CART CORNER: CART captioning en français

 

By Jean Whalen

« Le fou se rue là où le sage n’ose mettre le pied » . . .

(“Fools rush in where angels fear to tread . . .”)

In January 2014, I accepted a gig at a local university, providing CART captioning for a student in a French immersion class. When the disability services coordinator and I first communicated about the possibility of my covering this class, our conversation went something like this (or at least this is how I remember it):

Me: “Well, I might be interested in providing CART for the Fren-” –

Her: “That’s great! Thanks so much! We’ll be in touch shortly with all the details.”

Gloup. (Gulp.) What just happened? And why am I left with the distinct impression that I was the only CART captioner who expressed an interest in covering this class?

First of all, you must understand that I had no background in French. So to say this was a bit of a challenge would be an understatement. I was exposed to the French language when I worked for the United Nations at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, but just being semi-aware that French was being spoken in the same courtroom in which I was working was as close as I had come to French at that time, aside from saying “Bonjour” to the French court reporters as we passed each other in the hallway.

Little did I know then that my voyage français would last for four semesters! It was a wild ride. It was by far the hardest work-related assignment I’ve ever undertaken, but I don’t regret it for a second.

Here are some of the challenges in providing CART dans une classe étrangère (in a foreign-language class):

  1. There is a language barrier! (Rire.) (Laughter.) If you ever are “courageous” (a.k.a. naïf) (a.k.a. naïve) enough to take on an assignment like this, be prepared to shift your obsessive-compulsive disorder into overdrive! The reason your OCD will be an asset rather than a liability is because when you’re not in class, you’ll be either: a) studying the foreign language in print format; b) listening to the oral language and trying to “get your ear on”; c) trying to think in the new language; or d) creating entries in your steno dictionary, imagining how that word will sound when somebody who actually speaks the language couramment (fluently) enunciates the word — and chances are, it won’t be pronounced the way you’ve been pronouncing it dans votre tête (in your head). I can’t speak for other languages, but the French oral and written languages are two different types of animal. And the way a French word is pronounced is dependent on the words that come before and after it in any given sentence, so its pronunciation changes like a caméléon.
  2. Accent marks are not a luxury in foreign-language classes, they’re a necessity. In English transcripts, no one really puts up a fuss if you leave off the accent mark in words like café or résumé. But in French, if you don’t use the accent mark correctly, it’s just plain wrong. One *must* distinguish, for example, between e and é and è and figure out a way to finger-spell them differently.
  3. I figured out how to use the U.S. International keyboard on my computer and would activate it when I was providing French CART. Most of the letters are the same, so it really wasn’t that difficult to adjust to.
  4. Homophones! If you’re providing French CART, you had better get used to them, because French is full of them. Just as one example, the words parler, parlé, parlais, parlait, and parlaient are all pronounced the same way (PAR-LAY), but one must know which mot (word) is correct for the particular context. And it’s like that for almost every verb you can think of en français. Luckily, Eclipse software, which I use, has a French version. I was able to import the French Eclipse settings into my English version of Eclipse and use the software in a franglais (think Spanglish) sort of way so that some of the verbs and adjectives would auto-conjugate for me.
  5. Reference materials! My BFFs during these classes were:
    1. an electronic French-English dictionary, complete with audio pronunciations and conjugations.
    2. Google Translate – even though Google Translate sometimes gives an “icky” translation that I know is not quite right, it at least gave me a springboard from which to start researching a word or phrase.
    3. an app called Speak & Translate – it can be a real time and finger saver if you have an approximate idea of what you’re looking for. It uses voice recognition and often saves having to physically type in the word or phrase. However, my French accent was not yet good enough for the software to understand my spoken French and translate it into English; it only understood my English and translated it into French (although my accent seems to be getting a little better!). One time, the French teacher was talking about breakfast foods and said what distinctly sounded like “NUTE-eh-yah.” I became obsessed, when preparing the transcript after class, with figuring out what that word was. I repeated it, with the best French accent I could muster, over and over and over into the Speak & Translate app: “NUTE-eh-yah! NUTE-eh-yah! NUUUUTE-EHHHH-YAHHH!!!” I burst into laughter when the software finally understood me and spit back the answer: Nutella! Miam! (Yum!)

Speaking of transcripts, I was required to prepare and email a transcript to the student within two days after each class. This is where the rubber met the rue. Although the transcripts didn’t have to be verbatim, I did my best to give the student a very useable, correct transcript. If I had a question, I would email the instructor. I really tried to restrict the number of emails I sent to the instructors, though, respecting how busy they all were and the limited amount of time I had within which to complete the transcripts.

The different instructors I worked with over the course of the two years would switch back and forth between English and French at the drop of a chapeau, so, with the help of Jeremy Thorne, chief programmer at Advantage Software (Advantage is the parent company of Eclipse), we were able to come up with a one-stroke steno macro that would allow me to flip my French dictionary off and on. This helped tremendously. It also made me realize how far I’d come when I’d glance over at my screen from time to time and realize, Mon Dieu! J’ai oublié (I forgot) to hit my macro! C’est chaos! I am so glad the student I worked with was patient with me and had a sens de l’humour! I would hear her chuckling softly to herself.

Also, at times the instructors would challenge the students by speaking above their heads, which of course was also above my tête. When that happened, I would once again rely upon the student’s sense of humor. (Are we detecting a pattern here?)

Some of my best bloopers during this French odyssey were: phlegmish (Flemish) (I loved that one and still do), and that perennial French classic, The Petite Principal. (Yes, he was a very small principal indeed).

There were times during class when I would literally just be writing sounds I’d hear when the instructor was speaking French (I always wrote what I heard, even if I knew it was coming up as gobbledygook), and I would look at my screen and realize the words were miraculously coming up correctly because I had already programmed them in during a prior class. That was fun.

Numbers were also kind of a riot. Because Eclipse has automatic number conversion, and because I had imported the French settings into my software, when the teacher would say in English, for example, “Turn to page one hundred twenty-seven,” and I would steno “127” on the number bar, it would translate as “un cent vingt-sept,” which is French for 127. I’d think, Oh, so that’s how you spell out 127 in French. So, yes, there were more times than I care to admit when the software was smarter than me.

As a result of providing CART for this class, I am now on my way to becoming a francophone – I still have a long way to go, because it takes about eight years to become fluent in a language. But for two years, instead of paying to take French classes, I got paid to take French classes! And that was fantastique! I have to confess, I placed a giant carotte (carrot) in front of my eyes, and just out of my grasp, to help coax me along when the going got tough (which was often): I booked a two-week trip to France a year ahead of time, complete with a home stay in Nice that included a week of tutoring. And since learning French had already been on my semi-serious bucket list of “things to do when I retire someday” anyway, I am ahead of the game. I continue to study French, and I’m currently participating in a French book club. Ironically, we just finished reading Le Petit Prince. And a principal of small stature wasn’t mentioned in this book, not even once. How very disappointing.

If you ever have the opportunity to caption in a foreign language, I would definitely suggest giving it a whirl, as long as it’s a beginning level class and the people you’re working with understand that it’s not a perfect process. You will need to make a serious commitment, both to yourself and to the student, to stick with it, because you’ll be developing a very unique skill set. There won’t be another CART captioner who will be able to pinch-write for you if you’re sick or want to take some time off. One must plan one’s life around the class schedule.

If you have the desire to learn a new language and are willing to spend the time it takes, give it a try, and bonne chance (good luck)!

Jean Whalen, RDR, CRR, CRC, is a CART captioner based in Apple Valley, Minn. She can be reached at jean.m.whalen@gmail.com.

The JCR Awards recognize innovative business strategies and more

The JCR Awards offer the perfect way to showcase innovative and successful business strategies from the past year. For the third year, the JCR staff is seeking stories that bring to life new and inventive ways that NCRA members change the way they do business, serve their communities, and help promote the professions of court reporting and captioning.

Nominations are currently being sought for several subcategories, such as best-in-class stories for: Marketing and customer service; Leadership, teambuilding, and mentoring; Use of technology; Community outreach; Service in a nonlegal setting; and Court Reporting & Captioning Week (2017) initiative. In addition, NCRA is looking for a group and an individual who show excellence in more than one category for an overall “Best of the Year” award.

Any current NCRA member in good standing, with the exception of students, may be nominated for these awards. Court reporters, captioners, videographers, scopists, teachers and school administrators, and court reporting managers are all eligible for nomination as well as groups, such as firms, courthouses, or court reporting programs. Self-nominations are accepted. More information about specific criteria for each of the categories is available on the JCR Awards Entry Form.

To enter, submit a written entry to the JCR between 300 and 1,000 words explaining the strategies implemented and why they were successful. Ancillary materials, such as photos, may also be submitted with the nomination. Nominations will be considered based on the best fact-based story. Please be prepared to offer documentation, verifiable sources, or other assistance as needed to be considered for these awards. The stories of the finalists will be published as featured articles in the March 2018 issue of the JCR.

Nominations are due by Oct. 31.

Read about the winners from 2017 and 2016.

Perpetual student: The joys of CART captioning in higher ed

Two women stand side by side, one in a graduation cap and gown

Ellen Heckle, on left, with her newly graduated student

Ellen L. Heckle, RPR, CRR, CRC, of Archer City, Texas, recently reached a milestone in her career: “After years of working with hard-of-hearing students, I experienced the culmination of seeing a hard-of-hearing student through her higher-education learning to receiving her double majors including a Bachelor of Science in dental hygiene and a Bachelor of Arts in sociology,” she said. She says that she is very excited for the graduate, who plans to obtain a Master of Education degree.

Heckle, who has been a court reporter for 28 years, has worked seven years as a CART captioner for higher-learning institutions. In that time, she has worked with seven students over three locations: South Plains College, Levelland, Texas; Vernon College, Vernon, Texas; and Midwestern State University, Wichita Falls, Texas. “As an added benefit, I work with some amazing people, both peers and mentors, who keep me motivated and constantly wanting to learn and hone my skills.”

Ellen Heckle's CART captioning setup for a nursing class

Ellen Heckle’s CART captioning setup for a nursing class

As much as she loves providing CART captioning, the job has its challenges. She is currently captioning for a nursing student, and one of the classes is pharmacology. “One challenge has been, of course, the technical terminology,” Heckle says. “Students are required to be familiar with the longer generic designations for drug names rather than the more common trademark or brand names. Though it has taken much homework on my part in prep time, I resolved this issue by defining drug prefixes and suffixes and spending many, many hours inputting drug names.”

Heckle emphasizes the perks of CART captioning at the college level. “It is just fun to be with the students and to be in the college setting for the second time around,” Heckle says. “I don’t remember it being this much fun when I attended college.” Heckle earned a Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration in 1985. “It is rewarding to be on a student’s journey for a future goal. Really nothing compares to helping someone reach their dreams,” she says.

“There is no substitute for how rewarding it is to caption for the hard-of-hearing students in higher education. I wish more court reporters would take the challenge to become realtime ready for the future of our profession,” Heckle says. “I believe it is the solution to the longevity and future of our profession.”

The art of it: Providing mobile CART at the Art Institute of Chicago

Cathy Rajcan, RDR, CRR, CRC, understands the importance of access in all situations. One of her regular assignments is providing CART for lectures at the Art Institute of Chicago.

The Art Institute recently offered a tour to a group interested in accessibility and asked Rajcan to provide CART for the group. Since tours do not stay still, neither could Rajcan. The JCR talked to Rajcan about how she handled this mobile CART assignment.

How did you get the assignment to CART an art museum tour? How often have you done an assignment like this?

I have been providing CART for lectures at the Art Institute of Chicago for a few years. The lectures are offered to members and the general public. This was the first time I have provided mobile CART at the Art Institute, and it was a lot of fun. The event was organized in conjunction with the Chicago Cultural Accessibility Consortium, a nonprofit volunteer organization that has been facilitating various cultural venues in Chicago to create welcoming environments for people with disabilities. This particular event was focused on making visual art more accessible to people who are blind or have low vision, and participants were learning how to audio-describe the artwork they were observing. The Art Institute has WiFi throughout the building, which is very helpful in making communication access available to large groups.

Does the Art Institute offer CART regularly for tours and other events, or was this organized separately?

The Art Institute of Chicago has been providing ASL-interpreted tours for a couple years, and I have been discussing with their education department making the mobile CART available for the tours specifically for people who have hearing loss but do not use ASL. CART captioning has been made available particularly to mature audiences, who have a higher incidence of hearing loss.

Cathy Rajcan, on left, writes on her steno machine, which is strapped to her with a harness. At right, a tour guide talks about a piece of art for a museum guest.What is your setup for mobile CART?

For mobile CART, I loaded my CAT software onto my tablet and Bluetoothed my Diamonte to the tablet. From the tablet I sent my realtime stream to an Internet platform, and then provided the URL to the tour attendees so that additional people could view the CART stream from their handheld devices and smartphones. The setup with the mobile table is quite different ergonomically. I practiced on several occasions in advance prior to providing mobile CART to become comfortable writing while standing and getting my steno machine situated in the best way possible. I also told the docent in advance to please only speak while stopped rather than while walking, which would maintain a high degree of accuracy — I told them, “This is much more difficult than walking and chewing gum!” My steno machine was attached to the mobile table with a large commercial strength Velcro circle as well as a small stabilizing strap for extra peace of mind — it is, after all, a $5,000 piece of equipment!

What were some of the words and phrases you made sure you had in your dictionary for this assignment?

This was literally “thinking on my feet” as far as consciously recalling the unique dictionary entries I have created for art-related names and terms. I have approximately 200 specifically unique job dictionaries that I use according to the topic and setting. My Art Institute dictionary is approximately 400 entries; however, I always request in advance of a CART assignment prep materials for that particular day, and then I study those entries prior to the event. This tour was in the Modern Wing, which currently houses the Edlis/Neesen Contemporary Art collection, a gift from Stefan Edlis, a Chicago-based art collector and philanthropist, and his wife Gael Neesen. In addition to the donors’ names, I included in my dictionary the names of artists who created the pieces — e.g. Andy Warhol, Jeff Koons, Katharina Fritsch, and Jasper Johns — and the names of some of the pieces, such as Liz # 3, Target, and Woman with Dog (Frau mit Hund).

Was this assignment related to your personal interests at all?

I have a true appreciation for visual, musical, and performing arts. Other than my unique skill as a court reporter and captioner and some domestic textile talents, I am not gifted in the arts. Although several years ago a friend of mine who is a master violinist explained to me that we all have various talents, and those with skills in the performing arts and fine arts are grateful for those of us who appreciate their talents and are audience members and enthusiasts. Having provided realtime captioning at performing arts events, I have gained a great appreciation for the abilities of performers to memorize and perform the dialogue and lyrics in plays and musicals. They are truly amazing!

Cathy Rajcan, RDR, CRR, CRC, is a CART captioner in Wheaton, Ill. She can be reached at efficiencyrptg@cs.com.

Recognize innovative business strategies with the JCR Awards

JCR Awards - TheJCR comThe JCR Awards are a way to tell compelling stories that bring to life innovative and successful business strategies from the past year. Originally conceived as a way to recognize and highlight the exemplary professionalism, community service, and business practices of NCRA members, the JCR Awards seek nominations for several subcategories, such as best-in-class stories for: Marketing and customer service; Leadership, teambuilding, and mentoring; Use of technology; Community outreach; Service in a nonlegal setting; and Court Reporting & Captioning Week (2016) initiative. In addition, NCRA is looking for a firm and an individual who show excellence in more than one category for an overall “Best of the Year” award.

Any current NCRA member in good standing, with the exception of students, may be nominated for these awards. Court reporters, captioners, videographers, scopists, teachers and school administrators, and court reporting managers are all eligible for nomination. Nominate a noteworthy court reporter, captioner, videographer, scopist, teacher, school administrator, or court reporting manager or a group, such as firms, courthouses, or court reporting programs. Self-nominations are accepted. More information about specific criteria for each of the categories is available on the JCR Awards Entry Form.

To enter, submit a written entry to the JCR between 300 and 1,000 words explaining the strategies implemented and why they were successful. Ancillary materials, such as photos, may also be submitted with the nomination. Nominations will be considered based on the best fact-based story. Please be prepared to offer documentation, verifiable sources, or other assistance as needed to be considered for these awards. The stories of the finalists will be published as featured articles in the March JCR.

Nominations are due by Oct. 31Read more about the JCR Awards.

See last year’s winners. 

How TCRA and NCRA worked together to provide the CRC in Texas

By Cindy Hinds

This year, the Texas Court Reporters Association (TCRA) worked in conjunction with NCRA to bring the NCRA Certified Realtime Captioner Workshop to the Texas convention. In addition, the TCRA CART/Captioning Committee was able to bring the program to its members for only the cost of the convention. This article explains our joint venture and how we paid for it without passing all the costs to the CRC attendees.

The CART/Captioning Committee determined that we had taught our last “CART 101” class at a state convention. The basic “This is CART” course wasn’t really helping anyone. It didn’t tell court reporters how to get started in CART; it wasn’t helping our professional CART captioners become more knowledgeable in their field; and the few TCRA CART captioners on the Texas roster had grown weary of talking to themselves. (I say that with great affection, as I am one of those few Texas captioners.) The committee wanted to supply more value for the captioners’ convention dollar as well as reach out to the court reporters who were interested in CART. We wanted all members, and especially CART captioning members, to walk away with some benefit for the money paid and time spent at the convention. We also hoped that bringing something new to Texas might serve to bring more CART captioning members into TCRA, thus increasing our membership. We are never going to get past CART 101 if we do not grow our CART captioning membership.

After much discussion about different “canned” programs that we might invite, the committee determined that bringing the whole CRC program to Texas from NCRA would be a great value for our members. Just think: For the cost of the convention itself, a member could earn CEUs, complete one leg of the CRC certification, and gain all the intangible benefits of attending a convention. But how would we pay for a program such as the CRC and the expense that comes with it without overburdening the attendees? We found the answer in our history.

TCRA, as it turns out, has a long history of being proactive where CART is concerned. Almost 20 years ago, a small group who recognized the potential for CART formed the CART Foundation in order to pursue grants to train CART writers and to help pay for CART projects. The CART projects would serve as proof of the effectiveness of CART in the classroom. Over the six or so years that the foundation existed, they hired grant writers and petitioned the proper state agency — in Texas, that agency is the Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services (or DARS) — for grants in order to train CART providers and to fund CART projects. The foundation was also awarded some monetary gifts from interested private citizens.

Then the CART Foundation decided to dissolve because there simply were not enough people to carry the torch. The organization granted the money it raised back to DARS with the requirement that the money be used to train CART writers. There the money sat until TCRA came and asked for it again more than ten years later for the very same reason. DARS was happy to grant the money to TCRA to bring NCRA’s CRC program for the purposes of training CART captioners who would then offer a valuable service to the community that they serve. Our request was made by a simple letter from the Executive Director of TCRA and a contact person who simply called attention to our request.

While the CART Foundation found it necessary to hire a grant writer in the 1990s in order to get the grant from the government agency, we were able to obtain the funds this time with a simple letter. Would that have been possible if we hadn’t already exchanged this money in the past? Most likely not.

Before we secured the funds, we did a lot of back-and-forth discussion between NCRA and TCRA to negotiate the terms. This was new territory for both associations, so it did take a bit longer than we would have liked. We agreed to pay NCRA’s licensing fees for the program, which is a great program. The agreement also covered traveling expenses for the two instructors who would be representing the national association in Texas. After a bit of math, we ascertained that if we were able to get 28 people to the convention and pay for the program, it would bring us to the break-even point financially, meaning TCRA would incur no loss to offer the program for only the cost of the convention.

TCRA was responsible for the advertisement, and we accomplished this solely through electronic means and word of mouth. Our top priority was to supply the seminar to our members for no more than the cost of the convention. We also wanted to give people a choice of attending only the CRC program without the rest of the convention, so we offered the course as a standalone choice at an even cheaper cost than we charged for the full convention. We charged nonmembers more than members, yet still at a small discount to the price of NCRA’s online CRC seminar offering. NCRA earned a little money, and TCRA gained a few more interested members. The CRC workshop was very well rated in the survey given after the Texas convention, and both associations consider the venture a big success with only a few wrinkles to iron out.

Some things we will work on, should we decide to do this again in Texas, is paying attention to some details. In Texas, Certified Shorthand Reporters (CSRs) are to get a set number of ethics credits every two years to meet the CEU requirements for the CSR. When we presented the CRC program to our state governing body for CEU approval, we failed to get recognition for the ethics component in the CRC program itself. As a result, many attendees had to choose between staying at the CRC and completing that program or leaving and attending one of the ethics programs in the general convention, which were not offered at convenient times to allow the CRC attendees to attend. We also discovered the same problem in certification testing. It will be possible to avoid these conflicts in the future, but it will take careful planning.

While this joint venture with NCRA was revolutionary, we realize the funding story is a bit uninspiring since all we really did was trade money with the same state agency a few times. Since a group of Texas reporters managed to accomplish this in the 1990s, there is no real achievement there. However, I would point to the efforts of the CART Foundation members who did secure those funds from DARS in the first place. Their efforts to win those grants and train CART captioners when CART was in its infancy is quite inspiring. The real inspiration here is that, if it was possible in the 1990s when CART was something we had to sell as effective communication access, it should definitely be possible now with years of proof that CART is a valuable tool in helping the deaf community gain access to realtime communication in almost any setting.

So, CART captioners who are involved with your state agencies, get busy! Bringing NCRA’s CRC Workshop to your state convention could serve to benefit many different people. The CART writers get trained; the state organization stirs interest and builds membership; the members get something of real value to take with them from the convention; and the deaf consumer benefits from a more educated CART captioner. Also, I urge you to pursue grants from the agency that serves the deaf and hard of hearing in your state. You might find that you can gain all these benefits at no extra cost to your members.

Cindy Hinds of Mabank, Texas, is a broadcast captioner and a participating member of NCRA. She can be contacted at cmhinds2003@gmail.com. She extends her thanks to the TCRA CART/Captioning Committee, including Terry McGinty, RDR, CRR, CRC; Whitney Riley, RPR, CRR, CRC, CRI; Tess Stephenson; Kathleen Ullrich; and Kristi Usery.

100 percent of Hulu’s full-length content to be closed captioned by Sept. 2017

Hulu announced that it has entered into a settlement agreement with the National Association of the Deaf to provide closed captioning for all of its full-length English and Spanish content by September 2017, according to an article posted Sept. 6 by Videoink.

Read more.

JCR Awards nominations open through Oct. 31

Nominate yourself or a noteworthy court reporter, captioner, videographer, scopist, teacher, school administrator, or court reporting manager for recognition through the JCR Awards. Conceived as a way to recognize and highlight the exemplary professionalism, community service, and business practices of NCRA members, the JCR Awards is a way to tell compelling stories that bring to life innovative and successful business strategies from the past year. In addition to nominations for several subcategories, NCRA is looking for a firm and an individual who show excellence in more than one category for an overall “Best of the Year” award.

Any current NCRA member in good standing, with the exception of students, may be nominated for these awards. Court reporters, captioners, videographers, scopists, teachers and school administrators, and court reporting managers are all eligible for nomination. Self-nominations are accepted. Firms, courthouses, or court reporting programs may be nominated as a group as long as they meet the criteria for membership for one of the definitions in the JCR Awards Entry Form.

To nominate yourself or someone else, submit a written entry to the JCR between 300 and 1,000 words explaining the strategies you implemented and why they were successful. Ancillary materials, such as photos, may also be submitted with the nomination. Nominations will be considered by the JCR editorial team based on the best fact-based story. Please be prepared to offer documentation, verifiable sources, or other assistance as needed to be considered for these awards. The stories of the finalists will be published as featured articles in the March JCR.

Nominations are due by Oct. 31. Read more about the JCR Awards.

NCRA joins in tour of NIH Research Center

The National Institute of Health offered a tour of its facilities to representatives of the Friends of the Congressional Hearing Health Caucus. Matthew Barusch, Manager, State Government Affairs for NCRA, joined 25 congressional staffers and hearing health advocates on the tour of the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD) Porter Neuroscience Research Center in Bethesda, Md.

“NCRA has long supported the Congressional Hearing Health Caucus and appreciates the value of events such as this brings to the constituents and stakeholders of the many organizations that support it,” said Barusch. “Learning more about the latest research that can lead to positive impacts on the lives of the people who are deaf or hard of hearing is so important to bringing awareness to lawmakers and the public about the many issues that surround broadcast and CART captioning and, overall, hearing health.”

Read more.

University of Arizona adds captioning to its sporting events

On Aug. 22, the University of Arizona posted an update on its sports website, Arizoniawildcats.com. The post explained improvements the organization has made to its sports venues to help provide an equitable fan experience for everyone. Among the most notable improvements is captioning of all events.

Read more.