[sw-l] non-deaf people and mouthing

Sandy Fleming sandy at SCOTSTEXT.ORG
Sun Feb 27 08:54:50 UTC 2005

Hi Val!

> Meanwhile, Stuart and I are wondering if it is different in Europe?
> When two fluent signing Deaf people in BSL sign to each other, without
> any non-deaf people in the room...do they mouth every single word in
> English while they are signing in BSL grammar? Have you ever videotaped
> the differences when a non-deaf person suddenly enters the room? How do
> the native Deaf signers change their language to accomodate the
> non-deaf person?

We have signers who are "accommodating" in this way. I had a discussion with
one such Deaf person recently, who said that he tries to use more lip
patterns with people whose sign language is poor. He also said that this
becomes a bad habit and he can't stop himself from using English lip
patterns with signers who only use native BSL lip patterns!

These full BSL signers use very few English lip patterns - their mouths are
continually busy with BSL lip pattens indicating intensity, continuity,
rejection, denial, shock, laughter &c as well as those "poo", "vee" "thoo"
&c patterns of BSL. These signers are often able to change enough to
accommodate less competent signers, but sometimes theere are real
communication difficulties.

It seems acceptable for someone who has enough proficiency in both languages
to intervene to sort out the problems. Sometimes you see someone acting as
"interpreter" between less proficient signers and less proficient
English-speakers. I sometimes find myself being "interpreted" for with a
full-BSLer but now that I'm doing Level 3 BSL that situation is rapidly

Sometimes there's a complete communication breakdown that lip-patterns and
even fingerspelling don't resolve. I've noticed that even some quite
advanced learners can be stumped by simple phrases like "birthday cake",
which in BSL is "blow-out-candle cake". You can't mouth English while
blowing out a candle! I had to intervene recently when watching a BSL user
trying over and over again to communicate "Valentine's Day" to a Level 2-er.
In BSL this is "Heart Day" and I suppose no amount of English lip patterns
will help you if you don't know the correct BSL idiom.

Incidentally, while I had it easy in Level 1 & 2, in my Level 3 class
English is not tolerated! Since BSL does everything in a different order or
with inflections, it becomes impossible to even think in English and I begin
to understand these native speakers much better. "Tommorrow shop go. Rain
car." &c...!


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