Friday, June 19, 2009

Simultaneous Translation

Sorry I haven't been blogging much lately, I've been giving many talks on plagiarism. Today's talk on plagiarism was for a real crowd. About 200 had been my largest crowd to date, but today I had about 260 listeners! There was no protesting that I don't need a microphone - without it, I would not have been to be heard. Luckily, I had a suit jacket on with pockets, so I had a place to park the microphone unit.

And I had, for the first time, simultaneous translation of my talk - into sign language! I was speaking to all of the new teachers in Hamburg, who have to attend mandatory training (which probably explains their faces,
they were arranged in a I-don't-really-want-to-be-here scowl). Hamburg has a school for the deaf, and they have a new teacher who is deaf herself. Since the University of Hamburg has a program in sign language, there were
two eager signers who spelled each other every 15 minutes, so that the deaf teacher could follow what I was saying.

I am used to owning the stage - I park my laptop, whip out my remote control, and pace about as necessary, gesturing a lot as I go. But there was always a woman next to me, and I couldn't see the eighth of the crowd
that was blocked out by the signer.

I eventually retreated to the lecturn, but it wasn't really that good. One of the signers then realized the situation, and took a step backwards when she took her position center stage. Now I could see everyone.

I do think that it would have been better for the deaf teacher and the signers to position themselves off to one side of the room, instead of taking center stage. But it seemed to work, and I spoke with the signers afterwards how
they signed the word plagiarism.

They held up their right hand, fingers streched and thumb at the side: this is writing. With the left hand they "pulled" a copy off the page, do it is writing-copying. Okay, I asked was it not perhaps writing-stealing? They signed the question to the deaf teacher, she replied very insistently, that writing-stealing was a much better sign, it was similar to the copying motion, but was very clearly a "taking" motion.

So now I know the word plagiarism in one more language!

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