Nicaraguan Progress Report

Valerie Sutton sutton at SIGNWRITING.ORG
Wed Apr 23 23:44:38 UTC 2003

SignWriting List
April 23, 2003

On Saturday, April 12, 2003, James/Judy Shepard-Kegl wrote:
> The attached progress report contains samples of Spanish sentences  
> written by three Deaf students in Nicaragua after about one month of  
> training using our Level I Spanish primer, which uses SignWriting to  
> explain Spanish. I would be happy to answer anyone's questions. --  
> James Shepard-Kegl


Dear SignWriting List, and James and Judy!
Thank you sooo much for this amazing report. I appreciate it and I am  
sorry it has taken me so long to respond. I am so impressed,  
James...You should be commended for the enormous job you have  
undertaken, and for creating your own schools and developing so much  
literature...Before we go on, let me share your report with the List.  
Here is the is a long one!!  Val ;-)


Nicaraguan Sign Language Projects, Inc.
52 Whitney Farms Rd.
North Yarmouth, ME 04097
(207) 846-8801

April 11, 2003

Deaf Action Committee for SignWriting
La Jolla, CA

The following material consists chiefly of excerpts from our report to  
the sponsors of two teacher trainees attending the school in  
Bluefields.  I have changed the names of the trainees to A and B, and I  
have excised material that does not relate to the literacy program.  At  
the end, for comparative purposes, I have attached a list of sample  
sentences from trainee C (who is younger than A and B and has been  
schooled only in Bluefields.)

As you are aware, the Level I Spanish primer uses SignWriting  
extensively to compare and contrast the rules of Spanish and Nicaraguan  
Sign Language.  The accompanying glossary lists Spanish words contained  
in the Level I and II primers alongside their sign glosses (written in  
SignWriting).  The testing material requires adequate literacy skills  
using SignWriting.

Evaluation: A and B in Bluefields: January - March, 2003

Program Structure for Teacher Trainees:
Nicaraguan Sign Language Projects, Inc. conducted three weeks of  
teacher training morning, afternoon and evening in January while the  
school was suspended for winter break.  The regular afternoon school  
sessions resumed on January 27.  However, we continued holding morning  
and evening tutorials for the three teacher trainees, including A and  
B.  Ms. A and Ms. B returned to Condega on March 22.

The philosophy of the Bluefields School is that all classes are to be  
taught directly or with the assistance of Deaf teachers using  
Nicaraguan Sign Language.  We recognize that these Deaf teachers  
require intensive schooling themselves.  Our intention is to provide  
instruction to the teachers at a pace and level of sophistication well  
above that presented to the students in the regular school classroom.   
Accordingly, this evaluation treats the trainees from two perspectives:  
their achievement as students in the tutorial sessions and their  
performance as teachers in the classroom.

The tutorial sessions emphasized the following topics:
Phase 4 of the Literacy Program: Spanish Level I and an introduction to  
Spanish Level II.  The Level I text compares and contrasts basic  
Spanish syntax (subject-verb-object) with the syntax of Nicaraguan Sign  
Language (grounded object - moving figure.)  The Level I text focuses  
on simple present tense sentences using nouns, verbs, objects and  
adjectives.  Future tense is limited to IR + infinitive  constructions.  
The Level I text stresses the concept that many words in Spanish have  
multiple meanings and can only be understood in context.  The text  
introduces comparatives and the preposition "EN".  Verbs are described  
as transitive, intransitive, reflexive or copulative.   We want the  
trainees to be able to consistently produce simple, but grammatically  
correct present and future tense showing proper word order, agreement  
and verb form.

The regular afternoon school resumed activities on January 27.  School  
classes were more structured with greater incorporation of SignWriting  
into the daily curriculum.  We were aware that in past sessions in  
Bluefields and in Condega, the teachers [A and B] have been hesitant to  
teach their students to read the sign language.  We realized that while  
the teachers were able to read Nicaraguan Sign Language by whole word  
recognition, they tended to feel uncomfortable with their own abilities  
to decode words using SignWriting.  Therefore, we devoted time to  
working with the teachers in their ability to understand the  
SignWriting system.  This in turn allowed the teachers to take better  
advantage of the SignWriting reading material when teaching stories in  
the classroom in Bluefields.  We would hope that the teachers are now  
using many of these reading lessons (three volumes) in Condega.

Evaluation of A:

Spanish:  The Spanish Level I and Level II texts present grammar  
lessons based upon approximately 525 Spanish words.  A's ability to  
recognize most of the vocabulary words used in the Level I text is  
good.  Our emphasis, however, is more upon rules of grammar and syntax  
than simple word recognition.

Example of testing format:
Circle the nouns:  El hombre viejo da la leche al gato negro.
Select the correct sentence:
_____ Yo lavo la cara.
_____  Yo se lava la cara.
_____  Yo me lava la cara.
_____  Yo estoy lavandome la cara.
Spanish Comprehension:
Juan compra una camisa celeste y una gorra roja.  La camisa celeste  
cuesta cincuenta cordobas. La gorra cuesta treinta cordobas.  Sandra  
compra una camisa blanca. La camisa blanca es tan cara como la camisa  
celeste.  Cuánto cuestan la camisa celeste y la gorra roja? _____   
Cuánto cuesta la camisa blanca? _____
D.  Filling in the blank:  La mujer está __________ la tarta.

A was first tested on January 22, 2003, less than three weeks into the  
program and before completion of the Level I curriculum.  (We intend to  
concentrate on Level II in mid-2003.)  The test takes about 3 hours and  
was given intentionally prematurely more as a learning experience than  
as a measure of progress.  A week later, A contracted conjunctivitis  
and was unable to attend to her regular teaching duties in the school.   
We took advantage of this respite to retest her on January 31.
Test results:  January 31, 2003:
Identification of written signs (no Spanish):  16 correct; 0 errors.
Spanish days of the week:  6 correct; 0 errors.
Matching Spanish months with signs:  11 correct; 0 errors.
Spanish to signs: multiple choice:  39 correct; 0 errors.
Present tense conjugations (matching): 11 correct; 0 errors.
Adjective, verb, noun recognition:  35 correct; 5 errors.
Selection of grammatically correct sentence in a series of 4:  18  
correct; 5 errors.
Comprehension of a paragraph in SignWriting (questions in Spanish): 2  
correct; 3 errors.
Comprehension of Spanish paragraphs:  4 correct; 0 errors (with  
Organizing 10 Spanish captions to illustrations in a story sequence:   
Filling in the blank:
      Correct root word: 28 correct; 1 error (but only a misspelling).
      Correct conjugation or agreement:  22 correct; 6 errors.
Sentence creativity:  Correct syntax.  Correct use of quotation marks.   
Correct punctuation.  Correct pluralization.  Correct use of articles.   
Correct adjective agreement.  Usually correct conjugation.  Errors:  
mixing of SER and ESTAR, failure to convert A EL to AL, improper form  
of verb following IR, failure to use preposition A after IR in creating  
future tense.

Overall impression:  A already had a limited repertoire of Spanish  
sentences learned in her experience at the convent school in Ciudad  
Dario.  These sentences often contained errors in diction, grammar or  
syntax, although A's meaning could be discerned.  Our objective was not  
to present a list of sentences to be memorized.  Rather, we wanted to  
teach basic sentence equations, that is to say, rules of grammar and  
syntax to be followed in constructing sentences.  A's instinct was to  
generate Spanish sentences with a level of complexity beyond her  
abilities.  Our goal was to encourage her to produce at this stage more  
simple, but grammatically correct sentences.  We wanted A to think of  
Spanish as rule governed and for her to stay within the framework of  
rules that we were teaching.  A's testing scores (and class  
performance), we believe, clearly demonstrate she has the aptitude to  
do this.  Her raw achievement scores listed above are quite good.

The sentences below are samples of A's  homework in February.  She was  
furnished with a list of words (usually verb infinitives) and was  
required to construct a sentence for each word.   She was encouraged to  
use the glossary that accompanies the Level I and II texts.  A then had  
to type her sentences for email transmission.  There are some obvious  
typographical errors, and we are assuming that some of the punctuation  
errors may be attributed to her unfamiliarity with the keyboard.  While  
there are also some errors in spelling and grammar, overall these  
sentences demonstrate very good progress.

Amar = Yo amo a mi mama
Comprar = Claudia compra zapatos y pantalon
Dar = Geovanny no puede dar el panuelo rojo a Tomasa
Decir = Mi mama dice ;No quiero a mi novio
Dolor = Yo tengo dolor de cabeza
Donde esta = Donde esta la casa de Jhondra
Dormir = Nosotros estamos durmiendo en la cama
En = Yo estoy en Bluefields
Ir = Yo no puedo ir a managua
Ir futuro= Yo voy a hacer una casa.
Juegar= Yo juego con la pelota.
Lavar = Zelideth lava la ropa
Lavarse = Yo estoy lavandome los pies.
Llevar = Tomasa lleva los zapatos
Mas Que = El barco blanco es mas caro que el carro rojo
Me duele = Me duele la boca
Poder = Tomasa puede bailar por la noche.
Poner = Tomasa pone la caja en su cama
Pregunta = El hombre pregunta ‘’ cuantos cuesto los pantalon hoy ‘’
Querer = Yo quiero visitar a mi mama en Palacaguina.
Ser = El gato es feo y flaco
Tan  como = La casa de Tomasita es tan grande como la casa de Claudia.
Tener = Daphny tiene 19 ano.
Tener ganas = Yo tengo ganas de mirar a Managua.
Tener que = Yo tengo que ir a Condega
Vender = Andrew vende repollo y papas.


During February and March, Claudia has been teaching SignWriting  
everyday, and should now be more comfortable using the system in  

Evaluation of B:

Spanish:  B has sufficient Spanish vocabulary  and reads SignWriting  
well enough to use the textbook material effectively.  She does not  
have the repertoire of Spanish sentences that A learned at the convent  
school.  That may actually be an advantage since B tends to confine  
herself more to our curriculum.  B tends to generate sentences that are  
simple and, usually, correct.

B was tested on January 22, 2003, less than three weeks into the  
program. and before completion of the Level I curriculum.  The test  
takes about 3 hours and was given intentionally prematurely more as a  
learning experience than as a measure of progress.   Due to time  
constraints, B was not retested.  Her January 22 test results are not  
available, and in fairness, cannot be compared to A's results in a  
retest following class discussions of the testing material.  However,  
B's performance was commensurate with that of the other students in the  

The sentences below are examples from various February homework  
assignments originally entered by pen in a notebook.  It is obvious  
that B had difficulty with capitalization and punctuation using the  
computer keyboard.  In class, her use of capitalization for the most  
part was correct.  We note in these and other examples that B at times  
forgets to conjugate the verb.  For the most part, however, her  
conjugations are correct.  Her use of comparatives is correct.  A very  
few words are misspelled.  She does not understand that the verb  
"preguntar" introduces an interrogative sentence.  She confuses at  
times Spanish possessive pronouns (no doubt because possessives are  
conveyed quite differently in her native sign language.)  All in all at  
this stage, this is very good work.

amar=yo no amo a mi primo
comprar=zoila compra las frutas y las verduras
dar=yessica da un helada a adela
decir=claudia dice’yo estoy enferma’
dolor=yo tengo dolor de menstruacion
/donde esta/ /donde esta la casa de zoila
dormir=los ninos estan durmiendos en la cama
en= la nina barre en el patio
estar=el pajaro esta mojado
ir=yo quiero ir a nueva guinea
ir futuro=yo voy a comprar una camisa y un brasier
juegar= daphny y claudia juegan beisbol
lavar=mi mama lava la ropa
lavarse= yo me lavo el cuello
llevar=nosotros llevamos las frutas y las verduras
mas que=claudia es mas flaca que daphny
me duele me duele los brazos
menos que=la camisa roja es menos cara que los pantalones
poner=la muchacha pone la camisa en el ropero
preguntar =claudia pregunta’mi novio se llama geovanny
ser = yo soy flaca y alta
tan como=la tarea de uldita es tan facil como la tarea de pedro
tener=mi mama tiene sententa y tres anos
tener ganas=yo tengo ganas de visitar managua
tener que=daphny tene que comprar caramelos y chocolate
vender=zoila y yuri vender unas zapatos


The school day  at the primary level in Bluefields was divided into  
periods, as follows:  1) SignWriting,, 2) sign language and literature,  
3) arts and crafts, 4) math, 5) Spanish (three days per week), and 6)  
geography (two days per week).  The schedule for the older students was  
somewhat different, with a greater emphasis on social studies and  
history.  In the sign language and literature period, which was the  
longest period, the teachers select a story from the SignWriting  
reading texts.  The teachers read and explain a page.  Students then  
take turns either reading the passage or paraphrasing it.  Small groups  
of children then dramatize the storyline before proceeding to the next  
page.  B had more experience with this format since A tended to be  
working with the older group.  However, both teachers have mastered the  
language and reading skills needed to implement this structure.  Their  
performance as teachers under this format in Bluefields was excellent,  
and we are eager to know whether they have been able to follow a  
similar structure in Condega.


Sample Sentences from C's Homework:

Amor = Yo amo a mi hermano
Comprar=  Yo compro una camisa negra
Decir =       Yo digo. “Yo tengo mucho sed.”
¿Dónde esta? =    ¿Dónde esta la casa de los sordos.?
   Dormir =     Yo duermo con Tomasita.
   Estar =         Yo estoy en la casa verde.
   Ser  =           Yo soy feo.
   Ir  =              Yo voy a la casa de Ruth.
   Ir ( Futuro) =   Yo voy visitar a mi amiga en la casa.
   Jugar =            Yo quiero jugar en el parque.
   Lavar =           Yo voy a lavar la casa.
   Lavarse =        Yo  me lavo el pelo.
   Mas---Que =   Daphny es mas alta que su hermano.
   Menos---Que =   Tomasita tiene menos dinero que Daphny.
   Tan---Como =     La suma de Daphny es tan suave como la suma de Denis.
   Poder =               Yo puedo manejar un carro.
   Poner =               Yo quiero poner la camisa en la caja.
   Llevar =             Maria lleva una libra de carne.
   Preguntar =         Yo voy preguntar. “¿cuanto cuesta el arroz hoy?”
   Quierar =            Yo quiero visitar a mi novio en Condega.
   Tener Ganas =    Claudia tiene ganas de mirar televisión.
   Tener =               Daphny tiene 19 anos.
   Tener Que =       Yo tengo que comprar frijoler.
   Vender =             Zeli vende una y manazanas.
   Me  Duele =        Me duele los ojos.
   Dar =                  Yo doy unos pantalones a mi amiga.
    En =                    EL libro esta en la mesa.
    Ir  (Futuro) =       Yo voy a visitar a Ruth en Palacauina.

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