Teaching Signwriting to deaf children in Tunisia A PROPOSAL FOR ALL

Erika Hoffmann-Dilloway erhoffma at OBERLIN.EDU
Fri Jan 3 20:14:03 UTC 2014

Hi Val - I addressed those questions about mouthing (and also noticed the
parallel with fingerspelling) in my recent article in Signs and Society.
What I basically argue is that it's going to vary across signers, depending
on their particular histories and repertoires, whether and how they connect
these movements to speech or writing. In other words, that the answers to
these questions don't exist in the language(s) themselves but in the people
using them :)
I think that's a useful way of thinking about the way everybody uses
language actually, including as Val mentioned, for understanding how
people's repertoires might include parts of lots different languages!

On Fri, Jan 3, 2014 at 1:55 PM, Valerie Sutton <signwriting at mac.com> wrote:

> SignWriting List
> January 3, 2014
> Hello Stefan -
> THANK YOU, for the in-depth message below, which you wrote before
> Christmas, to the List. I confess I just read it this morning - but I am so
> glad that I did… I really enjoyed reading it, and as always, I am impressed
> and amazed at your work, and grateful to you too, for using SignWriting all
> these years with your Deaf students.
> If I remember correctly, you have already graduated one class of Deaf
> students, who used SignWriting for over a decade in your classroom? … and
> now you have a new young crop of Deaf students, who are the second class to
> learn SignWriting for a decade, or at least will - smile - is this correct?
> I think this is important because I am curious how your students who
> graduated already (now that they are older and out in the world) … how are
> they doing? I am sure your attentive teaching style gave them a great
> foundation to base their adult lives upon, in this complex world of today -
> I was interested to learn of your idea for further research on how signers
> read mouth movements that are connected with spoken language words, that
> are mouthed while signing…A research study of the future could try to
> investigate if Deaf people connect spoken language with mouthing, or is it
> really just a part of the signing experience?
> The same research-style question could arise related to ASL
> fingerspelling. ASL signers use a lot of fingerspelling, and for hearing
> people like myself, (I am not skilled at reading fingerspelling), I have
> been amazed at my lack of ability to connect fingerspelling with my own
> native language, English. It also seems surprising to me that Deaf people
> read fingerspelling so well, when some of them are not necessarily
> English-focused …so there seems to be a disconnect between signing along
> with using mouthing or fingerspelling, and reading a spoken language on
> paper.
> I think Deaf Education is very hard, because each school, and indeed each
> classroom, is like its own little culture, with a set of circumstances that
> is unique to itself. It is impossible to judge a teacher or student without
> being there in the classroom and seeing all the communication that
> transpires. What matters, I would assume, is to educate and inspire
> students, and I would also assume that teachers have to take into account
> how their school administrators feel, how their fellow teachers feel in
> that specific school, and most important, how the parents and home-life of
> each student “feels” to that student.
> Seeing it from this perspective, it makes one realize that no matter how
> idealistic we are, about wanting “pure ASL” or “pure DGS” for Deaf
> students, the truth is that we all live in a hodgepodge of languages and
> cultures now, because of globalization and also the internet and so many
> other multi-tasking influences, and “pure” ANY language is rare and
> difficult to find today - People are using Texting spelling when writing
> English for example and I am left behind at times, since I have never
> texted - and Deaf students need to adjust to so many more factors than
> hearing people - it is mind boggling to think about what they have to learn
> in such a stressful, multi-tasking world -
> That is one of the reasons why I am glad that with the SignWriting script
> we can preserve and write the sign languages of the world, in their purer
> forms, as they are signed right now, so that future generations can see how
> signing was done in past generations, since languages continually change -
> I hope you get great joy out of teaching and writing and creating new
> documents and ideas and art in 2014!
> Val ;-)
> ———
> On Dec 22, 2013, at 3:58 PM, Stefan Wöhrmann <
> stefanwoehrmann at GOOGLEMAIL.COM> wrote:
> Hi Erika, James, Val and friends...
> Thank you Erika for your comment. I am afraid that my English is not good
> enough to describe what I have on my mind and I appreciate your message as
> a comment about your first-hand experience in my classes over the
> years...;-))
> Well James,
> 1)       It is as Erika explains it perfectly. You honestly will not
> assume that I do not know the difference between Signed German and DGS
> (German Sign Language) – and as I started with my privous message: The
> first step is to assure that teacher  and student and students among each
> other can communicate. Within a group of deaf people this communication is
> done in SignLanguage  ( not Signed German).
> At the end of this learning adventure any student should be able to switch
> between the two systems Signlanguage and Spoken Language. Some of my
> students develop a high motivation to work hard to improve their
> articulation – others do no like to speak. Nevertheless all of them are
> exspected to become competent in both Languages (Sign Language and Spoken
> Language)  This is definitely not only a BI-MODEL methodology – as you
> call it but a bilingual approach.
> “Use it if you must; but recognize it for what it is.”  Hm – in between
> the lines I can see the frown on your face. Signed German ... you never
> would use that. Am I right? – smile -  It is as Erika might be able to
> explain much better. The step in between the start and the end of our
> learning procedure is to support deaf students with Signed German.
> Experience has shown that the students achieve bilingual competence so much
> faster if they get the chance to read and “translate” written documents
> that show signs written in the grammar of Spoken German.
> Next step will be to demonstrate the contrast between Signlanguage and
> Spoken Language. They understand much better and in the end it is a pure
> bilingual approach and the students translate from one system inot the
> other in both directions. .
> Thanks to our delegs-editor – the most effective tool for building the
> bridge between Spoken Language and Signlanguage  - you can do this back and
> forth thing so easily.  It is your job to write any document within seconds
> in whatever style you want to. If you want to create SignLanguage document
> – just write the words that pick the signs from the dictionary – edit the
> signs to appropriate DGS oder ASL and hide the words afterwards. Same thing
> with Signed German documents. ...I am so gratefull that it has become so
> easy to offer lots and lots and lots of documents every day with this
> brilliant DELEGS – software.
> 2)      Hi James – when I referr to name-signs in SignWriting as
> pictograms – I cannot see any negative aspect in this. My experiments in
> this field show clearly that you and me and other experienced scribes look
> at these arrangements of single symbols which we take out of the big ISWA
> –box with other eyes. And we read the given signs in a analytic way. We
> understand the meaning of the single symbols. Many well written signs seem
> to become a “Gute Gestalt” and the deaf child and some beginners who start
> to read SignWriting do not analyze and even do not know ( and do not have
> to) about all the decisions the scribe has made while he choose to write
> the sign in this way. It is amazing – and funny at the same time – to see
> that a well known sign – ( a sign that is identified within part of a
> second) can be changed (in the sense of misspelled) and the deaf child
> would not hesitate to “read” it the same way as before... I did some
> private research on this and it is really tremendously interesting. Hi
> Erica - .... smile!
> “...by that logic, showing the kid his written German name is also using a
> pictogram” – yes of course – as long as the child has no idea about any
> method to interpret the graphems in any way as options how to encourage
> somebody to speak what is written – and that is of course a long journey
> especially for deaf kids.
> “-- a jumble of otherwise pointless letters whose order must be
> memorized.”  In order to change this I invented this new notation system
> for sound-based symbols. “Mundbildschrift” = “Woehrmanns Speech-Writing”
> This exactly is the basis why I invented my “Speech-Writing –System” ...
> but this is a whole other story and people get confused because of two
> different systems  - a VISUALLY PHONETIC system (as used in my
> mouthgestures “Mundbilder” in Signwriting) and an  aural based phonetic
> code  in this case “Mundbildschrift”
> 3)      “German employs an aural based phonetic code..”  ..ha...yes ....
> well there are a lot of problems beause this matching of letters and sounds
> does not work in German... too many exceptions... This causes problems in
> the context of lipreading, It is a severe fault to tell a hearing child –
> just write what you hear – it does not work. You better should say look at
> the spelling of this German word (just as a string of letters) and listen
> to me. You hear the way we pronounce this word. Just accept that and obey
> the spelling.
> From my point of view deaf students expand their vocabulary of Spoken
> German much better if they get the chance to associate with given words
> some kind of tongue, mouth, lip –movement – feedback. How does it feel if
> you pronounce the word Reagenzglas, Universalindikator, Koordinatenkreuz,
> Baden-Württemberg.  A combination of reading the word, looking at the
> appropriate sign in SignWriting along with the mouth-gestures as you find
> them constantly in the German SignPuddle allows deaf students to speed up
> with the aqcuisition of new terms.
> Deaf students can read SignWriting documents at high speed even if they do
> now know about the meaning of the (isolated) symbols.  I am still in the
> beginning to understand this and to accept this and to arrange experiments
> in order to find more about that.
> When Erika did her research project in my classes it has been almost like
> a mystery to both of us that deaf students move their lips or read a sign
> in GebaerdenSchrift with Mundbilder – and nevertheless do not associate
> these mouth movements with German words as we do.  We referr in this case
> to some association of the spoken word – while a deaf child might perform
> this part of the sign just as a movement part of the lips not knowing that
> the lipreading would lead to a quick identification of the German word. ...
> There is probably still lots of room for research – right Erika? You are
> very welcome to visit us again any time. You want me ask if you can rent
> the appartement again? Your research and the way you expalin these
> questions to me are a very welcome source for greater attention.
> Hope this helps – sorry for my English ;-(
> All best Stefan
> ------------------------------
> *Von:* SignWriting List: Read and Write Sign Languages [mailto:SW-L at LISTSE<SW-L at LISTSERV.VALENCIACOLLEGE.EDU>
> von *Erika Hoffmann-Dilloway
> *Gesendet:* Sonntag, 22. Dezember 2013 23:18
> *Betreff:* Re: Teaching Signwriting to deaf children in Tunisia A
> Hi James - Stefan can of course speak for himself, but since I'm at the
> computer I'll just briefly note from my observations in his class he does
> use both German Sign Language and Signed German - and clearly treats them
> as different codes (i.e., SG is framed as German in a different modality
> not as a sign language). I think he was focusing on his use of Signed
> German in his earlier message to highlight the ways in which he thinks SW
> can be useful for teaching a spoken language. I'd never been comfortable
> with the use of a signed version of a spoken language in other educational
> settings I've observed, but the way that Stefan distinguishes it from
> German Sign Language and uses each to different ends - or as a means to
> compare grammatical structures between the two codes- was really
> interesting.
> Stefan, please correct me if I'm misframing anything you do.
> Best,
> Erika
> On Sun, Dec 22, 2013 at 5:08 PM, James Shepard-Kegl <kegl at maine.rr.com>
> wrote:
> Stefan,
> I think you and I are going to have to respectfully disagree.
> I would point out some issues for all:
> 1)  The methodology that Stefan has described is not a BILINGUAL approach;
> rather, it is a BI-MODEL methodology.  Signed German is not a language
> different from German; it is a manual form of German.  Use it if you must;
> but recognize it for what it is.
> 2)  Referring to name-signs in SignWriting as pictograms may be
> appropriate for a Deaf child on his or her first day of school, but know
> this:  by that logic, showing the kid his written German name is also using
> a pictogram.
> 3)  It truly is more difficult to write a sign than to recognize one.
>  But, that is true of written English and German, too.  Both othorgraphic
> systems are phonetic systems: German employs an aural based phonetic code;
> SignWriting is, if you will, a VISUALLY PHONETIC system.  Most hearing
> children use a whole word approach when learning to read, but understand
> that the code itself is based on sounds that are put together to form
> words.  AND HERE IS MY POINT:  To Deaf chidren, a written German word is a
> pictogram -- a jumble of otherwise pointless letters whose order must be
> memorized.  But, when shown how SignWriting works, these children can
> immediately appreciate the concept that writing systems use a code.  In the
> case of SignWriting, that code is merely symbols for handshapes, movement
> and direction, contact, location, etc.  Only when a Deaf child recognizes
> this, can he or she solve the mystery of how hearing people can so
> consistently spell words in German so accurately
>  .  You see, as a hearing person I can quickly relate to the concept that
> SignWriting is a visually phonetic code.  First, I am not blind, so I can
> see that it is.  Second, I am already comfortable with the notion of an
> aurally phonetic writing system.  Alas, the Deaf child -- or the profoundly
> deaf child, anyway -- may never actually know what a sound is, just like
> chldren born totally blind cannot imagine colors.  But with SignWriting,
> the Deaf child might grasp the idea of a sound based writing code by
> analogy.
> -- James
> ________________________________________________
> Valerie Sutton SignWriting List moderator sutton at signwriting.org
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Erika Hoffmann-Dilloway
Assistant Professor of Anthropology
Oberlin College



Valerie Sutton
SignWriting List moderator
sutton at signwriting.org

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