Notes

Eat More Monkey Meat: Lessons in ASL, Heart Language and Missiology

Who would you choose to interpret for a marriage counseling session? The one who sits on the riverbank and eats monkey meat with tribal friends, of course.

Heart language inclusive of the words I loved when I was an English teacher was rich with: inference, innuendo, implication, and insinuation (and more). The deep structure of that language was acquired only when the missionary sat on the banks of the river for an extended amount of time and ate monkey meat with his tribal friends until he knew not only what they said, but what they meant….

In a heart language situation, counseling, for example, I think I’d choose to use other ASL terms that are more familiar, indicative of strong cultural sensitivity, and I’d alert the therapist to the fact that some implications in sign language will have to be brought out in the open in order for him or her to understand. Deaf people, just like hearing people in crisis, both want to obfuscate to hide their specific problem and “get caught,” covering it up. It’s the old “test” to see if the counsellor (and probably the interpreter) can be trusted enough to really understand.

Chip Green, “Language of the Heart.”