Something Personal

“…Sure, sign language, song signing, storytelling using sign and so on can be Art (with a capital A), but let’s also remember that it is not invented to satisfy hearing people’s aesthetic yearnings; it is there to serve a very real need for the deaf. This is something some hearing people who work with the deaf, such as the staff, volunteers, etc, tend to forget.”

Having reached the association early for my terp (Lingo for interpreter) assignment on Saturday, I settled down at a certain terp coordinator’s desk to mull over my volunteering and interpreting issues when I noticed (after some time) the above-mentioned quote pasted on the coordinator’s pc.

The words struck a chord in me deeply, and something in me stirred.

How true, I thought to myself, even I forget it sometimes.

And at that very moment, I felt so ashamed.

Because having been all caught up in my love for Christmas carol-signing, song signing, performing and whatnots, I did forget, or rather, make less of, the purpose of sign language sometimes.

Aesthetic yearnings. Urgh, the guilt.

It’s not that I do not sign in the presence of the hearing-impaired, or that I never mouth my words when communicating; I do try my darnest to use total communication. Nor do I use sign language simply to ‘show off’ to other people that, hey, I know something you don’t. But somehow the sole purpose of sign language was relegated to the back of my mind.

The quote serves as a gentle reminder to me.

Addendum: Ohhhh, the quote originated from le petite prince! Ahem. Erm, let me use it here k? It’s a really good one.


These days, I’ve been thinking quite a bit about terping and whether I should continue being a terp. It all started with a casual conversation with a friend on Friday about terping, the conversation ending with me musing aloud: “Sometimes I wonder why I’m still an interpreter.”

I wonder…

Because every time I accept an assignment, it stresses me up so much – sometimes to the point where I suffer from bouts of insomnia. I worry over whether I could catch up with the speakers, whether I could provide accurate information to my clients, whether I could hear the speakers themselves, whether my clients understand my signs and so on and so forth.

I worry so much because despite trying so hard to sign faster, my speed has settled into this natural pace which is, IMHO, slow for a terp. The combination of not being able to catch with the speakers and possibly missing out information is so lethal that I feel I would be doing a disservice, rather than a service, to the clients if I am to terp for them.

The demons ate me up, bit by bit. I was paralyzed by my fears; my fingers refused to finger-spell properly, my hands signed all the wrong things. I lost confidence in my skills and started backing off assignments. I began to dislike terping and that, in turn, caused me to compromise my commitment as a terp (sorry, terp coordinator).

So for the last few days, I was in grim contemplation over whether I should continue or quit being a terp.

And then I tidied my files and I saw, neatly written on this piece of paper when I first learnt sign language, one of my long-term goals: ‘to be a sign language interpreter in 2-5 years’ time’. And then during the recent terp meeting, I gathered my courage and voiced out my fears, resulting in 3 senior terps encouraging me and giving me advice. And I thought about the HI friends I’ve made and the difficulties they told me they encountered when communication broke down between them and others. And I recalled the times I terped for clients and they thanked me for my help at the end of their classes. And I remembered the time when I went for the terp interviews, feeling sure that I would never pass them, but still I did…

Everything came rushing back to me. The love, my passion, my wanting to help, my wanting to contribute whatever I can to the society. I want to continue being a terp. I was lost in the darkness and the swirl of confusion for a while, but I’m trying to get out of it. The paralyzing fear will still strike me every now and then, but I will force my way out of it. The demons taunt me still, but I’m stepping forward, one small step at a time but a step nonetheless. I’m not ready to take up certain assignments now, but maybe in time to come, I will. Perhaps I can never be as good as I want to be because of certain limitations, but still… I’m not given a chance to live this small dream of mine for nothing.


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