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By Lynda Park (Your Interpreting Maven)
and Bill Vicars (Dr. V of

Some phrases are more challenging to interpret than others.

Below is a list of actual phrases that have come up during interpreting situations.

►  "What does the paper say?"  (Paper doesn't talk. So how do we negotiate that?)
-  Possible interpretation:  PAPER EXPLAIN HUH?
-  Possible interpretation:  PAPER SAY HUH? (Note, it is a common misconception that ASL signs have only one meaning per sign.  The sign "SAY" means several different things.  For example, "public," "hearing person," "speaking." Plus it is important to point out that there is a version of "SAY" that taps the chin and is commonly used to ask "What did he/she say?"
-  Possible interpretation:  PAPER HAVE WHAT?
-  Possible interpretation:  PAPER STORY WHAT? (Note: the sign "STORY"  is commonly used or inflected to mean such things as "comment" or "message."

►  "I can't tell you how often this happens." (Using a negative when the speaker doesn't really mean it)
-  Possible interpretation:  THIS HAPPEN MANY!
-  Possible interpretation: WOW [hand wave] HAPPEN AGAIN, AGAIN!
(Note: In this circumstance the phrase "I can't tell you" is used as an adverbial phrase to mean "very" or "a lot.")

►  "Did I deserve that kind of treatment?" (Treat, treatment)
-  Possible interpretation: FOR FOR YOU THAT!? (Use the one-handed "that" in the air version.) 
-  Possible interpretation:  I EARN THAT?!?
-  Possible interpretation:  MY FAULT HUH?!?
-  Possible interpretation:  I what-DO CAUSE THAT?)
-  Interpretations for "deserve" include: EARN, SHOULD
-  Interpretations for "treatment" include: ASSOCIATE, BEHAVIOR

►  "You get the grade you deserve."
-  Possible interpretation: GRADE EQUAL YOUR ACTIONS
-  Possible interpretation: BLAME-you
-  For example:  SUPPOSE LAZY, "F," BLAME-you. (If you are lazy and get an "F" it is your own fault."

►  "The author's quote contained figurative language"
-  Use the sign "invented/made-up/creative" to indicate that what is being interpreted is "figurative."
-  Point out that the language is figurative by signing, "NOT TRUE HAPPEN, BUT SHOW (example) COMPARE LIKE"

►  "5% of the people had 33% of the money" (World Civilizations class referring to the Stalin/Mussolini regimes)
-  Discussion:  This is challenging because of the phrases "the people" and "the money."   That word "the" in those phrases means "all of the people/money in the region."
It is part of the interpreter's job to interpret the full meaning of the word "the" in these situations--even if it takes many signs to do so.  But since time is of the essence in circumstances like this, you could simply sign the intended meaning:  FEW PEOPLE RICH, MOST PEOPLE POOR.
If the student needs to know the actual percentages in order to do well on an upcoming test you need to use signs like:
ALL-OVER, MONEY "this much"
1/3, "This much" 
WHO THEY PEOPLE HAVE THIS-(point at location reference)  5% THEY PEOPLE HAVE 33% IT-(point at location reference) MONEY.  

►  The "ship" in leadership.
"The leadership committee worked on promoting the advancement of scholarship opportunities."
A leadership committee is a committee responsible for leading.  You can express this in a number of ways.  Initially you may need to state, "IT COMMITTEE, THEIR RESPONSIBILITY LEAD LEAD."
Note, you would use a slight double movement for the "lead" sign. 
After having established what a "leadership committee is" you can shorten the sign to "LEAD LEAD COMMITTEE."  Thus, the sign for "leadership" is "LEAD LEAD" using a small double movement.
Sometimes the word "leadership" is referring to "skill or ability."  In those circumstances you should use "LEAD LEAD SKILL."

You can use the term "leadership" to refer to an act or instance of leading. For example, The Deaf Center expanded under his leadership. In those circumstances you do the sign "LEAD" using a single, strong movement.
If you are referring to the leaders of a group you can use the "CLUSTER" sign.  For example, "IT ASL CLUB LEAD-CLUSTER MEET WHERE?  PIZZA RESTAURANT.

►  "Good morning scholars". A particular teacher addresses the students by this title instead of the word "students". Uses it several times during each day.
Discussion:  You could simply sign "GOOD MORNING STUDENT YOU-(plural sweep)."  Let's consider though, what is the teacher's intent?  She likely wants to foster self-esteem within the students.  She also wants to convey enthusiasm for the subject.  One way to translate this would be to sign "GOOD MORNING SMART STUDENT YOU-(plural).  Often the concept of a "scholar" is expressed by signing "double-brained" using either one or two "C" hands.   

►  In a war situation:
 "We couldn't afford to waste the ammo."
Discussion:  Here is where you need to use a "nonmanual marker" while using an instrument classifier to demonstrate the shooting of a gun carelessly and then sign "CAN'T. WHY? (rhetorical question) FRUGAL BULLETS.
"They were losing the war."
Discussion:  A sentence like this takes place in context.  Obviously the "war" has already been established.  Chances are you have already established "sides."  Thus an absent reference to the left or the right will refer to one or other of the armies.  So you can simply point to whichever side is losing, and sign one of the following: 
"decline" (opposite of improve)
"problem, problem"
"Carpet bombing"
Discussion:  Show systematic, extensive bombing of a wide area by doing a "throw down" movement (as if throwing a handful of rice downward) then moving it a few inches and throwing it downward again, and repeating a total of three or four times. Make sure to use "plosive" nonmanual markers. 
"A- bomb"
Discussion: Spell "atom" then show quote marks, "A bomb" and quote marks again.

►  "He was a champion of education."

►  "You weren't even a gleam in your parent's eye yet."
Discussion:  Life is full of trade offs.  If you want to "interpret" this phrase the trade off will be a huge block of time.  In addition to the sentence alluding to the client's parents having sex, you also have to handle whatever it is that happened prior to the whoopie. The "safe" (but rather boring interpretation?  "THAT HAPPEN BEFORE YOU BORN."
The fun, but unlikely to produce understanding version: "YOU NOT-YET YOUR PARENT EYE SPARKLE."
Ask yourself though, how many of the Hearing kids in class understand the "gleam in your father's eye" phrase?  The fact is, they don't. At least not until it is explained to them.  And that is where the time commitment comes into play.  Chances are you won't have time to "expand" this concept in the few moments afforded you.  Remember those "trade offs" I mentioned?  This is where you decide if you want to "trade" your break time to explain the meaning of this metaphor.

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