forum SignWriting List Forum
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From:  Judy Kegl
Date:  Sun Sep 6, 1998  2:35 am
Subject:  Re: hello world

Dear Cecilia or whoever else is curious,

I have just returned from Nicaragua where I direct Escuelita de Bluefields,
the school for Deaf students from the eastern Nicaraguan rain forest. In
Bluefields, we ahve been emphasizing literacy through SignWriting for about
three years now, with exceptional results. The school teachers are all
Deaf and we teach exclusively in Nicaraguan Sign Language. We did have to
make a few adaptations to SignWriting, but nothing of tremendous

I was intrigued to read the comment that ASL does not need a written system
since it already has one, to wit, English. That strikes me as an utterly
illogical claim. If we are to assume that ASL is a bona fide language, and
not merely a visual dialect of english, than written english cannot
possibly be the written system for ASL. Obviously, ASL can be translated
into spoken english and therefore into written english. But, then, ASL can
be translated into spoken Hebrew, and therefore into written Hebrew, as
well. Yet, I don't see anyone claiming that Hebrew is the written system
for ASL.

I understand that Deaf students in the U.S. are taught to read english, and
that those who actually master written english, of which there are many,
arguably do not need another system to write down their thoughts. But,
when Deaf people write in english, they ain't writing ASL -- they are
writing english.

I should add that in Bluefields, we use SignWriting for history and
geography texts as well as numerous storybooks. The system is limited only
by the language sophistication of the signer -- in short, the potential is
tremendous. Also, because the students can read and write their own
language, we are enabled to teach grammar and syntax analysis in Nicaraguan
Sign Language. This also allows us to discuss the grammar and syntax of
Spanish. However, are students for the most part are late first language
learners. We do not have the time to intensively teach written Spanish
over 12 years.

Anyway, besides Deaf people, who else is expected to learn to write a
second language before they write their own? (Answer: conquered societies.)

-- James Shepard-Kegl (Escuelita de Bluefields/Nicaraguan Sign Language
Projects, Inc.)

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