AW: [sw-l] Re: Thesis -- more than anecdotal- research on SW as a tool to learn

Stefan Wöhrmann stefanwoehrmann at GEBAERDENSCHRIFT.DE
Sun Feb 27 00:10:14 UTC 2005

Hello Ingvild,

well I studied your message with great interest.
I am not quite sure but I am afraid that there are so many different aspects
that may cause an effect on different outcomes that it is almost impossible
to match a group of deaf children  to another in the way that you seriously
can speak of an effect of the teaching method (with or without SignWriting)

Looking at my students they are from different cultural background - one
family German -
All of them did not get in contact with Sign Language until they became 6/7
years old. (So they grew up without any (!!!) language.)
Some of them got a Cochlea Implant.
Some of the children seem to develop residual hearing abilities over time.
Some of them are living during the week at a dormitory next to our school.
Some of them come by bus (one girl 90 minutes one way!) every morning.
Some of them are in contact with deaf children in the afternoon - others are
Some parents are interested in their children progress regarding Literacy
None of the parents started to achieve SL-skills.
Some of the parents earn not enough money to make it on their own.

Other parameters -
How many teachers are involved ?
How many different subjects are taught.
How to measure the individual competence, energy of the teacher ...
What are the ideas of success at school?
How many hours do the children learn language-skills - and which method -
oral - bilingual - SW -handwriting - focusing on reading - translating -
focus on maths or language -
What about the level of SL-competence among the teachers?
Age of SL-competence -

I - myself - felt so lucky when I heard about the Nicaraguan experience
using SignWriting at school. It was so obvious to me that it should be such
a great support - that I could not hesitate one minute but started to learn
as much as possible about that.

I do not believe that any teacher, any deaf SL-instructor or any father or
mother of a deaf child could be pushed to use a tool that he/she is not
convinced of. I think that there is no reason to try to persuade anybody
that we have found a wonderful, wonderful tool unless people show up with
their need and questions to express SL in a written form. There is no reason
to fight a battle of comparing HamNoSys to SW or Stokoe
(by the way I could not find one single story written in HamNoSys or Stokoe
or any other Writing System)
If people are happy with their instrument - if they do not miss anything -
why should we make them feel upset, insecure, angry ... No !

That is the reason that I am pretty much sceptic about any kind of
questionaire - asking people about their opinion "What do you think about
SignWriting?" if they still are convinced that SL is a language without a
written form.

Stefan ;-)

-----Urspr√ľngliche Nachricht-----
Von: owner-sw-l at
[mailto:owner-sw-l at] Im Auftrag von Ingvild Roald
Gesendet: Samstag, 26. Februar 2005 20:46
An: sw-l at
Betreff: Re: [sw-l] Re: Thesis -- more than anecdotal- research on SW as a
tool to learn

As you say, to do a proper scientific study we would need lots of time, not
only to prepare material, but also to get a large enough student body here
in Norway. The grants that are available, will only run for three to four
years. So we will have ot settle for less than a conclusivie study - but
neverthe less it would be possible to draw some conclusions.

What we have in mind are:

1: Use SignWriting of NSL as the first writing/ language in one of the
schools, and wait for a few months/ half a year before giving them Norwegian

reading and writing. We then plan to match the students there with students
attending other schools using different methods (matching as for language
used at home and in school, hearing status, gender, general abilities etc.)

2: We plan to assess the language proficiency in Norwegian spoken/ written
language only, by classroom observations and foramlly after year two, when
all Norwegian students are supposed to be so assesed.

3: As for material, we know we have alot to do. The material tha tis used
for teaching Norwegian to deaf students in the school we are thinking of,
already exist in Norwegian Sign language, and can be transcribed into
SignWriting. There also exist a small body of 'games' where one handshape is

used for different signs to make up a story. Goldlylocks is also recorded in

Norwegian SIgn Language. But we will have to work hard both to do the
transcribing, to evaluate the material as for fitness for the purpose, and
to teach the teachers SignWriting.

Even if we can do this, the student number will be small ( a maximum of ten
in the experiment group), and no firm conclusions can be drawn from such a
small number. But it will be somewhere to start, and by doing a research
such as this we are showing the parents, the Deaf community, and the
authorities that we are taking the goal of true bi-lingualism seriously, and

that we will not enter into a new way of doing things without any real
knowledge basis.


>From: "James Shepard-Kegl, Esq." <kegl at MAINE.RR.COM>
>Reply-To: sw-l at
>To: sw-l at
>Subject: Re: [sw-l] Re: Thesis -- more than anecdotal
>Date: Sat, 26 Feb 2005 13:18:04 -0500
>  But it may well be that in order for us to be
> > sucessfull in that argument, we will have to show that this system also
> > gives deaf chioldren better literacy in the majority language. - We are
> > plannin gto do a study in Norway along those lines, but I do not know if

> > will be able to get the funding yet.
>In order to do this study, it seems to me that some Deaf students will need
>to master SignWriting, then use their skills to learn Norwegian.  You will
>then need to objectively compare their abilities with those of
>educated Deaf students.
>In Bluefields, Nicaragua, it took us years to produce sufficient literature
>in SignWriting and to develop Spanish grammar books and reading lessons
>intended for Deaf students who are literate in their native sign language.
>In addition to designing our curriculum from nothing, we then had to train
>our teachers (recruited from our students), before working with the younger
>This study you are proposing in Norway -- what did you have in mind for a
>On an overlooked tangent -- SW is integral to teaching math, as well.  This
>assumes that someone has taken the time to design math textbooks with
>problems presented in sign language.
>-- James

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