new subscriber

Carol Nussbaumer carol at NUSSBAUMERS.NET
Wed May 13 19:38:04 UTC 2009

Dear Stefan,

Thank you for your note.

To try to answer your question:  In 1997, at the request of the staff at
school, I began to show them how American Sign “works” and at the same time
urged them not to try to just accept ASL or SEE and use it.  Their culture
is so different that many signs just make no sense.  The kids (obviously!)
had already developed signs among themselves, but we were beginning to have
several signs for the same object, depending on the kids!  For example,
there were 4 different signs for “flashlight” among the 40 students in 4
classrooms.  By 1998, the staff was beginning to collect signs from the
students, asking each group (we have students from many different tribal
groups spread over an area 400 km x 300km) how they would indicate [word x ]
Then they decided as a group which sign would be used for all of school.
This process is on-going, but our problem is it is not codified in any way.
I hope SW will give us a stable sign system.  Just one example:  in ASL, the
word “water” is shown with a w hand placed near the mouth.  In Malawi, the
sign “water” is actually 2 signs.  If one is a girl, or talking about a
girl, we place both hands curved above the head (showing a bucket of water
being carried).  Boys, however, do not carry loads that way!  So if one is a
boy, or talking about a boy, “water” is shown with one hand curved at the
side and lifting, as if lifting a heavy bucket.

Some of our signs – especially numbers, colors, days of the week, some nouns
and verbs --- are ASL “borrowed” for our language.   Since the kids have to
learn English, the jump is not very far for most things.  And others work
just fine --- we call an automobile a galimoto , but the sign is the same.
America is the ASL sign but we developed our own for Malawi.

This sounds confusing!  Remember that I am very far from proficient in ASL
and only use sign while in Malawi – a few weeks a year.



From: sw-l-bounces at
[mailto:sw-l-bounces at] On Behalf Of Stefan Wöhrmann
Sent: Wednesday, May 13, 2009 8:20 AM
To: 'SignWriting List'
Subject: AW: [sw-l] new subscriber


Hi Carol, 


welcome to the SW –list. You will find lots of my projects in the past
around SignWriting or GebaerdenSchrift as we call it in Germany. 


Let me ask a question: You write in your introduction: 


“We began in 1997 to develop a sign language for our students, who use
Chitumbuka as the language of choice (they also must learn English, Chichewa
and often a tribal language).” 


What is this ...“ we began to develop a sign language...”  Did you invent
signs for the different terms ( numbers, colours, animals, plants, abstract
concepts ..did you present these signs to your deaf students? Or did you
introduce ASL  or ... ? How did you collect your signs for your Sign
Language so far?  What about Malawian SignLanguage 


Great to hear from you. Later you will keep this day in your mind – it was
the day your options to teach deaf students and hearing teacher became
brilliant. Valerie Sutton invented a wonderful system and lots of brilliant
software experts created great programs that allow us to feed the
“SignPuddle” or SignWriter  dictionary. 


Do not hesitate to post your questions to the list. Onthe other and it makes
sense to browse through the SW-forum list archives or to look at the many,
many documents that are published on the website. 


Have a great day 


Stefan ;-) 


I created another greeting card – saying in ASL  “This is a beautiful day” –
Sure it is!


Von: sw-l-bounces at
[mailto:sw-l-bounces at] Im Auftrag von Carol
Gesendet: Dienstag, 12. Mai 2009 20:55
An: SW-L at
Betreff: [sw-l] new subscriber


Monire Mose!  (Hello, everyone)

I am new to SW and very excited to find it.  I am a volunteer speech
therapist at the Embangweni School for the Hard of Hearing in Malawi,
Africa.  We began in 1997 to develop a sign language for our students, who
use Chitumbuka as the language of choice (they also must learn English,
Chichewa and often a tribal language).  Up till now we have had no way of
visually presenting the signs for new students and new teachers.  I am
hoping to be able to use SW for our school.

The school presently has 164 students boarding, ranging in age from 6 – 20.
About 60% are post-lingual deaf; the rest born deaf.  We have 12 classrooms,
plus the advanced vocational education section with an average of 11
students per classroom – much better than the usual Malawian classroom of 80
to 100 students per teacher!  We are located on a mission station which is a
3 hour drive from the nearest town of any size.  The school has no piped
water, but we are lucky to have a bore-hole (deep water well) close to the
classroom block.  There is electricity  on station, but it is too expensive
for the school to use except for a very occasional evening meeting at the

If you would like to learn more and see pictures of the school, visit the

I imagine I will be on here asking for help a lot!


Tiwonge chomeni!  (Thank you very much)

Carol Nussbaumer   Mama Kalo to the Embangweni kids

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