Performer, Presenter, Writer, Advocate, CODA, Interpreter

Wink’s “Winkshops” (workshop) are presented nationwide. He has presented at numerous state, regional, national, and local conferences/agencies even online. Wink can be booked for the following Winkshops and can work with your organization to develop material and presentations that best suit your local community.

Idioms! Do You See What I’m Saying?

Make The English Tangible In ASL

Picture a train...What do you see? Now ask a friend to picture a train and have them explain or draw what they first saw. Is it the same image you had? Most likely not. American Sign Language is no different; we all have different mental images. Another interpreter will interpret a concept completely different than you do. This workshop will focus on harnessing the ability to take English and create a beautiful ASL interpretation that culturally bridges the gap along with respecting each other’s mental image.

When we learn how Deaf people developed their language collectively, and how it evolved into the complex language it is today, we see much of that was due to their subjective view of how something worked (otherwise known as concept). This workshop will encourage those to think about the objects and required actions in a sentence to formulate an ASL concept based on their subjective view of the world without adding their own biases. Then figuring out ways to either surrogate those objects or convey them into classifiers and or blend both all the while using Visual Vernacular.

For more information please Contact Me

Idioms… they are confusing and can be an interpreter’s worst nightmare. However, idioms were created to be an outlet for expression to compare how someone feels, or an attempt to make a point. Whether or not this is accomplished, the fact still remains that idioms are used with purpose.

Interpreters are supposed to take the message and convey it with the speaker’s intent to a language most accessible to the receiver. For example, if the receiver is Deaf and their first language is ASL, you are providing that access until the point that an idiom is used. If you revert to the receiver’s second language, the intention may be lost. Imagine if you interpreted the phrase “there is more than one way to skin a cat.” I remember saying it almost verbatim when I was little to my father. Let’s just say we spent an additional 15 minutes clearing up why the mechanic wanted my dad to skin our cat.

Often the intent is lost when we try to convert the idiom to the lowest common denominator. An example of this is my workshop title, “Idioms! Do You See What I’m Saying?” A common way to interpret this is “You understand?” which is accurate. But if we apply the same method to every idiom, the intent gets lost. An idiom is normally used as a “period” to a sentence, which makes it crucial to our interpreting to make sure the sender’s message comes across to the receiver.

This workshop isn’t limited to only practicing these idioms as I feel that doesn’t adequately support the understanding of interpreting them. Participants need to gain some theory to build on. I demonstrate how to break down idioms by the meaning of the English expression, not by the individual words that are used. Participants will use the sentence structure of both English and ASL to their benefit as well as learn tools that will enable them to analyze these idioms and discuss best practices with regards to interpreting them. This will be accomplished by the use of dozens of samples, some of which have multiple meanings and various options for delivery. This workshop will set the groundwork for deconstructing English idioms in order to determine their core meaning and strategies to effectively interpret them into ASL concepts.

Space Walk

We all have been in the situation where we set up a beautiful scene and are jumping with joy inside for using such great spatialization. Then the speaker introduces a new concept that will not fit in our masterpiece; what do you do? How can you organize your thoughts so that if your beautiful scene is referenced again you can clearly recreate it?

Interpreters face the above scenario constantly in their interpretations. However, there is a tool that can help guide interpreters to organize their thoughts and challenge them to make the most of their space. The concept introduced in this workshop is the use of space frames. The use of this innovative technique will help interpreters to translate a language that uses no space (English) into a language that does (ASL).

A major linguistic difference between English and ASL is that ASL uses space and kinetics in a 3-dimensional manifestation (Winston, 1995, 1996). Interpreters can struggle to manipulate space in ASL.  If interpreters learn how to utilize space frames effectively, they can truly express ASL in a near-native form.

This workshop will introduce the concept of space frames with real world application.  Participants will practice space techniques and rules to enhance their language use. Participants will also be exposed to a practical rubric to organize their thoughts and make the best use of their space. In addition, participants will learn how to transition between frames and locations.

Correct use of space frames allows a clearer depiction of, for example, comparisons.  Instead of merely using body shifting or static listings which can limit detail or expansion, space frames allow discrete and simultaneous creation of visual images with extensive detail without cluttering the visual field with the flexibility to build ancillary space frames for additional information.

For example:  An individual describes three houses he is considering buying.  In the course of discussion, he emphasizes details such as the locations of the houses, what each house looks like, and possibly the pros and cons of each house.  Creating three distinct space frames provides generous space for descriptive detail and allows for additions if the speaker retroactively adds them in future utterances.  Likewise, if he includes contrasts, additional frames may be necessary.

ADA An ASL Guide

Co-Written With Stephanie Nichols (

Interpreters Market

How does an agency work? Should I be an educational interpreter or a Video Interpreter? Will VRI allow me to work from home? Regardless of whether you are about to graduate, have recently graduated or if it has been years since you graduated an Interpreter Training Program, there are many questions regarding the business of interpreting as well as a desire to improve the business aspects of one’s job. This workshop focuses on the major industries of the Sign Language Interpreter’s market: Freelance interpreting, both with an agency and/or without, VRS, VRI, Educational in k-12 to post secondary and all the other job opportunities within this wonderful field. 


            We will also discuss how to please your employer, perspective clients and/or how to make your company shine, how to do your job effectively, what can you do when you screw up, what certifications and other avenues that will maximize your professional resume, how to go about finding jobs, and various other topics including plenty of time for question and answers!

Windell “Wink" Smith Jr
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Emoting Emotions

Humans show emotions everyday; in fact, we embed emotions in words as a vehicle to express ourselves. Speakers employ emotions to give their audience a call to action, to ponder, and to teach. We as interpreters must understand a wide range of emotions and how to effectively incorporate them in our interpretation, requiring a wide use of facial features and inflection in our sign production as well as intonations in our vocal production. To be fully equipped to convey emotions we must first be able to understand what they are, how they are used, and how we can fix them with our own experiences to fully comprehend. In this workshop participants will be exposed to a wide range of emotions and are asked to pull out their experiences in order to put them in perspective, then translate them into proper ASL affect.

Blockbuster: Cinematic ASL

Creating Deliberate Practice

    What does it take to become an expert? The journey to be an expert brings practitioners to conferences, workshops, webinars, and/or mentoring to learn from peers who have devoted hours of research and construction of their presentations to provide tools that can be taken home.  However, passively listening to a lecture, reading a skill development book, or watching vlogs will not transform that person into an expert nor does working eighty hours a week. The key is to incorporate deliberate practice by taking the smallest skill unit as a goal to enhance and to practice it until it is mastered.  Only after exhausting all possible ways of wringing learning from the practice can the next skill unit be identified and practiced.

Researchers Simon & Chase (1973) point out that it can take up to a decade of deliberate practice to obtain this desired level of expertise. This workshop focuses on bringing the research from Simon and Chase, Ericsson, and Bloom to sign language interpreters to forever dispel the idea that mastery is unattainable.  Diving into these researchers’ work has given Wink the resources needed to define how one can create their own deliberate practice regimens with application.  He will discuss and model how to accomplish this.

This workshop will break down how participants can analyze and identify their own goals for practice, how they can deliberately practice each linguistic aspect, and give opportunity to practice this skill during the workshop.

For example, there are those who may assume that fingerspelling is such an ubiquitous aspect of ASL that they have already mastered it. However, who can delineate the various forms of lexical fingerspelling? Who can recognize sub-ordinate and ordinate fingerspelled words? Deliberate practice and research helps one gain a deeper understanding of the process.

Likewise, more experienced interpreters may want to hone their non-manual signals (NMS). Ericsson's research (2006) shows that deliberate practice is not simply practicing things you already know.  Instead one needs to drill deeper and learn the differences between lexicalized mouth morphemes (PAH, AF-FO) (Bridges, 1996) and modifiers (BRRR, SAO) as well as exploring the layers and depths of other grammatical complexities that fall under the umbrella of NMS.

Have you ever seen an ASL story performance and thought, "That's like watching a movie!"?  Television and film use certain conventions (often referred to as the "grammar") when recording and editing audiovisual media.  ASL literature has been found to use the same types of conventions by ASL writers (Krentz, 2006. Bauman, 2006.) This workshop will discuss the parallels between these cinematic techniques and ASL grammar conventions such as use of space, depiction, sign modification, and facial affect (Wink, 2011).  Cinematic techniques and formulas are already used by the Deaf community in their storytelling and conversational signing; interpreters should work towards incorporating these cinematic techniques and ASL grammatical features within their own ASL interpreting work in order to ensure message integrity and specificity.  If someone wants to create captivating “blockbuster” of ASL literature or stunning visual interpreting work, they must be aware of and practice these conventions.

In addition to learning how to produce such concepts expressively, it is imperative interpreters are aware of how these techniques appear in and what purpose they serve within their receptive interpreting work. ASL performers and users commonly use movie techniques such as long shots, close ups, and panning shots to show action in ASL narratives. If the action is missed, the verbs, nouns, and pronoun interactions will result in miscues in production.

This workshop includes some of the most important conventions for conveying meaning through particular camera and editing techniques (as well as some of the specialized vocabulary of film production) which relates directly to ASL’s use of space, depiction, eye gaze, and other parts of ASL grammar commonly used by native ASL users.

A common misconception is that Cinematic ASL is only appropriately used for theatrical interpreting or is only used by ASL performers. Cinematic ASL techniques can and should be incorporated in a myriad of settings, for example, when a speaker tells a story, discusses anatomy or history, or interviews someone within a legal setting. One benefit past participants have observed in studying these techniques is that this workshop can give them a variety of options for composing an ASL message rather than utilizing rote, commonplace avenues.

Creating ASL Stories

Classifier stories have been a long tradition in Deaf culture, it shows one of the artistic side of American Sign Language. However, creating a story without English intrusion takes practice. In this workshop we will bring classifiers to life with transforming objects to handshapes, in conjunction with Required Actions, and surrogation. Applying the tools that are presented, you can implement deliberate practice to provide comfort with ASL to enhance your language use which will blend into your interpreting.

Layers! Applying Animation to ASL Construct

American Sign Language linguistic studies have looked to other fields of study to enhance our understanding of various attributes within ASL. Our field has employed this use of interdisciplinary studies to help ASL interpreters hone their knowledge and to broaden their outlook of the language so that they can incorporate various tools into their product.  Wink has studied the field of cartoon animation and computer generated images to find application for sign language interpreters. The process that animators go through to create their work of art is strikingly similar to how ASL images can be created and depicted.

Additionally, the practice that animators employ to enhance their skills can be applied to deliberate practice for interpreters. Animators often spend hours studying how objects work, move, look, and are expressed in order to deliver life-like attributes to them within a breathless canvas and medium. If interpreters study these same techniques, they can produce work that sees the message through the lens of an animator rather than the filter of spoken English, exemplifying the adage “show, don’t tell.”  Interpreters can thereby open their horizons to produce visually equivalent messages.

One of the greatest hurdles for interpreters is building and animating depiction. Following the concepts of animation, we find that they build objects in layers. This process allows animators to build the object section by section to give it a more 3D appeal and to simplify and organize the construction process. If interpreters realize they have the ability to build the depiction with layers, they often find brilliant and innovative ways to produce the object, and the process becomes much more manageable.

An interpreter can draw from these animation principles to create an image that can be used in required actions and, most importantly, the ability to organize their thoughts.  By applying these techniques found in the animation text book “Animation, The Whole Story.” (Beckerman, 2012) augmented with examples from film, ASL performers, and interpreting material, this workshop can provide the interpreters with useful application and deliberate practice.

A New Interpreter Practice Tool: Parsing English With A Decision Tree

“…. innovation comes from people meeting up in the hallways or calling each other at 10:30 at night with a new idea or because they realized something that shoots holes in how we've been thinking about a problem. It's ad hoc meetings of six people called by someone who thinks he has figured out the coolest new thing ever and who wants to know what other people think of his idea.” (Steve Jobs, 2004)

Wink sought out to do just that with his comprehensive research and implementation of a different use of a parsing tool, the decision tree, which gives interpreters and students the deliberate practice they need to think critically about ASL and their choices when rendering the message from English to ASL. 

Sign language interpreters have long sought message equivalency from English to ASL. The interpreter education landscape has historically focused on language acquisition, interpreting models, and other tools to assist second language users to become familiar with ASL grammar and provide techniques to deliver message equivalency (Cokely, 1984. Lee, 1992). Current methods of interpreting are sets of theoretical directions that leave the user to make unguided decisions which could create a, English-based signed message.  Many models lead interpreters to process without explaining how to actually detach from the source language to achieve equivalency in the target language.

However, if presented with a flowchart of guided questions (decision tree), the learner will discover more effective and reproducible results in message comprehension and translation of the target language. This process is an adaptation of parsing: to separate out and compartmentalize the message in order to unpack, rearrange, understand, and practice English to ASL interpreting with distinctive features that utilize the interpreter’s abilities and knowledge of both languages.

This workshop will instruct participants on how to parse written English texts using a decision tree which will guide participants in maximizing comprehension of the English text, detaching from the source text, and providing structured choices for the target text.  This deliberate practice provides the key to creating an internal framework for processed interpretation.  With continued use and internalization of the process, participants will produce live work with more awareness and intentional choices for creating a near-equivalent message.

“From one presenter to another, this workshop is an excellent opportunity to practice with such a masterful and engaging presenter.” - Keith Wann, CI/CT, NIC Master

Creating Connections Within Our Community

Connections... One of the most useful tools for us humans to utilize for solving serious problems and can guide us to find answers. What kind of connections do interpreters have? The obvious answer is that we have connections to the Deaf community... But do you? How can laying out our connections help guide us to infuse passion in our work? How can figuring out our own connections to language can help us seek out ways to strengthen the connections? Enjoy this entertaining keynote by Wink, where we will talk about our connections. 

Understanding the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is essential to properly advocating for your rights as a Deaf American. To be able to explain clearly and to identify the correct titles that apply in any given situation is key to getting access and services you are entitled to under the law.

This workshop will focus on explaining the three (3) ADA titles that apply to the Deaf community and will help answer common questions. Learning about these can empower you to become an effective advocate for yourself and for your friends and family.

For an example we will discuss:

How to ask and get an interpreter

What to do when they say "bring your own interpreter"

How to make sure an interpreter will be present

Signer vs. Interpreter

Certified vs. Qualified

What to do when they provide someone who "signs a little"

Did you know that the law requires your employer to provide auxiliary aids to allow you to function at your job more efficiently? What are "reasonable accommodations"? This fun workshop will focus on helping you retain and learn how to advocate your rights in a very simple manner. The workshop is presented in ASL with open questions and answers, providing you with the tools to help you advocate in this frustrating world.