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An old country preacher described his preaching: “Fust I tells ’em what I’s gonna tell ’em. Then I tells ’em. Then I tells ’em what I tol’ ’em.” Interpreters can learn a lot from that wise method. Always sign the point, not just the words!

The time, location, and topic often appear toward the END of English sentences. ASL requires this information at the BEGINNING , for the meaning to be clear. Interpreters must wait to understand before they can interpret. For example… English: “Please sit in the front seat of the CHURCH WHEN YOU ARRIVE.” ASL: “You arrive church. Front sit.” The sentence, “We ate at a restaurant AFTER the Sunday morning service,” signed in English word order, could actually mean in ASL, “First we will eat at a restaurant. Afterward, we will go to the Sunday morning service” — the opposite of what is meant!

Sentences, sub-points, and the message itself all have topics. Interpreters may need to listen to several sentences until the meaning of the topic becomes clear. For this reason, interpreters are very thankful when the speaker shares his main points ahead of time.

When the main topic is clear, the interpreter can understand everything in the right context. Many years ago I learned this lesson when I asked a pastor, “What are you preaching about tomorrow?” He began to try to recall all of the message he had prepared. I stopped him and said, “What is your main point?” He replied, “That’s easy,” and told me in a few words.

Interpreting his message was easy, as everything he said helped make his main point clear!
Interpreter, always try to clearly sign the speaker’s main point or message. Words, sentences, paragraphs, and even the interpreter are only tools to help listeners and viewers understand the main point. As in life, “Always keep the main thing the MAIN THING!”

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