SignWriting and L2 literacy

Valerie Sutton sutton at SIGNWRITING.ORG
Mon Dec 15 18:38:13 UTC 2003

SignWriting List
December 15, 2003

Tamar Bernfeld wrote:
My question is, do you think SignWriting can serve as a bridge to L2
literacy more easily in a language such as Spanish because both systems
are 'transparent' (for lack of a better term) in the sense that there
is a one to one sign/symbol sound/symbol correspondence?
Does anyone know of any papers written on this topic??

Dear SW List and Tamar -
I am not sure I understand the question, Tamar...Are you referring to
the issue of "phonetic" versus "phonemic"? Some spoken languages write
more phonetically-based than others...I have heard that Spanish
spellings are a little more direct and logical, than the old
out-of-date English spellings...and I believe that German also spells
in a more perfect manner too...English spellings were never updated
from centuries ago, when people spoke English our
language changed, but the old spellings remain...

I do not know of any research on this issue, but I will tell you my
guess...I believe that SignWriting can serve as a bridge to literacy
for anyone who either knows a signed language, or who is learning a
signed language, plus it works with some mentally-challenged students,
who do not necessarily know any language...there have been some amazing
stories...but none of those stories have any connection with the
transparency of the spoken language in their I don't think
you need to concern yourself with any spoken language...what matters
with SignWriting is to give it to a Deaf student and see what they
do...usually, in a relatively short time, they will become inspired and
then they can lead you through the literacy
working with SignWriting leads to spoken language literacy too, to a
certain degree anyway, since inspiration leads to exploring other
languages and wanting to share...I know that vocabulary tests have
improved in some classrooms, because of SignWriting coupled with

We do have quite a number of people using SignWriting in Spanish
speaking countries, such as Nicaragua, Spain, Colombia, El Salvador,
Peru and Argentina - Perhaps James Shepard-Kegl could give you
information, since he is teaching Spanish to his signing Deaf students
right now in Nicaragua, using SignWriting in the classroom too...

Val ;-)

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