Buenos Aires – Day #3

Posted: April 23, 2009 in GUMBO

Today was a day of wild translations.  We are so used to working in 2 languages at home (English/Afrikaans and South African Sign Language – SASL) but here most conversations must happen in 3: English, SASL and Spanish.  That’s until you throw an Argentinean Deaf person into the mix and presto!  It’s 4 languages!

So, after going to the theatre to try to solve the “black flats” issue (in a miscommunication on the building of our set, no black flats have been made for GUMBO.  This is pretty significant as we can’t play without them!  So the past few days have been about trying to hire, make, borrow, steal some black flats from somewhere.  The irony being that in a city with over 500 theatres, we can’t get hold of 3 damn bookflats!!!) we grabbed a quick lunch and headed off to do our first interview.  And so began our afternoon which hinged on the sometimes insane process of consecutive and simultaneous translation, at the same time, in 4 languages!

First it was an interview with a lady representing a collection of over 450 papers, magazines, stations etc.  This only had to happen in 3 languages…

She was great and asked some very, very interesting questions which Argentina Day 3 007always makes for a good interview.  As we were wrapping up with her, the people started arriving for our Lecture-Demonstration.  Very cool here was that we had a pretty good mix of Deaf and hearing Argentineans in our audience, and in the small, intimate space, we could engage personally with most of them.  But here’s where the wild translations really started!  At times, there was so much movement/voice/activity that it was hard to keep a straight face!  Hearing/seeing what you have just said in 3 language echoes is truly bizarre and becomes much like a performance in its own right.  Just the chatting before the talk began was wild:

Interesting in this all were the differences and similarities in the Deaf communities or its status in both SA and Argentina.  The issue of whether the Deaf should depend on lip reading most in order to integrate into the hearing world OR whether the Deaf should use SL as their mother tongue, is a big question here too.  Perhaps this is THE question all over the world.  We have only been to two countries so far so can’t really comment further than that.  It seems to all come down to a personal choice, often of the parents of the Deaf person, as to whether they feel they should lip read or sign, and this will decide to which school they will send their children.

From the conversations we were having with the interpreters and Deaf people there, it appears that the Deaf community in South African might actually have it better in some ways than here, with more awareness of Deaf culture (it’s obviously not enough but there is some) in general around the country.  For example, we have the news interpreted for the Deaf on various TV channels.  It’s ridiculously short but it’s regular and it’s something.  Here, one of the interpreters said, you might have a bit of interpreting on TV or perhaps a few subtitles here and there, but nothing to write home about.  At home, we have 30 minutes a week of DTV.  While we complain that this is ridiculously short in terms of viewing, they were impressed to hear we have it at all!  And this is in a country that has an entire 24-hour channel devoted to Arts and Culture!

So, I guess it’s obvious that lots still has to be done for the Deaf community worldwide, but it’s nice to get some objectivity and appreciate the things that our country does do for the Deaf.  The grass might not be that much greener on the other side…

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