Why Sign Writing?
midori at A.TSUKUBA-TECH.AC.JP
midori at A.TSUKUBA-TECH.AC.JP
Wed Aug 17 19:11:08 UTC 2005
I am much impressed by your description about complex situation of languages for the deaf in the Philippines. I went there twice last year and visited several schools in Manila, including Philippine Deaf School, CSB of Dela Sale, and CAP.
Deaf children there are educated by English and Signed English, but few of them can master English. They cannot comunicate with their family who don't know English, either. Most of them remain semi-lingual situation. And at the tertiary school level, at the College of Saint Benilde (CSB) Dela Sale University, they began to learn Filippino Sign Language for the first time.... They have no chance to learn Tagalogue, their national language. That was what I saw and learned there in the two short visitations.
A part of my motivation of learning SW is comparing foreign sign languages. Fiiippino Sign Language looks like ASL for me, but they say they are distinct languages. To know the differences of the languages, I think, SW would be helpful.
In coming November, I will visit Manila again with several students and faculty members from our college, and in next February we will accept the delegation from CSB. It is interesting to see how deaf Filippino and deaf Japanese manage to communicate with each other.
If you are interested in our exchanging project last time, please visit
In Manila district, they will have much opportunity to use English. It is a MUST to get job oportunity there. But in the province, I feel sad to read your desription, "by the time they are out of school for 2 - 5
years, most of them cannot read ANY English anymore, they are
illiterate!!" I can imagine that. CAP school in Manila has a distance learnig program for the deaf. Isn't it of some help?
Midori from Japan
--- sw-l at majordomo.valenciacc.edu ---
>Hello Eyasu and SW list,
>I thought that was an interesting question, Eyasu. Then it got me
>thinking.When my husband and I lived in Romania and after that Austria
>we had heard about SignWriting and thought it was an interesting idea,
>but we never pursued it further. Mostly because there was no pressing
>need - both in Romania and Austria many Deaf can read at least some of
>the "hearing" language and that seemed to be enough.
>Then - four years ago - we came to the Philippines, a rich country when
>it comes to languages! There are 168 languages used in the Philippines
>(I think only 2 - 4 are almost extinct, but the rest is really being
>used on an every day basis!). One of the 168 happens to be Filipino Sign
>Language (FSL). So which "hearing" language do you choose to write??
>Some hearing people decided, that English would be the best way to write
>for Deaf Filipinos. The idea behind it seemed logical, but the practical
>application was not: these people thought, since one of the national
>languages is English and English is also the language of higher
>education they would help the Deaf by teaching them that language right
>away, so they would not have to bother with two or more "hearing"
>languages. But of course, there was a problem. Maybe I can best explain
>it, by a practical example from our region:
>Our region is "Bicol" there are several Bicolano dialects being used by
>hearing people (sometimes you only travel about 5 km/2 - 3 miles) and
>you are in another language area. The second national language (taught
>in elementary and used by many people all over the Philippines) is
>Tagalog. Only in high school and college English is being used as the
>main language. Now we have the situation, that most parents of Deaf
>people know a Bicolano dialect and Tagalog. The Deaf are taught English
>in school and they know Sign Language. There is no communication between
>most parents and their deaf children!! So these Deaf children hardly
>have any access to information except in school. They are being taught
>to use English for writing in school, but because no one else in their
>surroundings uses English, by the time they are out of school for 2 - 5
>years, most of them cannot read ANY English anymore, they are
>In this situation we thought about SignWriting again. I seemed like a
>lot of work to us to learn all the symbols and rules for writing, but we
>wanted to give it a try. The best surprise came after a few weeks, when
>we had just succeeded in writing down one sentence in SW (and probably
>not even very well :-)): we gave some of the deaf a few basic
>instruction about SW (basic hand shapes, black and white and some of the
>contact symbols - time used for teaching them: about 15 minutes). Then
>we gave them the paper with our SW sentence. It took the Deaf about 2 -
>3 minutes each to figure out the writing AND understand it!!! But the
>best surprise for us were the shining faces: "This is MY language! You
>can WRITE my language!?! Wow!" - If we were still doubtful at that time,
>this was all we needed to see to convince us of the usefulness of SW for
>I hope this gives you a bit of insight as to why we started using SW.
>The other benefit was for myself (hearing): When I learned other sign
>languages before (Austrian, Romanian and ASL) it always took me a long
>time, because I could not write anything down (I think writing half a
>page just to try to remember how to reproduce ONE sign cannot be called
>"writing" :-)). I just need my "books and papers" to learn anything! Now
>with FSL I have learned much more in a much shorter time period and not
>only am I reproducing what I see, I can also start and analyze different
>features of the language which helps me to learn it even better.
>Long answer, sorry, once I get going, it is hard to stop:-)! I just have
>to say: I love sign languages and I love SignWriting, it just seems to
>make so much more sense!
>From: owner-sw-l at majordomo.valenciacc.edu
>[mailto:owner-sw-l at majordomo.valenciacc.edu] On Behalf Of eyasu tamene
>Sent: Mittwoch, 17. August 2005 14:01
>To: sw-l at majordomo.valenciacc.edu
>Subject: [sw-l] Why Sign Writing?
>Dearest Val, all
>I am curius to know new things I think that is way I became interested
>in SW. As to my knowledge Hearing impaired people are using the hearing
>ones. They don't have their own writing system. Haven't you every
>defended saying what if , if they continue using the existing writing
>system? What big challenge of the hearing impaired people was resolved
>as a result of Sign Writing? Weren't they comfortable, is it a question
>of equality....? I would be happy if Val of any one in the list become
>interested in Sign Writing to tell me why you became interested.
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