Now we’re going to discuss closure, which means filling in missing information to make sense of a fingerspelled word. I have a personal story to share that encapsulates this important skill. Very early in my interpreting career, I received an assignment to team interpret a conference. It was a doozy with over a thousand people in attendance. My team partner had taken the lead in arranging everything, she was also my mentor as I was just getting into the profession, so I let her figure out details and trusted I was ready for my first “platform” interpreting assignment, also called stage interpreting.
I showed up after completing a fairly long drive to get there on top of navigating my way to the actual auditorium inside a large convention center. Having never maneuvered a massive venue, I had underestimated the time all of this would take and ended up arriving minutes before the Deaf presenter was to go on stage as the opening speaker. If this were an interpreting class, I would emphasize rule number one for mindful and professional interpreting—always show up as early as possible so you can be poised, calm, gathered and ready to go. So, here is a bit of foreshadowing—a late arrival. Next, when I asked my team interpreter for a program, she mentioned someone was bringing us one, but she hadn’t received it yet. This nightmare evening occurred only a few years after the internet was invented, when very few people had cell phones, let alone data plans.
So, here we were: no agenda, no program, no speaker notes, with just a bit of a context for the evening’s material, and what did my team partner decide to do—have me start! You can see that this is quickly going downhill. I felt guilty for having arrived late, so I agreed! Standing behind curtain, the Deaf gentleman handed me the microphone and out we walked onto the stage, my first stage, mind you. He began by saying, “Hello, my name is....”
I, being nervous, had no lag time whatsoever, I was right on his tail, and voiced, “Hello, my name is....” And then there’s this long, dreadful, eternal pause. You probably know what happened, I missed his fingerspelled name, entirely! In my nervous, self-absorbed state, I didn’t even catch enough to make a guess, and who wants to guess the keynote speaker’s name when everyone (but me) knows what it is! I looked to my team for support, and my stomach fell--she hadn’t caught his name either. By now, this unrepresented gentleman was well into his speech, and me, the newbie interpreter was near panicked.
What’s my point in sharing this story? Never voice, “Hello, my name is....” until you comprehend the speaker’s name! If you never catch the name, you can proceed into his speech without an introduction and it’s unlikely to have horrible ramifications. After all, the crowd is probably holding the treasured program and can figure out who is speaking. Closure involves a little faith; it involves actively deducing.
Here's a written example of how we practice closure all the time—It’s summertime, hot and I am parched. I’ve been on the beach all day, and when I walk into the store and go to the produce section, I see the rind of a green and white circular fruit on ice. I think, aaaahh, yes, w_t_rm_lon! Did you catch the word in spite of the gaps? If you did, you made closure.
The more we practice fingerspelling, the more we can make closure quite effortlessly. If, we go back to my nightmare-platform-interpreting-experience and mindfully observe the man was identified as a white Caucasian male in his 60’s—what if we saw these names fingerspelled:
Can we fill in the missing information with a degree of confidence? We know that vowels constitute many of the letters in a word so we can start there, kind of like playing hangman when we were kids. If we are mindful, observant, and aware of our topic of conversation, closure becomes almost second nature. Let’s practice closure with our next category of Loan signs, RS 5: Technology and Measures.