How long does it take to learn?

Valerie Sutton signwriting at MAC.COM
Sun Dec 17 16:44:57 UTC 2006

SignWriting List
December 17, 2006

These are two different scenarios...

Learning to Read in Depth

and what I call...


Both are true, both have value, and it is not a question of  
disagreeing that both are needed and both exist...Both styles of  
teaching and learning exist around the world, and there is nothing  
wrong with any of it...

It just depends on the purpose of the lesson at hand, and the person  
you are teaching, and the environment you are working in...

I used to teach Quick-Reading courses in DanceWriting. I actually  
called the Courses "Quick-Reading"... It meant that I handed dancers  
who already knew how to dance, a dance fully written in DanceWriting.  
There were no other textbooks or lessons...just the DanceWriting  
score. And I would teach them how to read from that document. Of  
course it was not in depth. They knew they could take lessons in  
depth if they wanted, but they took the Quick-Reading course because  
they needed a quick introduction to the writing system so they could  
at least recognize some things quickly. And it worked very fast.  
There were some professional dancers with the Boston Ballet company,  
who were able to review what they were going to perform that night,  
with only that one Quick-Reading course...They were able to perform  
dances they had barely rehearsed, because of reading the documents took around a half-hour to an hour and they knew enough  
to be able to function on stage...

And Quick-Reading courses work in SignWriting too with the following  

1. The student must be so skilled in Sign Language that it is their  
primary daily language...

2....This means they think in a Sign Language, and not a spoken  
language. Usually that means they are native signers, and usually  
they are adults, but there are some children who do well with Quick- 
Reading too...and being a native signer or even being deaf is not is the fact that Sign Language is their primary  
language that matters...

3. Everyone knows, both students and teacher, that Quick-Reading is  
only just that...a brief introduction to give them confidence.  
Obviously more in-depth learning is preferred if they are in a  
school...but most Quick-Reading lessons are used with Deaf adults who  
do not believe their language can be written...that is what Adam and  
I were talking about...that group of people who refuse to look at  
SignWriting, can be impressed by SignWriting, if they see that within  
a half hour they can do Quick-Reading...

4. Quick-Reading for primary Sign Language users works best with  
documents written down in vertical columns...I would never use a  
document going from left to right with them personally...but I know  
that is our software's fault that there are not more documents that  
are written in vertical columns...but vertical columns help speed in  
learning to read a document...

Meanwhile, Jason, for your can mention this  
above...that there are several ways to learn to read SignWriting.  
Learning it in a school as a Deaf child is preferred and then they  
learn to read over a long time and in depth, but Deaf adults who have  
never had SignWriting in school become less skeptical that their  
language can be written, with Quick-Reading courses..

So everyone is correct! We are simply talking about two different  
kinds of teaching...

I do not believe personally, that the term Pictogram is the correct  
term for the Quick-Reading experience...I understand why you need a  
name for the experience, Stefan, but I guess I would prefer, from a  
linguistic point of view, not to use the Pictogram term because that  
has another meaning in linguistics I believe...I call it Quick- 
Reading versus learning how to read in depth ;-))

No matter what we call Quick-Reading, I am proud of the fact that our  
writing system can be learned in different ways for different groups  
of people...

I will answer your message below shortly -

Val ;-)

On Dec 17, 2006, at 3:53 AM, Stefan Wöhrmann wrote:

> Hello Jason, Adam, Valerie ... sw-list members,
> I feel motivated to add a comment.
> Well obviously I disagree - I do not believe that it is so easy to  
> learn to
> read SW -
> The reason is that I make a difference between understanding some  
> basics (
> flat hand, palm orientation, double-stemmed movement),  
> understanding to
> remember the meaning of a given amount of distinct sw-spellings - I  
> call
> this "Pictogram-reading"  and kind of analytic understanding of  
> what is
> written - the experienced reader should be able to read/peform any  
> given
> SW-document ( I am not talking about understanding the meaning -  
> just being
> able to sign what is written- )
> Now we see, that it is not so easy to read documents which you  
> never have
> seen before. Often misspellings are a problem - but even if people  
> get the
> chance to read well-written SW - documents in a not-familiar SL  
> they need
> some time ( not just a few minutes - smile - ) to get used to the  
> analytic
> process that is needed to "understand" what is written.
> The next step would be to ask a person to tanslate that given SW- 
> document or
> to answer questions about the meaning --
> Now additional to the performance of the movement you have to  
> connect to the
> meaning of these signs in the given SL. In some SL the Mundbilder  
> offer an
> important load of the information - smile - ....
> From my every day experience I can say that I would not focus on  
> speed but
> rather on the fact that now we got the chance to write SL in a way  
> that has
> not been offered before.
> So what would/can you do, if you do not use SW?  I annot think of  
> anything
> that seems to be an adequate alternative option, if it comes down  
> to be able
> to document the movements of any given SL-performance at any length.
> And Jason - yes learning to read is a lot easier compared to  
> learning to
> write. At our times of computers everybody wants to be quick and  
> quicker ...
> but from my point of view that cannot be the point.
> How long did it took an Egyptian to carve the message into stone?  
> And how
> many people at that time would have been able to read and write these
> messages?
> How long doest it take to draw good looking life-like drawings of a  
> given
> sign - and can you imagine to write whole stories and all the SW- 
> documents
> with this method? Well I can not!
> So it is not the speed but the quality and accurateness that counts  
> - from
> my point of view.
> Stefan ;-)
> -----Ursprüngliche Nachricht-----
> Von: owner-sw-l at
> [mailto:owner-sw-l at] Im Auftrag von Adam Frost
> Gesendet: Freitag, 15. Dezember 2006 22:46
> An: sw-l at
> Betreff: Re: [sw-l] How long does it take to learn?
> I can only say from my experience as a Deaf user. I have taught a lot
> of Deafies to read SW, and they all get it in less than 30 minutes.
> Now that doesn't mean that they can write in SW, but the can read a
> document without support.
> Now, for your question about daily users, that will be diffcult to
> figure as I am sure several others on the list will agree. But I can
> speak for myself that I have tons of notes to myself in SW. My
> computer has some, but is limited because of the lack of technology.
> Which brings me to my next comment, most Deafies I know near me don't
> use it on a daily bases because there isn't ease to use it. This has
> brought out my blunt nature of being Deaf (and because I know them
> well) to say to them it is just an excuse to stay illiterate in their
> own native language. (I know. Very bold!)
> I hope this helped you out some.
> Adam
> On 12/15/06, Jason Hopkins <codenosher at> wrote:
>> Hello,
>> Just so you know, I'm probing a bit for some research I'm doing :)
>> From your experiences, how long does it take for your average Deaf  
>> person
> to
>> learn SW good enough to read most things?  I know this is pretty  
>> vague,
> but
>> I'd like to know about what you've experienced yourself or in  
>> training
>> classes.
>> I'd also like to know how many people are using SW on a daily  
>> basis, and
> in
>> what ways.  I have seen the cards and a couple of emails, but in  
>> what ways
>> are you using this on a daily basis for meaningful communication  
>> outside
> of
>> the handful of grade schools I've seen listed.
>> Does anyone leave coworkers notes in SW?  Look around your  
>> computer, on a
>> bulletin board or on your fridge, do you have notes to yourself or  
>> others
> in
>> SW?  I'd really like to know how the deaf Deaf are using SW on a  
>> daily
>> basis.
>> -Jason
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