Sign writing advice PLEASE!

Stuart Thiessen sw at PASSITONSERVICES.ORG
Sun Oct 23 23:51:35 UTC 2005

See comments below.  Thanks!


On Oct 23, 2005, at 17:46, Saduf Naqvi wrote:

> Dear All,
> I am running some experiments on different digital representations of 
> sign
> language and am comparing how effective they are at delivering 
> information to
> the Deaf community in the native language of the Deaf.
> I am comparing video recordings, animation sequences and also notation 
> sequences.
> Obviously I am using signwriting for the notation sequence. However I 
> am having
> trouble writing the sequences.  I used sign puddle and got quite 
> confused with
> the notations that came back.  Which also raised another very 
> important issue,
> if I am testing this with a participant who doesn't use sign writing 
> (which is
> quite likely) then how can I explain what is being done, clearly and 
> briefly.
> I cannot exactly explain it, but after I look at a few notations I 
> start getting
> the gist of how it works, but Im wondering how I can explain this to 
> someone who
> has never set eyes on this before.  How can I formally and briefly (as 
> I have
> strict time constraints) explain how the notation works to a person 
> who has
> never used sign writing before?

Since I am using ASL in our community, I am able to use Goldilocks and 
the Three Bears or other printed material that Valerie has produced 
that has both English and ASL. For deaf who are proficient in English, 
they can usually figure out a "back translation" to ASL and figure out 
the ASL text from the English once they understand the symbols. Where I 
can, I leave the materials with them so they can study more on their 
own. I try to offer classes from time to time through Pass It On 
Services for those who want more formal instructions.  It is 
slow-going, but better than nothing.

I tend to take it one sentence at a time. Usually, after a couple of 
sentences, they begin to pick up the idea of it even if they haven't 
memorized all of the symbols yet. :)

While animation and video require very little reader preparation, they 
require extensive writer preparation.  While learning to read requires 
some reader participation, writing tends to be easier to create, edit, 
and distribute (cost wise) than video and animation. Over time, as deaf 
people realize the value of writing their sign language _and_ deaf 
schools include written sign language in their curriculum, then this 
will become less of an issue, just like it is less of an issue for many 
literate communities around the world. Like Valerie has mentioned 
elsewhere, it seems that a basic knowledge of the system that gives you 
enough tools to keep moving forward seems to take about 24 hours of 
instruction.  That seems about right ... at least for reading. Compared 
to years of schooling to master written English, that seems like a 
pretty effective process ;)

I'm sure the mastery of SignWriting will require more time, but basic 
mastery seems to be about what Valerie said.  But mere introduction to 
the rudiments of the system can be as short as 30 minutes in my 
experience. One person I talked with was able to "stumble" through the 
text after about 30 minutes of instruction.  So, it all depends on the 

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