. There will be Latin dance demonstrations and food and drink vendors on hand.

"It's a terrific venue for not just our residents but for people from all over the community to come together," Guffey said. "It's a good reminder of our mixed cultures."

In Mexico, Cinco de Mayo is normally regarded as a government holiday with some agencies and schools having the day off.

Gerardo Ramirez, a court interpreter for the Manatee County Courthouse, remembers growing up in Mexico City and learning the history of Cinco de Mayo in the second and third grades.

"You learn about the history behind these major celebrations," said Ramirez of his time studying at the Angel Albino Corzo Elementary School in Mexico City.

Ramirez said aside from cities that might have ceremonies to honor the victory, the festivities shared during Cinco de Mayo have largely become an American tradition.

"Our main day of celebration is Sept. 15," Ramirez said. "But companies like Corona have made May 5 popular for commercial reasons."

Cinco de Mayo celebrations are a commercial pull for local Mexican-American restaurants that describe the day as one of their busiest.

"It's actually the busiest day of the year for us," said Bonificio Caro, owner of Mi Pueblo Mexican Restaurant and Cantina on University Parkway and Tuttle Avenue. "We've been preparing in advance, making sure we have enough of everything."

Mi Pueblo plans on extending the festivities to two days. Friday and Saturday it will host parties from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. that will feature a Latin band playing music and a clown providing face-painting for children.

Many restaurants plan months in advance for the day. At the Alvarez Mexican Restaurant, planning starts in January, said Alvarez-Sarmiento.

At Acapulcos Mexican Restaurant in Lakewood Ranch, preparations for Cinco de Mayo continued throughout the day as Jesse Sanchez, whose father owns the restaurant, posted decorations throughout the restaurant.

"It's a big day to celebrate," Sanchez said.

Laura Figueroa, Herald reporter, can be reached at 708-7906 or

More coverage

• Looking for a Cinco de Mayo party? Check our list, 4C

• Bush gets head start on Cinco de Mayo celebration, 5A

Cinco de Mayo Celebrations

• Alvarez Mexican Restaurant, 1431 Eighth Ave. W., Palmetto, 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Karaoke contests during lunch time. Will close at 2 p.m. to prepare for its annual Block Party from 4 -10 p.m. The party will feature jalapeno and chocolate eating contests, live music and traditional Mexican food.

• Acapulco Mexican Restaurant, Lakewood Ranch Boulevard and State Road 64. Live mariachi music and magician performances from 5-9 p.m. Kids under 12 eat free.

• Mi Pueblo Mexican Restaurant and Cantina, 8405 Tuttle Ave. at University Parkway. Cinco de Mayo parties from 5-10 p.m. today and Saturday, featuring live Latin band and face painting for kids.

• Cinco de Mayo Festival on Old Main Street, live music, vendors and food on historic Old Main Street (12th Street West) 6 -10 p.m. Free to the public.

• Lakewood Ranch Cinco De Mayo Celebration, 6 -9 p.m. at Lakewood Ranch's Main Street. Food, drinks and live entertainment by Latin Dance Demo. Take I-75 to the University Parkway exit, head east, then left on Lakewood Ranch Boulevard

• Whole Foods Market Cinco de Mayo Celebration, Whole Foods Market Sarasota, 1451 First St., 11 a.m.-5 p.m. The store will be filled with music, food and drinks celebrating Cinco de Mayo. Free and open to the public.

• Cinco de Mayo at the Ritz Carlton, Ritz Carlton Bay View Bar and Grill, 1111 Ritz Carlton Drive, Sarasota, from 4-9 p.m., includes salsa tastings and live entertainment. (This event is geared toward adults, not children). No cover charge.

• Salsa on the Bay, University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee Campus, 5700 N. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota, from 7-11 p.m. with food provided by Two Señoritas and featuring performances by Nueva Generaci˜n and Dance Palace. Tickets: $50 each, $30 for students with proper I.D. Tickets are available by calling Ross Allen, (941) 356-6093, or at the USF Sarasota-Manatee Business Office, USS 805-A on the east side of campus.

Court translators increasingly needed

Court translators increasingly needed

State adding certification exams

By Mike McWilliams
Iowa City Press-Citizen

Sitting shoulder to shoulder with a man accused of rape, Beatriz Cochran acted as his ears and mouth in the Johnson County courtroom. Cochran repeated every bit of testimony, every objection to him in Spanish.

And when Cochran translated the jury's not guilty verdict for Asuncion Fuentes on Wednes-day, he began to weep.

"I just think of myself as a machine," said Cochran, a Spanish-speaking court interpreter. "I'm not someone who's there to judge anybody or even remember most of the things."

As the number of non-English-speaking Iowa residents continues to rise, Cochran is part of a growing profession in Iowa. Although records are not kept on how many cases require a court interpreter, some say the demand is rising.

"That's definitely the case in our district," said Carroll Edmondson, court administrator for the 6th Judicial District, which includes six Eastern Iowa counties, including Johnson. "Just off the top of my head, we probably get five or six a week total districtwide. I'd say in the last decade or so, it's probably doubled."

But despite more cases requiring interpreters, the number of certified court interpreters on the statewide roster remains low. In fact, there are only eight certified interpreters in Iowa -- including six Spanish translators -- and none of them cover the 6th District.

Most of Iowa's court interpreting duties are handled by 107 non-certified translators, about 70 percent of whom speak Spanish. Iowa courts are required to appoint a certified court interpreter, if one is reasonably available, before they can appoint a non-certified interpreter.

"The issue is we don't have enough trained or qualified interpreters, which is something that our organization has been concerned about and working on in terms of providing training opportunities in the state," said Michael Piper, president of the Iowa Interpreters and Translators Association. "It's a problem when you have someone who is not trained or skilled in the protocols and also in terminology."

That, in part, prompted Iowa's Judicial Branch last summer to join the National Consortium for State Court Interpreter Certification. This September, the state will start to offer certification exams in 13 different languages. Interpreters who are already certified passed tests offered by other states or by the federal courts, said Iowa Judicial Branch planner John Goerdt.

"They're not required to take it, at least at this point," Goerdt said. "But by getting certified, they are going to go to the top of the pecking order so to speak in getting appointments to translate.

"We just don't have enough certified interpreters to be able to require our courts to use only certified interpreters," Goerdt added. "We would love to get to that point and maybe in 10 years, we'll have plenty of interpreters certified."

Currently, to interpret in Iowa's courts requires an application, attendance at a two-day orientation program and passage of a 25-question, multiple-choice test in English.

State budget woes prevented Iowa from joining the national interpreter consortium earlier, Goerdt said. Iowa paid an initial $25,000membership fee to join and, after five years of membership, will pay $2,500 annually to remain in the consortium, which now includes 34 states.

"While we were laying off clerks in rural counties, we just didn't feel we could justify (joining the consortium)," Goerdt said.

Interpreter certification tests are rigorous and only between 10 percent and 20 percent of those who take it will pass, Goerdt said.

"Court interpreting is more difficult than most people imagine. In fact, you need a very expansive vocabulary in both languages. You've got to be able to translate on the fly and you can't consistently ask the judge for a moment to translate."

Cochran, who is not certified, said she plans to take the test "because we should have some standards." She has interpreted in state and federal courts since 1997 and works anywhere between an hour and eight hours a day four or five times a week. She typically earns between $35 and $60 an hour.

Although work is steady, Cochran said she hasn't had trouble keeping up with demand. There are 14 interpreters in the 6th District, including 10 who speak Spanish.

"I think eventually if the Hispanic population keeps growing, some of these agencies will have to have a full-time interpreter because it will be cheaper than paying different people to do it," Cochran said. "But for right now, I don't (think the demand is too great)."

Reach Mike McWilliams at 339-7360 or

Chin Up!

From: Pax Inedita
Subject: RE: [THE ORDINARY COURT INTERPRETER] 4/20/2006 08:40:43 AM
Sent: Friday, May 5, 2006 12:45 AM

You are making a difference every day because you make the judicial system accessible to those who otherwise would not be able to communicate. Our role is to be truly impartial. Unlike other court staff, even the judges, we are the cornerstone of what gets on the record so that when we speak; when we evaluate the register or lingo and deliver it; when we utter the words of others - they are true and untarnished. Ours is at times an art and as such cannot be tampered by emotions. It is a tough job to check your thoughts and emotions before entering a courtroom, to prepare for the unexpected and to rise to the challenge. You are a professional, you are an interpreter even when you are up against the ropes, you are doing what few can. Chin up!


From: Anonymous
Subject: [THE ORDINARY COURT INTERPRETER] 4/20/2006 08:40:43 AM
Date: Thu, 20 Apr 2006 08:40:46 -0700 (PDT)

I just found your blog and this article is beautifully written. I don't think I could have expressed myself so eloquently. Is Diana a real person or does she personify the interpreter in all of us?

I have often had comments address to me like, "oh, that must have been difficult" (abused victim), "how can you just stand there and act as if it doesn't bother you?" (child abuser) or "wow, I can't believe you said that to the judge" (defendent spouting foul language); as though these are my words, my thoughts, my feelings, when they are not. Sometimes what I say leaves a sour taste in my mouth, but that is part of my job, to say them, regardless of how I really feel, nothing more, nothing less. If only all other actors in a court room understood that.

Sometimes I feel sad, because my husband, who is also my best friend and an attorney, doesn't understand how difficult it is at times, not the act of interpreting, but the act of living that interpretation while you are the conduit for what is expressed.

Posted by Anonymous to THE ORDINARY COURT INTERPRETER at 4/20/2006 08:40:43 AM

Monday, May 01, 2006

A common language

By HOWARD BUCK, Columbian staff writer

Hayden Orr bounds off his school bus and heads for the main hallway.

The 8-year-old looks the part of a typical grade school student. Blond bangs frame his brown eyes. He's wearing a navy blue pullover with a windsurfer logo and totes a large, moss-green book bag on his back.

He stops to chat with friends, one animatedly describing an action movie. Then, teachers beckon the students to class, welcoming them with a friendly "Good morning." Soon after, the first bell rings.

Except there's no bell: Instead, math-science teacher Alfred Malone simply flicks the classroom lights off, then on again. And all the gossip, the greetings and the Pledge of Allegiance come in American Sign Language, the children signing deftly and silently with their hands.

Things run a bit differently at the Washington School for the Deaf.

Hayden and six classmates crowd around a large, crescent-shaped table in Malone's room. They're working hard on their times tables. Seated at the center of the desk's arc, Malone can easily face each student, like the dealer at a blackjack table, to make signing that much easier.

To command attention or to stress a point, Malone or a student slaps the desk with an open palm: It's standard procedure for signers. Advertisement

The seating arrangement, the pace of conversation and a few other quirks speak to the school for the deaf's special nature. As do ASL diagrams that grace wall charts, blended grade levels, and a uniformly low student-to-staff ratio.

It's a deaf institution with a distinct "deaf culture" that fully hearing parents Mel and Brett Orr specifically sought. They moved 1,100 miles from Hollywood, Calif., two years ago, after sifting through options for Hayden, who was born deaf.

"If he was mainstreamed, he would drop from grade-level to lost," Mel Orr says later in their Lincoln neighborhood home, quizzing Hayden on his day. "You might as well just get him in line for Social Security (disability payments)."

She and Brett uprooted movie industry careers and came to Vancouver to get Hayden direct ASL instruction. That, along with the school's small class size and life skills instruction, work to his advantage each day, they figure.

"I'm not sure I'm ready for him to be with an interpreter. They're exhausting," Mel says of mainstream schooling, with the constant use of signing aides. "When you have a deaf kid, you need to funnel information constantly."

Ruling out two California schools for distance and cost, the Orrs chose Vancouver, making due with a modest home and piecemeal jobs.

It's been a good fit, says Mel, who leads a cooking class and joins other activities at the school for the deaf, where family and friends are invited to learn ASL. She says too few hearing parents take advantage, failing to adapt to their child's nonhearing world. Meantime, the whole Orr family, 3-year-old sister Stella included, signs during supper and the evening, so that Hayden can pick up everything.

That includes arguments or Mom's nagging, so that Hayden learns the ropes of life, unvarnished. "If I get frustrated, I sign it now," she explains.

Most of Hayden's school day passes much like that in any building. He sits through math drills, a science lesson, a quick computer exercise, follows closely as an aide reads "aloud" from a children's book. The latter helps students improve English skills, stretching their more limited ASL vocabulary. He plays kickball inside the venerable school gym, goofs around with friends during lunch.

After social studies, he chooses a couple of school library books, scribbles a shopping wish list at a special book fair. On the cover of "The Encyclopedia of Everything Nasty," a cartoon boy is picking his nose. "Every time I see that book I think of you," jokes Hayden's language arts teacher.

It's the sort of ribbing Mel thinks Hayden would miss if he were mainstreamed and treated with kid gloves. "In a public school, he couldn't get in trouble, like he (occasionally) does now," she says. "He's not 'smart.' He's just normal, a normal 8-year-old."

It's possible Hayden will attend a mainstream school later, perhaps the nearby Vancouver School of Arts and Academics. But for now, the Orrs are adamant on direct ASL education. If the school for the deaf were to fold, the family would move again to find an appropriate school, Mel says. "For us, it's not a thought. We would go anywhere."

Still relevant?

Sunday: Are state schools a 19th-century relic or a vital resource for blind and deaf students across the state?

Today: The schools for the blind and deaf are a source of self-esteem and social acceptance.

Linguist restores lost language, culture for 'The New World'

The truism is that if you want to know a culture, learn the language. But what if the language and the culture are both dead –- long, long dead?

Historical linguists, social scientists who are the archaeologists of cultures' ephemeral linguistic artifacts, have developed techniques that allow them to realistically re-create lost languages. The process, known as "language revitalization," has at least partially restored numerous languages that were known to have existed but were never recorded (or fully documented), literally allowing us to hear what the dead spoke.

Generally, this has been done for academic reasons or because a culture's descendants want to try to re-establish their identity by recovering some of their lost past. Now it has been done in order to create a major motion picture.

Language can be like cultural DNA, the genetic blueprint of how a civilization communicated and thought, containing the essence of a people's perspective and character. This is what Terrence Malick, director and writer of New Line Cinema's recent release The New World, discovered when he hired University of North Carolina at Charlotte linguist Blair Rudes to lend historical realism to the movie by coaching the cast in Virginia Algonquian, the language spoken by Pocahontas and other Native Americans who John Smith encountered in the founding of Jamestown.

Malick had first tried to hire a native speaker, only to discover a problem -– he found that the language had been extinct since around 1785, a common fate of many of the more than 800 languages spoken in North America at the time of the European encounter.

Hiring Rudes, an authority in historical and current Native American languages, he soon learned that the challenge was even greater: the only record of Virginia Algonquian was a scant list of about 500 words transcribed by Englishman William Strachey (a friend of William Shakespeare) in 1609, and a few more words recorded by Smith.

Interpreter service gives voice to foreign victims

By Claudia Cautillo

The Multilingual Community Interpreter Service (MCIS), located in the Eglinton and Don Mills area, is extending its services to include people affected by homicide, child and elder abuse as well as new immigrants.

The organization started out in 1989 doing interpretation for social service agencies dealing only with non-English speaking victims of domestic and sexual abuse. Over the years, it started servicing all people who needed, interpretation, translation, language testing and interpreter training.

The expansion is taking them back to their roots.

While they’ve had the occasional client who suffered elder or child abuse, the MCIS is hoping to significantly increase their focus in these areas.

Claudia Huelgas, the project coordinator and a Spanish interpreter with the organization, said expanding the service is definitely a priority, as they offer vital assistance for abuse victims of any kind.

"These people don’t know where to go for help because they can’t speak the language," she said. "A lot of them don’t even realize that interpreters are available to them."

Huelgas has overseen new initiatives in the company before. She coordinates interpretation services for the homeless population in several shelters, a pilot project MCIS began about two years ago.

Since its inception, the non-profit organization has been a key service for the police, legal clinics, child welfare agencies, social services and healthcare facilities. They get about 50 to 80 cases a day.

It is the official designated interpretation service for local police, who call interpreters day and night to assist in their investigation of abuse cases.

Victims aren’t the only ones to benefit from the service. Perpetrators, witnesses and suspects are clients as well.

Vladimir Bikeev, the intake coordinator and a Russian interpreter, has worked with aggressive men going through anger management and other types of counselling.

He said working closely with both the abuse victims and perpetrators for several years have made him a "hardened man."

"Cases of violence against women have really touched me," he said, adding he’s relieved to see how seriously abuse is treated in this country. "That’s not the case in Russia. The police are more lenient there."

Bikeev has also worked with senior citizens.

"I interpreted once for an older man in the hospital who didn’t understand (English) well. He didn’t understand the medical terminology, and he had no family there."

MCIS offers interpretation for over 100 different languages, and they have translated documents for places as far as British Columbia, Manitoba, and Alberta.

Nazneen Dhalla, the manager of MCIS, said the company’s longterm goal is to eventually expand its services throughout Canada.

"Because of the diversity in Canada, our service is important," she said. "If people in the population can’t speak English, their voices need to be heard. We are their voice."

Gallaudet University Names Dr. Jane K. Fernandes President

Current Provost Becomes University's Second Deaf President

WASHINGTON, May 1 /PRNewswire/ -- Dr. Jane K. Fernandes, Gallaudet University Provost since 2000, was introduced today as Gallaudet's 9th president. She will take office in January 2007. Celia May Baldwin, Interim Chair of the university's Board of Trustees made the announcement at a campus convocation this afternoon after the full board elected Dr. Fernandes president over the weekend.
Fernandes will replace long-time Gallaudet president, Dr. I. King Jordan, who made history in 1988 becoming the first deaf person selected to lead a university when he was named Gallaudet's 8th president. Dr. Jordan announced his retirement in the summer of 2005 after more than 18 years as president. Dr. Jordan will retain the title "President Emeritus" and will continue to assist the new president and the university.

"Gallaudet is extremely fortunate to have Dr. Jane Fernandes as our next president," said Celia May Baldwin, Chair of the University's Board of Trustees. "Jane has a deep understanding of how this university works, having served in senior leadership positions here for more than a decade. It would be difficult, if not impossible, for the Board to find anyone with greater breadth or depth of experience. The executive positions she has held at both the K-12 and University levels -- and the notable accomplishments she has made in these positions -- make her uniquely qualified to lead Gallaudet.

"Jane has proven her leadership skills time and time again, often having to make very difficult decisions, and we believe that this has prepared her well for the presidency. We are thrilled to have someone of her caliber succeed King Jordan and believe that she will be an outstanding president of Gallaudet."

As Provost, Dr. Fernandes is the chief academic officer of the University, responsible for all of the academic programs and academic support components at Gallaudet. The Academic Affairs division for which she is responsible has 670 faculty and staff and a budget of more than $83 million. She has been one of the key leaders in the development of the University's vision and strategic plan, and recently co-authored "Towards an Inclusive Deaf University: Achieving Equitable Outcomes for All Students" which specifically addressed two of the key goals of the university's plan.

A native of Worcester, Massachusetts, Dr. Fernandes attended public schools. She is a graduate of Trinity College (Connecticut), earning a B.A. degree in French and comparative literature, and the University of Iowa, where she earned an M.A. and Ph.D. in comparative literature. After graduating from Iowa, she worked for Northeastern University before coming to Gallaudet as Chair of the Department of Sign Communication. She later moved to Hawaii where she established the Interpreter Education Program at Kapi'olani Community College and served for five years as the director of the Hawaii Center for the Deaf and Blind.

In 1995 she returned to Gallaudet to become the Vice President for the Laurent Clerc National Deaf Education Center where she and her team developed innovative curriculum, materials, and teaching strategies for schools serving deaf and hard-of-hearing students throughout the nation. Last year, more than 450 schools had adopted the Clerc Center's methods.

Dr. Fernandes has authored and co-authored numerous scholarly publications, and will soon be sending her new book, Signs of Eloquence: a Study of Deaf American Public Address (with James Fernandes) to press. She has been an invited speaker at conferences all over the country and will travel this May to Bangkok, Thailand where she will give the keynote address at the First World Congress on The Power of Language: Theory, Practice, and Performance.

"I am humbled and honored by the decision of the Board," said Dr. Fernandes at the ceremony announcing her appointment. "I give you my word that I will make every decision and lead this university based on what is in the university's best interest ... I am grateful that the Board has entrusted me with this wonderful opportunity to serve this university that I love."

Dr. Fernandes is married to Dr. James J. Fernandes, a former professor in Gallaudet's Department of Communication Studies. They have two children, Sean (15) and Erin (13).

Gallaudet University is the world leader in liberal education and career development for deaf and hard-of-hearing undergraduate students. The University enjoys an international reputation for its outstanding graduate programs as well as for the quality of the research it conducts on the history, language, culture, and other topics related to deaf people. The University's Laurent Clerc National Deaf Education Center serves deaf and hard-of-hearing children at its two demonstration schools and throughout the nation by developing, implementing, and disseminating innovative educational strategies. Gallaudet is located in Washington, DC where it was founded in 1864 by an act of Congress, and its charter was signed by President Abraham Lincoln.

Technology No Longer Distances Deaf Culture

All Things Considered, May 1, 2006 · Note: Due to the subject matter, NPR is providing a full transcript.

ROBERT SIEGEL, host: Gallaudet University has named a new president. Jane Fernandes is the second deaf person -- and the first woman -- to run the world's only university for deaf students. For the last six years, Fernandes has been provost at Gallaudet. The school has always been an important symbol to deaf people. Especially after its historic choice 18 years ago of its first deaf president. Now Fernandes will need to help students succeed in both the deaf and the hearing worlds. NPR's Joseph Shapiro explains:

JOSEPH SHAPIRO, reporter: When hearing people come to Gallaudet, they often expect a campus for deaf students is going to be a quiet place.

Sometimes it is. So quiet, you can hear the songbirds in the trees on the campus green as a few students walk to class on a sunny day. And sometimes Gallaudet's a noisy place. Like inside the student center, at the food court. There's an International Day celebration going on. A deaf student from Nigeria, in an embroidered robe, bangs a large drum while students from Africa and then Japan dance.

Other students eat lunch, in groups of six or even 10 crowded in at small, round tables. The round tables make it easy to see what everyone else is saying in sign language. And when these students sign, it's elegant. Even dramatic. Their fingers fly. They slap one hand into the other and use strong facial expressions to drive home a point.

Some of the students have some hearing. Others can feel the vibration of the percussive bass. When the drumming stops, students at the lunch tables raise their arms over their heads and wave their hands. That's Sign for applause.

At Gallaudet, when they talk about diversity, often what they mean is diversity in the range of hearing -- from people who are deaf to ones who have some hearing.

TOM BALDRIDGE: OK we're here. Obviously I'm using my voice today. Last class we were talking about workplace issues.

SHAPIRO: Tom Baldridge is teaching his class on business ethics.

Most students at Gallaudet have signed all their lives. But others lost their hearing only recently. Some use regular hearing aids or cochlear implants.

BALDRIDGE: End of chapter six, "Discipline and Discharge." There are four different reasons for discharge.

SHAPIRO: When Baldridge teaches, he signs.


SHAPIRO: But today, a student in the seat closest to the front has asked him to sign and speak. Of the 15 students here, she's one of just a few who has a hearing aid.

ANDREA, student: Voice for me. It's hard to understand him. It helps me.

SHAPIRO: It's not easy for the teacher. To sign and speak, Baldridge has to speak in two languages at the same time.

BALDRIDGE: Our students are all required to learn sign language. So by the time they graduate, almost all of them are fluent signers. That doesn't mean they are fluent signers when they take a class with me.

SHAPIRO: When Baldridge signs, he's using American Sign Language, or ASL. That's the first language of people who are born deaf. Also of hearing children who are born to deaf parents. Both of Baldridge's parents are deaf. In Indianapolis, where he grew up, he learned Sign before he spoke English. ASL and English have different grammar, different word order. In English, you'd say: Have you visited Gallaudet? In ASL, you'd sign: Touch Finish Gallaudet You?

BRADLEY MILLER, student: Because you know, we all live in the hearing world. All deaf people live in the hearing world.

SHAPIRO: Bradley Miller is one of the students in this class. He's speaking through a sign-language interpreter.

Before Gallaudet, Miller went to a school where people read lips or could hear. For Miller, that other school was often a lonely place.

MILLER: If I joined the basketball team, who could I talk to? If I'm on the bus going to away games or whatever, I just sit there by myself. Wouldn't be able to talk to anybody. And so the coach here recruited me to come to Gallaudet and I was able to talk to everybody. So it was a lot more fun. So the access is greater here.

SHAPIRO: But Miller knows that Gallaudet may be the only place he'll ever be where everybody speaks his language. Everyone signs. So he's gone to speech-therapy classes, where he speaks and reads lips.

MILLER: I don't want to leave the community or leave my culture. And I know that my speech has to be better if I want to get a better job. But you know getting an interpreter, that's not always possible. Having an interpreter on the job every day.

SHAPIRO: To speak and read lips is called oralism. At Gallaudet, it was often dismissed as a way of adapting to the hearing world. Signing is seen as more of a statement of deaf culture. It's a tension that goes way back.

In My Fair Lady, Professor Henry Higgins teaches a poor flower girl to speak proper English.

HIGGINS, film excerpt: I think she's got it. I think she's got it.

ELIZA DOOLITTLE, film excerpt: The rain in Spain stays mainly in the plain.

HIGGINS: By George, she's got it.

SHAPIRO: Henry Higgins was modeled, in part, on a Scottish teacher of speech named Alexander Melville Bell. Only Bell didn't go around making the Eliza Doolittles of London lose their Cockney accents. Bell taught deaf people how to read lips and to speak in the hearing world.

For George Bernard Shaw's play and the Lerner and Lowe musical, it was easier to make the female lead someone who could hear, talk and, of course, sing.

SHAPIRO: Bell's son was Alexander Graham Bell. He, too, taught speech and helped lead deaf educators to replace Sign language with the teaching of speech and reading lips, so that deaf people would adapt to the hearing world. That put American Sign Language in eclipse for about a century. Its revival was boosted by the Gallaudet student protests in 1988, when the school picked its first deaf president. To use Sign became an expression of "deaf pride" and belonging to the deaf world.

Some of Alexander Graham Bell's biographers say that when he helped invent the telephone, what he really was trying to do was come up with a device to help his deaf wife communicate.

No other piece of technology would more cut off deaf people from the hearing world than the telephone.

SHAPIRO: Today deaf people have found technology to connect them to both worlds When's the last time you saw a telephone booth? At the Gallaudet Student Center, they have them.

I. KING JORDAN, Gallaudet president: This is called a video-phone booth. See there are four here. You can see, three are in use.

SHAPIRO: I. King Jordan is the current president. The school's historic, first deaf president. He shows off a bank of phone booths, each with a black curtain and a video phoneinside.

JORDAN: Here what you do is you sit down and you turn it on. Automatically, an interpreter appears. And that interpreter asks you who you're trying to call. You give a phone number. The interpreter calls that person and speaks to that person and signs to me what that person says back. So it's really been a huge, huge improvement in relay communication for people who are deaf.

SHAPIRO: That's to call a hearing person. Or a deaf person can just dial up another deaf person with a TV phone. Many students have Web cams on the computers in their dorm rooms.

Even more popular is text messaging. Students walk across campus, often with their heads down, banging out messages on Blackberrys and Sidekicks.

And on this day, as Jordan walks back to his office, he gets a message on his. It's from his grandson. He's nine. He's hearing. And he's on vacation in Florida.

JORDAN: He used his grandma's pager. He typed: "Well I just wanted to say hi since life is not fun without you." Ohhhhh.

Joseph Shapiro, NPR News, Washington