Shit people say… to Sign Language Interpreters

In the midst of my preparations for – or rather avoiding my preparations for – Signing Hands Across the Water, I’ve been collecting some information for this post for a little while now.

When my ‘shit hearing people say… to deaf people’ blog became a surprise hit, I pondered on other possible themes for the meme (ooh, poetry, and I wasn’t even trying) and a chance comment by a Sign Language Interpreter made me think… what DO people say to Sign Language Interpreters?

So I asked a few terps, all of whom shall remain anonymous, and wow. Seriously, wow. I’m assured that most people are not like this, but as the saying goes, there’s always one…

“How long did it take you to learn Braille?”
It’s depressing and fascinating how many terps gave an example linked to Braille, from “do you speak Braille?” to “I’ve always wanted to learn Braille.” What is this obsession with Braille???

*Let’s see if the interpreter can interpret THIS… Insert silly word that is usually easy to interpret*
Grow up.

*Let’s see if the interpreter can interpret THIS… Insert rude word that then gets a laugh – at terp*
No, really, grow up.

“Who do I look at, you or them?”

“Oh no, don’t interpret that!”… the answer is usually “I just did.”
Sign Language Interpreters usually interpret simultaneously. You cannot call things back. And also – Booyah!

“They look a bit angry don’t they?” (Of someone who is just signing)
Do they look angry? Does their face look angry? Believe me, you’ll KNOW when they’re angry.

“Are you the signer?”
Sign Language Interpreter.

“Are you the sign lady?”
No, they’re the Sign Language Interpreter.

“Are you the madam interpreter?”
They’re not a dominatrix! Notice the lack of studded whips and fluffy handcuffs. They’re a SIGN LANGUAGE INTERPRETER.

“Are you the sign gesture person?”
Nearly, but not quite. It’s SIGN LANGUAGE INTERPRETER.

“Are you the hand waver?”
Oh, for the love of…

“Excuse me, do you mind not interpreting this? This is a private conversation.” (while on the phone and speaking loudly enough to hear)
Excuse you, if the deaf person was hearing, they’d hear your little tiff with your soon-to-be-ex, just like every other hearing person in the vicinity, in fact I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but a few people are listening. Why shouldn’t the deaf person have the same access to this salacious gossip? Now leave the poor terp alone.

*When asked for more prep (since they had hardly provided any at all)*
“Oh, why? You’re not going to be miming that as well, are you?”
Words fail me. Or should I say mimes…?

“Oh, you work with deaf people? Oh, that’s so nice / wonderful / kind of you.”

“Hi, we need an interpreter, we have someone who is hearing-challenged…”
Deaf. I’m deaf.

“Oh, I used to know someone who was stone deaf.”
And your point is?

“Where’s the interrupter?”
We’ve gone over this.

“Oh how terrible it must be to be deaf… but I’d rather be deaf than blind.”
That remark would be random at the best of times.

“Do they always use hand signals?”
No, sometimes we use flashing lights, vibrations and touch. Or sometimes we use the medium of dance. Get down, baby!

Speaking of dance…

“Did you train at a dance school?”
Look, it was a sarcastic comment, OK? We don’t really communicate in dance. Except under special circumstances involving nightclubs and hot non-signing people.

“If you lose your job, you can become a tictac man!” *laughs*
I actually had to have this one explained to me; apparently at the horse races, the guys taking bets can communicate odds at some distance with special hand signals to each other. Oh, I see. Ha ha ha.

“If you lose your job, you can get a job as a plane marshal! You know, the ones with the orange flags?” *laughs*
Ha, bloody ha.

“Can I get one like you?”
Get one what? Can you clarify exactly what you mean, before someone calls the police?

“That must be almost as difficult as doing foreign language interpreting.”
Erm, simultaneously interpreting from one language to another, something that’s usually only attempted at the UN, and Sign Language Interpreters do it every day… Almost as difficult, yeah.

“How brave that poor deaf person is.”
I know. Just this morning, I rescued a hamster from a house fire.

“How long have they been suffering from deafness?”
OK, that’s enough, I think I’ve seen enough now.

Or have I? If you’re a Sign Language Interpreter, for your sins, and you have some strange / weird / just plain stupid thing some random person has said to you about interpreting that I’ve missed, don’t keep it to yourself. Get it off your chest in the comments below!

You never know, as well as giving us all a good laugh, we might make a few people think. But let’s do it for the laugh 🙂

111 thoughts on “Shit people say… to Sign Language Interpreters

  1. Peter B. Marshall

    ‎…Close friends with Harold the Hand Waver and some time work associate with Master Darren, Lord of Sign Gesture Interruption.

  2. Pingback: Donna Williams: S*** people say… to sign language interpreters « The Limping Chicken

  3. Piers

    “Oh, I used to know someone who was stone deaf.”

    I knew someone who always responded this with:

    “Oh, I used to know someone who was hearing.”

  4. Tomato Lichy

    My repli:

    “And how long have you been hearing?”

    “Oh, I’m so sorry you’re sound sensitive. It must be simply dreadful, having to listen to all these car noises and *horrid* noises. I tried being hearing for a day with some new hearing aids. It was just *unbearable*. I’m sooo sorry for you.”

    Then I put a hand on their arm and look sorrowfully into their eyes. It helps if you imagine a lost puppy dog while doing so. This tactic is surprisingly effective.

  5. sam

    Ignorant hearing person (IHP): “But you’re certified, right?”

    Me Sign Lang Interp (SLI) “No. I’m not certified. I’m a staff interpreter for the college.”

    IHP: “You’re not certified?!!!!? Are are are are you a REAL interpreter?”

    Me SLI: “Yes. I’m a staff interpeter at the college”

    IHP: “Can you prove it? How can you prove it?”

    Me SLI: “I can show you my college degrees.”

  6. evelynhunter

    My older sister is deaf and I wish I had a nickel for everytime a person asks me if my sister is DEATH. Oh god……I hope not…..

    1. Lee

      Oh this one was my biggest issue that I had just being CODA! In my day we were the only SLI. Even at 5 years old, this one would get the hearing person an ear full, humiliated, and told off. My 2nd peeve was calling my parents deaf and dumb. At 5 years old I backed up the sales woman 20 feet to a wall while I professionally told them off in front of the whole store. Telling them,that the only dumb person I see in this store is you! No one came to her rescue her from the 5 year old. LOL

  7. Tevis Thompson

    I am a medical interpreter at a large hospital…….A nurse asked me if I was the Death Interpreter…I replied “why do you ask? Was there a DOA that the grieving family needed to communicate with?”

  8. Sjana Chana

    I’m a educational interpreter in a k-12 setting. This is one I’ve heard MANY times from one of the ‘hearing’ kids: “what?! you can hear and talk…whoa I didn’t know that”

    1. deaffirefly Post author

      Wow! You can talk! It’s a miracle 🙂 Just goes to show, we need to start awareness a lot earlier. Dear, oh dear. 🙂

    1. deaffirefly Post author

      They can be, but usually it’s not intentional. I just hope to be able to educate and hope the blog helps to educate. Education is the only way we’re gonna get anywhere but I do wonder if sometimes we need to give remedial classes hehe. Sorry, I didn’t mean to depress you!

  9. 10YearTerp

    Oh these are marvelous! I have been a “professional hand waver” for 10 years now, and I’ve heard these and more! I have never been called an ‘interruptor’ but I HAVE been called ‘the interpretator’ (this makes me think of Mr. Potato Head). Some of the other gems I’ve heard:

    “I’ve always wanted to learn Sign Language…” then why didn’t you?

    “I used to know the alphabet…” Apparently everyone did at some point.

    “Does this mean anything? (flapping hands around in the air)” No,

    “I know Sign Language!” (laughs and gives me the finger) Hilarious.

    “You did a great job!” (always from a hearing person that knows no Sign Language). Uh, thanks. But how do you KNOW?

    “What’s the sign for (insert dirty word here)?” I’m not telling you, and if it comes up in this conversation, I’m fingerspelling it.

    “Say something in Sign Language!” This always makes me think of what a professional comedian must feel when people tell them to ‘say something funny.’

    “Can they (the Deaf person) read? Write? Read lips?” I don’t know, ask them.

    There are so many more. It is usually assumed the interpreter knows or is related to the Deaf person, Sign Language is universal, and is just a really cool hobby for me and not my full time career. I think they are just envious because I have the best job in the world and they don’t! 🙂

    1. deaffirefly Post author

      These are brilliant, I’ve had the “I know sign language” one as well, maybe I should add that to ‘shit hearing people say’ as well! I’m glad you think you have best job in the world after all the crap you put up with lol 🙂 Thanks for the additions!

  10. H-Wo

    “so, are you deaf too?”
    (asked by the hearing client after an good 4 hours of interpreting)

    “why does he need an interpreter for this written test, can’t he read?”
    (I’ll just give myself the afternoon off then)

    “am ….. I ….. talking …. too …. fast …. for …. you … ?”

    “can you lip read?” / “can you read braille”

    “no?! really?! you’re kidding! you can actually do a degree in this?!”
    (no, I just woke up one day and found I could interpret, saved me a load of money not going to uni that did!)

    “you must be great at charades!!”
    (actually, learning sign turned me into a charade cheat!)

    and so on and so on!

  11. Karen

    “How can they (deaf) drive”??? “how do they hear the sirens”??? “Wow, it is so nice of you to come and do this” “Tell Her/Him……” UGH It is so sad how uneducated our society is in regards to deafness…..

    1. deaffirefly Post author

      Blue flashy lights! But, in all seriousness, yes it’s depressing sometimes, but I find it helps to attack ignorance with humour… or in some cases just attack it 🙂

  12. Rachel Moffatt - Feldman

    Just today I had “why are there two translators? Is it coz she gets bored of one of you and needs to stay awake?”
    …um let’s see…”you try listening, understanding, translating and producing everything the lecturer is saying, all at the same time for 4 hours.”
    Blank look from stupid hearing person…who is training to be a teacher!

  13. Pingback: Shit hearing people say – my top ten! | DeafFirefly's Blog

  14. stageandsign

    The other day I got asked…

    “So what made you want to become a sign language teacher?”

    This was from a woman who when I said
    “Hi, I’ll be the SLI in your class today”
    responded with…
    “I’m fine thank you, how are you?”


  15. Debbie

    ‘do you follow him around allday?” (not since last time i was arrested for stalking…jk)

    you must learn alot about ___ (insert name of university course). You should get credit for it too…

    1. Kim

      I have had the instructors at a vocational school tell me I should get the certificates in every class I terped for. Umm thanks but I don’t think I need a small engine, welding or plumbing cert.

  16. bitcodavid

    From the other side of the glass, so to speak – Hearies, including myself – are often as “deaf” as the Deaf. Here’s an example of what I mean. I was on the subway at one point, when the driver announced over the PA system that the train needed to be replaced. I don’t know, maybe the chipmunk died. Anyway, he made – not one, but several – high volume announcements that the train would be going out of service at the next stop. Sure enough, when it arrived at that stop – all the passengers looked at each other and said, “Hey! What’s going on here? Isn’t this the North Station train?”

    I call it the deafness of arrogance. I don’t have to “listen” to you, because you’re beneath me.

    To me, the saddest thing about all the above comments is that – disregarding the ones that flip you off, or cuss at you – most of these are feeble attempts at friendship. Yes, it’s stupid when a Hearie says, “I knew someone who was Deaf,” but sadly – it’s an attempt at showing commonality. It’s kind of like that old saw, “some of my best friends are Black.”

    1. deaffirefly Post author

      That’s an interesting point re deafness of arrogance, I hadn’t thought of it like that. Might explain why sometimes, when things go wrong with trains and I miss announcements, hearing people arround me seem clueless as to what’s happening as well…

      Re the comments, they are all merely my thoughts, I’m very aware that 99% of the time, no offence is meant, and I do usually try to be patient and answer the question / comment halfway sensibly. But at the same time, having these things said to one on a regular basis is tiresome to say the least – being questioned on my ability to drive, read, or congratulated on my bravery for performing simple everyday tasks is depressing. This blog lets me vent some of my inner frustration, hopefully to the amusement and edification of others – I hope hearing people will read this and make a mental note to try not to say these things to deaf people they meet, and thus such meetings will go smoother. I’m fully in favour of deaf / hearing cultural exchange!

  17. Pingback: Donna Williams: S*** hearing people say « The Limping Chicken

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  19. Emily McC

    I don’t have anything new to add to this list, but I have had people ask me “how do deaf people learn to read or write if they can’t hear the word they’re learning?” I always say, “they’re deaf, not stupid like you.” and what I absolutely hate is when my friend (who is deaf, but has a cochlear implant) go out, and other people use me as an interpreter and pay no attention to him at all. the ignorance!

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  21. Marie Dimond

    Naive teen: “Are you with him 24/7?”

    Me: “No when work finishes he goes home to his wife and kids.”

    jeez give me a break!

    1. deaffirefly Post author

      Lol, imagine the fees you could charge for 24/7… you could pay for a round the world trip 🙂

  22. V-ca

    I once pulled into a gas station where I saw a Deaf couple trying to converse with a hearing person about directions around town while looking at a map. I walked up and signed (in ASL) “where are you trying to go”. Not because I knew Sign Language, but because I know the area well (Deaf people are perfectly capable of helping themselves, I know 🙂

    The man struggling to communicate almost screamed “oh my God, you speak HAND!!!! Thank goodness!!!”

    It still cracks me up to this day 🙂

  23. Jules Berner

    Numerous occasions, I’ve been interpreting at a doctor’s office.
    While the Deaf patient is in the bathroom giving a urine sample, the nurse turns to me and asks, “So, what do you do for work?”
    Me: “you’re looking at it”
    Nurse: (puzzled) “oh, you get paid?”

    And also at the doctor’s office:
    Nurse: “so, how long have you known (insert name of Deaf person)?”
    Me: (looking down at watch) “about 7 and 1/2 minutes.”
    Nurse: (puzzled) “oh, well who drove them (deaf person) here then?”

    In a business office that I interpreted at on a weekly basis:
    co-worker of deaf consumer: “Hey can you tell (insert name of Deaf person) that “The Girl” is here. (I think I was 34 when that happened).

    fun blog!!

    1. sojoterp

      These are some of my favorites.

      At a hospital: “Are you his daughter?”

      On a date with a Deaf man: “What does he want to drink?” (Answer- I don’t know! It’s our first date.)

      “Did you drive them here?”

      “Are you going to go to the pharmacy with them?”

      “Wow. That looks so easy/fun/interesting.”

      “Your face is so expressive!!!” (That’s called ASL grammar. It’s not me. Well, not JUST me.)

      “I can’t help but watch you…” (I know…. voyeur.)

      AAAANNND, my favorite- asking me anything personal about the Deaf person. No. I don’t know them. And even if I did, whether they were born Deaf, can read lips, or can hear a little is not my story to tell.

  24. Erin

    I have only been interpreting for three years so far, but have heard all of these and more! My husband of six years is Deaf and his own mother still doesn’t understand what I do! She still thinks I teach sign language at the college no matter how many times I tell her I’m an interpreter, not a teacher!

  25. Meryl Troop

    You’re that hand talk lady!
    Oh, you are doing the Lord’s work!
    Sign Language is so beautiful – yeah, except when you’re interpreting for a detoxing alcoholic at the hospital in the middle of the night, or a deaf-on-deaf divorce – not so beautiful then.

  26. Kevin

    Just thus morning I got, “so can you guys, like, read lips and stuff?”

    My instant reply, ” Can you? ”

    Looks up to the ceiling.

    “Oh, I get it. “

  27. Kim

    When I was a VRS interpreter I had many hearing people ask me “Can the Deaf person see me? ” … not unless you have a camera attached to your phone and it randomly connected to them then no they CAN’T see you.

  28. Linda Stauffer

    One of my favorite stupid questions. “So, how dis he/she become deaf?” How am I supposed to know and what does it matter?

  29. em11385

    Yes to all of the above!

    I have also had a hearing person respond to my introduction (as the sign language interpreter) with, “But I don’t know sign language!” ….I know, dear. That’s why I’m here.

  30. Doug

    I’ve had one repeated more than just a few times.. “Wow, you’re an interpreter! You must have a lot of patience!”. Patience for what??? I never understood this comment.

  31. Kathleen Wollbrinck

    I’ve been working at a school for the deaf for a little more than 13 yrs. I recently went to my 30th high school reunion, and when asked what I do now for work I reply. I teach at a school for the deaf. Of course the instant reply for these college graduates, some with masters and a few with PHDs is, “huh?” And then they ask, how do they understand what your saying? Or so you teach them sign language?
    My first thought is WTF! Then I’ll reply. “Really?” I communicate to our students with sign language. But I teach reading, writing, math, history all the subjects kids in school are suppose to learn. Then I get a confused response like, “so “They” learn all the same thing as my kids? And I say, “My students are deaf, NOT STUPID!” And then these college educated people will ask, how did you learn to sign? And after answering I went to school to learn how to sign!?! I just had to excuse myself and leave.
    As my Uncle Butch would say, ” You can’t fix STUPID!

  32. Helen Young

    The best one after 30 yrs was on a cruise ship, While interpreting a lady came up and ask me. ” do all these people live in the same home”
    I then told her that all these deaf people were retired from careers as teachers, newspaper workers, and other responsible jobs. She was shocked.

  33. Cindy West

    “It’s so nice of you to come here and sign for him/her.” Ummm This is a real job and I get paid to interpret. I’m not their family member and I’m not a volunteer (most of the time).

  34. Cindy West

    Just recently a hearing student came up to me, all excited, and said; “Oh you’re that sign language interpreter. That’s so cool, what you do.” I felt like a rock star and Yes, it is cool what I do. ;-D

  35. Amber Marince

    Fantastic! Thank you for putting this together!

    I also get “Oh, so you ‘speak’ Sign Language?” ???


    “Is Sign Language universal?” and when I say “no” they say, “that’s too bad, they should make it that way.” To which I usually have to ask if they could imagine one group forcing their spoken language on the rest of the world?

    and lastly

    “So does the Deaf person pay for your interpreting or does the college/hospital/business/etc?”

    The “don’t interpret that” is the one I get most often that bothers me. I also work often with real-time captioners and they get it much more often than I do. Something really scares hearing people about having their words in writing, even if it’s not public information.

  36. rivrav

    not a single comment about shit deaf people say to interpreters?
    the worst of which is calling us “terps.”
    but my favorite was from a deaf client who picked her/his nose and intermittently napped through our allday interpreting work and upon waking demanded that i drink coffee so *i* could stay awake to work!

    1. Cory

      How on EARTH is being called a “terp” offensive to you? “Terp” is the spoken ASL version of “interpreter.” That’s like saying you’re offended if a Deaf person says “fish” instead of “finish.”

      I’m not sure you’re very knowledgeable of Deaf culture OR of ASL.


  37. Cory

    My fave thing hearing people ask is “oh, so you’re fluent then?” I always just say “yep,” but WANT to say “no, no, I just sit up there and flap my arms around and hope nobody notices.” WHICH SADLY HAPPENED WHEN THAT GUY RUINED NELSON MANDELA’S FUNERAL!

  38. Lorraine Leeson

    My dentist once asked “what do you do?”. I told him – “I am an interpreter”. “Oh”, he said. “What languages”? “Irish Sign Language and English”, I said. “Oh. I thought you were a REAL interpreter”….. He is no longer my dentist.

  39. AnneMarie

    What rivrav?? We interpreters call ourselves and each other terps all the time!
    One of my recent favs was (while interpreting but a quiet moment in the job) an IHP leans over and says to me “So, how much to translators get paid, anyway?”
    and then, of course, when I explain that I also interpret (ASL) in French classrooms (because I am also fluent in French) and mention that I use LSF in this setting I get that stupefied reaction of “WHAT? SIGN LANGUAGE ISN’T UNIVERSAL??” Um, is spoken language universal? Why not???!!!

  40. Liz

    I’ve gotten a lot of the “are you the Deaf person’s sister/mother/friend/helper etc”

    and at church I’ve heard WAY too many people tell me “there’s a special place in heaven for you!”

    I haven’t been able to come up with any good sassy replies yet, if anyone wants to make some suggestions 🙂

  41. Kara Harkins

    While I am not a terp I have had a relatable experience. There was something that a bunch of nonprofits were at at Gallaudet (tabling to publicize what we do). Due to a scheduling mixup the interpreter for our table did not show. The first student showed up and I signed to them.

    “Great! You can be the interpreter for our table!” from the person next to me.

    I had just signed something like “sorry, I am bad at signing, can you please repeat that again slowly”.

  42. Nay

    Relative ” my work is doing special work with nonprofits. I told them about you doing work in the social work area.”

    Job counselor in 2013 when I was in school, ” you should consider doing volunteer or intern work at the local Social Services office. That could help further your career options in the area of social work.”

    O.o when did I become a social worker?

  43. DontCareIfYou KnowMe

    I’ve had the experience where the Hearing person starts talking so my interpreter hands start a moving and the Hearing person looks to me (the interpreter) and says “Why do you keep interrupting? I’m trying to talk to them!”

  44. Kim Ferenc


    I’m an interpreter from New Jersey I’ve actually had someone say to me “Oh you’re the finger flinger aren’t you?” I was so furious but politely said excuse me when the person repeated it. I said I’m the Sign Language interpreter.

  45. Shannon

    I work in a school. One of the teachers asked me if I ever thought about going back to school and getting my license to be a real teacher. I wanted to say,”Um, I probably make more than you….”

  46. Becky

    I was in surgery once with a deaf person. The nurse looked at me and said…”Oh how sweet. Do you live with him?” I said, “No, his wife does”.

  47. John doe

    Working in a high school…I generally mind my own business and am quiet.

    Every year/semester in a new class when I finally speak (usually telling a kid to stop being annoying) there is always a few that gasp and ask “You can talk?!?!”

  48. Diana

    At an assignment, an older doctor asked ME (the SLI), “So she’s deaf and dumb?” -___-

    The Deaf client politely replied, “I’m just Deaf.”

  49. Laura

    “Are you sure they give drivers licenses to deaf people?? I mean how would they hear emergency vehicles behind them?”

    Interpreting a driving test

  50. Juliette Hans

    as a Deaf person, I still am surprised when hearing say certain things…for example: my hearing teacher, 3 months into the semester at college, after I made a comment in class, said “ that the interpreter saying that, or the deaf student?” To which I replied “its me saying it. any time the interpreter talks, its me saying it” and he said “oh I just thought the interpreter was really smart”…oh my word! He had no idea I was participating all semester?? Thats just great!

  51. Carleen Collins

    ”Are you the Interpreter for the DEATH person?!!”

    ”Um…no…sounds like the help they need is beyond my skill set!”

  52. Kathy

    I am a 5’3 white blonde woman. My client was a 6’2 African American kid with an afro. My question was….”Is he your son?”. My response (since we were only 10 years apart in age) “Nope. He’s my brother.” Then walk away.

  53. Eleanor

    Once when negotiating with the hearing presenter about where the interpreters should stand before a job I had an interesting one. The Co-terp and I showed her where we wanted to stand, facing the audience, but the presenter was like “That’s not going to work, you will need to face the stage so you can see my lips…” In her defence she realised her mistake almost straight away.

  54. grunyon

    Not an interpreter yet but my fav so far was when someone asked me what I was going to school for and when i told the ASL/English Interpreting they said “Isn’t that a dying field? You know with all the medical technology that’s curing deafness.” Right.

  55. Kenneth Bornert

    My wife and I were sitting eating lunch at the mall food court. A very colorful woman approached our table wearing much too much make up, and breaking every conceivable law against spandex. She said, I noticed you signing..(duh, is how we talk)..and I had a strange question.(She should have said rude personal question) How do you have sex?
    Without missing a beat, my wife said that when we’re in the mood, we call the interpreting agency to hire a interpreter for us. That way we can”hear” the oohs andahs, n yes! Yes! Yes!
    Her eyes were huge, shook her head and walked away. I can only imagine the story she told her friends or family…lol

  56. Carrie

    Carrie: “Hi, I am the interpreter, I am working for the Deaf client.”
    Reply from the teacher: “Oh … I don’t believe in mediums and people who speak to the Dead….” (WTF??)
    Carrie: Deaf! I said Deaf not Death or Dead people…. (insert huge eye-roll)

    Carrie: “Hello I am the sign language interpreter who will be interpreting for a Deaf attendee….
    Workshop Presenter: “Oh….. but where is the Deaf person? Didn’t you drive them here?
    Carrie: “uhh no, actually I have no idea what type of transportation the Deaf client will be utilizing to get here……..
    Workshop Presenter: “Well someone has to drive them here, they can’t drive a car!”
    Carrie: (sarcastically)…”maybe they will be flying in on their spaceship.”

    Carrie: “Hi, I’ll be the interpreter for todays lecture.”
    Instructor: (speaking loudly and slowly)….”OK the student sits here..” (points to desk) “You can go ahead and take a seat in the back.” (uhhh duh…. I need to sit in front of the Deaf student, not behind!!!)

    The one phrase that kills me overtime:….”Oh Sign Language… I love Sign Language it’s such a beautiful language….GOD BLESS YOU!”
    (insert finger down throat- Blehhh!)

    Idiot College Professor: “Today class I would like to introduce our SIGNER she will be HELPING our HEARING IMPAIRED student his name is JOHN DOE….How much can he hear?” (OY VEY! Seriously people)

    I have many more…. I will add some later.. these are just a few…

  57. Amber

    I was working as an educational interpreter when the campus officer called me into the office and tried to arrest me for throwing gang signs across the quad. I was actually signing to a student.

  58. christinacfelix

    I have been called a translator, an operator, a communication assistant and “their little friend” (speaking of the Deaf client). I have been asked: if I drive clients around, if I follow them around all day, how in the world they must have gotten to the appt, how deaf people could possibly drive. I have had people cover their mouths with their hands and ask me not to interpret what they are saying. I have been asked if I can read lips. People assume I’m patient and kind (certainly not for idiots like them). People ask if my children are “normal” since my husband is Deaf. I’ve been asked how deaf people hear their babies cry, wake up, go to sleep, hold down jobs, do…anything (did I mention drive?). I was asked if my Deaf husband and I finger spell moaning while having sex (OH YES THATS THE SPOT)…did I mention people are IDIOTS!!!? The funniest part is that my husband’s non-signing family actually don’t even know what I do as an interpreter. One worked at the same company where I was the staff interpret for Deaf manager and actually asked my brother-in-law what I actually do all day. I really should start charging their dumbasses for all the free and constant interpretation I give them! And did I mention…INTERPRETERS ROCK and a good number hearing people are IDIOTS!!

  59. Patty

    “Oh, you SPEAK sign language? ”

    “Can they (Deaf person) drive, or did you pick them up?”

    “Is there a lot of work doing what you do?”

    Personal favorite, newspaper article about my grandfather (1920s) “Using finger – twitches he explained what he saw”

  60. Melody cook

    You work with death people??? Umm no I’m a sign language INTERPRETER not a mortician…
    What is up with that?

  61. Michelle

    “You are doing it wrong. I took a sign language class and this is the sign for ___insert.directional verb here moving toward self___”
    Great, thanks for the tip. You do know I’m actually certified, right?

  62. David

    I have hearing people come up and tell me I did such a good job interpreting and I ask, “Oh, so you know sign language?” Of course they look at me surprised and say, “Well no, but you looked really good doing it!” ROCK STAR!

    I also frequently get asked if the student I am interpreting for in the K-12 setting is my son or daughter. lol

  63. JesiAnne

    I had a doctor continually ask the deaf patient why I was there. Like, seriously? Could you be communicating with her if I wasn’t there? I don’t think so.
    Is she your daughter?
    Why do you have an interpreter today?
    Can you speak?
    Do you have throat problems?

  64. Lacy

    ” They don’t look deaf to me”
    me: what does deaf look like to you?

    ” so their deaf and dumb?”
    Me: No! This person is deaf and attending collage.

  65. Jeansly

    This blog is great! Here are the ones I can think of (and hopefully I won’t duplicate too much).

    Hearing Person (HP): What do you do for a living?
    Me: Im a SLI
    HP: Oh….so you teach
    Me:…No, I interpret. (Explains)
    HP: Right…so you teach

    HP: Ok, I’ll just give you (Deaf Persons) *extremely personal* paperwork & you can…
    Me: *throws hands up, acts like paper is lava* Please, just give it to THEM, thank you

    HP: Wow, how do you know all our terminology? And our acronyms?
    Me: I don’t. But (Deaf Person) does. It was them talking, after all. *looks at HP meaningfully*

    And like the others, Ive gotten the “are you (Deaf Person’s) daughter?”, “can they read?”, “you’re SO expressive”, “i just think what you do is fascinating”, “I always wanted to learn sign”, etc etc.

    You’re right, for the most part Hearing folks don’t intend to be ridiculous. Sometimes, though, you just want to shake them.

  66. Teresa Blankmeyer Burke

    Great post, Donna! I especially love the hamster rescue comment! But really, we deafies are brave because we wade into the muck that is ableism and audism and push back against it. Every. Damned. Day.


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