One Lost Sheep And What If …

One Lost Sheep And What If …
By Monette Benoit

Copyright by Monette Benoit, All Rights Reserved.

Do you have the skills to realtime for a deaf or hard-of-hearing person? You won’t know if you don’t try. What if you could find a comfortable environment to become realtime proficient?

What if you could nurture your realtime skills, build your confidence and attract new clients outside legal arenas. You can expand your skills by growing into the technology. You can realtime for people that appreciate you and your talents. The hardest part will be not taking yourself too seriously.

As a CART, communication access realtime translation, provider writing to large screens, I’ve realtimed unique events, assisting people who wouldn’t have participated if I wasn’t there: McGruff the Crime Dog who signs to children, religious gatherings, baptisms, funerals, voter forums, cochlear implant meetings for tots and children, theatrical plays, large conventions, banquets and much more.

I realtimed a deaf mime acting skits of Mr. Ed meets Batman. The audience joked that they always knew that horse wasn’t speaking because they knew how to read lips. The humor in this community just floors me. I’ve been the victim of more practical jokes than I care to admit, but I’m grateful for inclusion in their world.

Recently, I wrote a child singing “Old McDonald had a farm, E-I-E-I-O” in the middle of a technical presentation. And yes, I’ve asked: The Deaf Society I work with prefers to be known as the Deaf World; not people who are deaf. When in doubt, ask. They don’t want us to define their world. They’ll be honored that you cared enough to ask how they describe themselves.

Where do you start? What if you wanted to begin, and someone said you had to become a certified court reporter, RMR and CRR, and have zero percent untrans? Where do you start to practice? That answer differs for each person, group, even and upon your skills.

Evaluate where you are. If you edit much of your work and haven’t purchased a laptop, you’re in for a bigger learning curve. But this is where the goal is created. Seek a group, arena or person. Ask if you can practice to expand your vocabulary. Knowledge of their culture and (to me) a sense of confidence develops to be able to write on a screen as a room watches — or laughs. Yet you have to keep writing. The earth will not swallow you, no matter how much you wish for it.

Study the group. Go slowly, but go forward. Where do people meet that might want this service? Call HLA (formerly SHHH), AGB, ALDA, United Way, the American Association of Retired Persons and sign interpreters.Why do they need you to provide this service?

I keep explanations simple. Our wires, equipment, plugs and technology are foreign to people.

Prepare answers to questions that you think you’ll be asked. The rest will flow from your heart.

I prepare flyers in several colors. Each is targeted to the event or educational level of the group: elementary/high school, adults, educators, hard-of-hearing, oral deaf, etc. When someone asks for information (usually as I’m writing in real-time on my steno machine), I point to flyers. When a person calls, I ask for the color of their handout. This saves me time.

Learn about their world. Reporters ask me: How do I write with a sign interpreter? Interpreters sign when people voice (speak). I call it “thigh-by-thigh” reporting. Interpreters, thigh by thigh, whisper words, interpreting signed discussions, so I can write on a screen.

Find one place – a church, class, organization open to the public – and attend regularly. Call ahead and explain what you’d like to do. Ask if you can take your equipment, sit in the back and practice. Tell the group you need their help. Once I offer my “deer in the headlights” look, they share information and speak so I can write their words into my dictionary. This is empowering to people you want to assist. Every person has thanked me for allowing them to help me. They tell me it makes them feel good to contribute. And I’m told the misconceptions I need to avoid. They tease, laugh and enjoy my struggles. Don’t be offended.

Expand your vocabulary. Write the news. Rent Robin Williams videos. Create a dictionary with terms other than legal terms and preponderance of the evidence. Check out the ‘CATapult Your Real-Time Dictionary CD’ series at

Ask to be included. A group will become protective of you. Teach them to be protective of your equipment. As your skills and friends expand, you become more confident. Get the details. How long is the meeting or event? Is the content technical? If someone is reading your screen, should there be two court reporters to ensure an accurate job? How long will they need the writer to write? When ‘they’ take a lunch break, are you given a lunch break? What speed do I need? Can a student do this? Always define “this.” Each group and situation will differ. Prepare as best as you can, then get into that saddle and just write.

After they’ve embraced you, your professional dictionary’s expanded, your confidence has grown, you’re realtiming live on a screen/laptop, then think about local meetings and state and national groups.

Consider your fees. How much do I charge? They can’t fire a pro bono writer in the corner with her shoulders at her ears. Earn your wings, then consider by the hours, level of difficulty, ASCII, day/evening rates and long-term commitments.

Think ahead. How do I handle multiple speakers when I’m used to stopping people? You can’t rely on a tape recorder when you CART in a public setting. Learn to fingerspell. I began by writing the alphabet with my left hand and then the right. I did this over and over until I could realtime the alphabet without hesitation.

If you’re unable to interrupt speakers (in a large setting and this is not a legal proceeding) and you are unable to write verbatim, analyze your group. Are you on a large screen or laptop? On a laptop, I’ll write, “fastest set of lips in the west.” On the large screen, I avoid editing, but if I have to get the message, I drop false starts and repetitions. At first it feels illegal to drop a word. I think this is an art – to write, keep it clean and understandable. One wise reporter said, “When you’re struggling, give ’em the Reader’s Digest version.” I gasped. But if I’m unable to get it all, I know the message is more important than incorrect trans with dashes.

When I’m struggling with a fast speaker or technical material, I focus on writing prefix, root word, suffix, punctuating, hoping my body language doesn’t reveal how much I may be struggling or how much I want to be perfect. Reporters I know browbeat themselves for what didn’t translate. But the audience remembers what enabled them to understand the event. The same personality that drives a person to become a qualified reporter can be hard on the reporter.

Get over your fears. Many reporters tell me they’re certified – a CRR and RMR, they realtime in court or in depositions and are too afraid to begin to realtime on a large screen. Prepare, prepare, prepare. There are so many wonderful resources available now; reach up and out and make the commitment. Understanding that fear is a natural emotion when approaching a new path, you can harness your fear, channeling it as you focus, focus, focus.

Stop hanging around with reporters. Many reporters can be negative about their limitations. Cultivate people who don’t quote 100 percent translation. Look for positive feedback. Be prepared to work for your goal.

As I write, I’m hugged, rubbed, tapped, thanked. They will open their hearts and kitchens to you. If you want to realtime, the work will be serious; so is my commitment. But I’m determined to enjoy some of this while I’m sweating bullets.

So what if you could find one place? What if you wanted to expand your life and skills? What if there was one lost sheep?

I realtime a mass for the Catholic Deaf Community to a large screen, which may be viewed by all who attend the service. There’s a signing priest who voices and signs ASL, American Sign Language (ASL syntax differs) during the mass.

One Sunday I wrote about leaders and Pharisees. The priest’s ASL voiced-words, as he signed were:

“Jesus doesn’t understand about these people. If He knew really who was the sinner, He would avoid them. Jesus gave them a story. He said, what if you have 100 sheep, but lose one? What do you do?“Do you ignore that one and take care of 99 or do you leave 99 and go out and search for that lost sheep until you find him? And you find it, pick it up and put it on your shoulders. Go back, and you announce, ‘Come, rejoice with me! Because my lost sheep, I have found.’

“How many sheep were in that story? The story said 100; 99 stayed home. Maybe that sheep was deaf. He was calling, ‘Come back. Come back.’ God said, ‘Go, look. Find him. Don’t ignore him. Go, look, find him. That one is precious, bring it back.’ Every day, pray, smile, help others. God bless you.”

Parishioners immediately voiced, signed, “Yeah, what if that sheep was deaf? That’s it. Maybe he was deaf.”

And now I ask you: What about that one lost sheep? What if you made a difference to one person? What if you extended your hands and heart one step, one event, one realtimed word at a time? What if you are the one lost sheep?

Monette, the Court Reporting Whisperer, may be reached: and

Monette Benoit, B. B.A., CCR, CRI, CPE, Paralegal

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About Monette Benoit:
As a 25+ year court reporter, CART Captioner, author of NCRA test prep material, and an instructor, public speaker, Monette Benoit has taught multiple theories, academics, all speed classes, and the 225 homeroom within NCRA-approved schools and a community college. She understands the challenges many adults now face in our industry and schooling.

Monette Benoit has worked with thousands of professionals, court reporters, CART Captioners, students, and instructors.

She has also helped to create new court reporting training programs, worked with federal grants, and assisted instructors in developing curriculum for both in-class and at-home students.

Her one-on-one tutoring, private coaching, has greatly assisted thousands of students, novice and experienced professionals to privately reach the next level.

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