AW: [sw-l] How long does it take to learn?

Charles Butler chazzer3332000 at YAHOO.COM
Mon Dec 18 11:51:59 UTC 2006

This is largely anecdotal, but i believe that no single Chinese person learns more than 10,000 characters in a lifetime, and that there are 64 possible brushstrokes.  On top of that, the character set is used for Mandarin, Cantonese, and at least 8 other dialects whose vocal production is quite different.  The character set is by meanings, not by pronunciation, and one learns by context practically everything.  If you see the character for ´´happiness´ you learn it as a meaning, not a sound, and slowly build that way.  
  That is my two cents, and I know that Chinese is built on patience, and skill, and has 6000 years of history to speak for it.

"James Shepard-Kegl, Esq." <kegl at MAINE.RR.COM> wrote:
  I must add that Stefan is correct, in my opinion and experience.

When I am asked how long it takes to learn SW, my answer is that this
depends upon whether or not you are fluent in whatever sign language that
you are reading or writing.

SW, and reading in general, is all about codes and predictions. One learns
a code so that one can predict how a word or phrase or sentence might be
written. This analysis assumes you have a foundation from which base your

We English speakers are halfway through the word and we already know we are
talking about a "forest".

SW is quite easy to learn to read if halfway through the word you can
already predict the rest.

The, there are errors: THE BEAR INHABATS THE FORSET. English readers can
predict the intent and, knowing the correct word, can apply their knowledge
of the code to find the errors. In fact, when teaching SW, throwing in some
intentional errors is a good method for teaching children the code.

As for speed in composition, what I can't figure out is how the Chinese
accomplish this.

Life is a journey, not a race.

-- James

on 12/17/06 6:53 AM, Stefan Wöhrmann at stefanwoehrmann at GEBAERDENSCHRIFT.DE

> 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 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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