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From:  Stefan Woehrmann
Date:  Wed Mar 15, 2000  9:23 pm
Subject:  Re: Re[2]: SignWriting as a gateway?

Dear Hope, Valerie, and SW List members,

usually I dislike to get into a discussion about the pros and cons of a
subject if people do argue from very different levels of competence . (In
short : Please learn to read and write SW first bevor you start to discuss
whether it might be a problem ....) Stop trying to persuade , to convince
people who arenīt prepared to listen ( to read) about ideas that would
include the demand of change. So you are frightened to use SW at school -
you are so lucky that you havenīt to use it!
You are lucky that you havenīt to spent days and nights - additional time -
excluded from family-life or other activities. Feel free to enjoy the level
of literacy your pupils achieve - and relax. There is no need to change
anything?Well you might be lucky to include something in your teaching
-concept that allows your pupils to learn English or any other language
(not SL) that I had missed so desperately before.
I can read some fears and questions between the lines of the "gateway"
discussion. The question that Deaf pupils could fall back in their needs to
learn the spoken language of their surrounding is so far out.
Where are the textbooks, teaching-materials and computer equipment ? Where
are the colleagues who are so eager to learn SW in order to offer their
contents bilungual.
Do you know of teachers who a fluent signers who would argue against SL in
teaching Deaf children?

But let me tell you this --

Since I started to introduce SW at our school more and more Deaf pupils get
informed. They visit our class - ask me write special signs , want to see
the computer program ... There is something going on.
The children in my first class are a very special group. They didnīt know
before thex entered school that SW is something special. Contrary to that -
they experience SW as a very powerful tool to organize very clearly
schedules, the meaning of new combinations of German spellings - I simply
draw the SW symbol next to the words - (no, my, your, loud, ...) Itīs
nothing exciting to them - itīs just normal that you can express their
"symbols" in a written form .

There is no way to prevent the pupils from wanting to learn German writing
and speaking!! Donīt worry about that. Donīt feel unsecure or frightened
whatsoever - my first class friends are developing in such a speed - they
love to read new SW- symbols . They feel comfortable to know very quickly
what a special new German word means.

We are practicing a very powerfull bilingual way of teaching. New names -
new SW - symbols - efforts to get them written in German and to get them
articulated in German . The way we use it - there is no competition!!
Itīs even more. The kids manage to read with their eyes a special short
sentence - or question - (kind of: where is the blue car? "
written in DGS with SW
and at the same moment they are able to speak out loud this sentence in
perfect German.

Same with my pupils of 7th grade. Now we are already in the phase of writing
long lists of vocabularies - single words - written in SW -

phrases written in DGS and - I can asure you - they love it!!! They catch
the meaning of SW with no learning energy at all . That means their complete
struggle and learning time is concentrated on how to put this - now known
idea - into the words of the first foreign language - German !!
So donīt worry about time you will loose ! No there is no time you can

For the first time - I can think of - weīve got the possibility to offer a
written text in their strong and familiar language - the language in which
they think and comunicate - and now - just compare it to hearies who start
to learn their first foreign language - they get the chance to attach a new
word, a new "sign" to this strong fundament.

The point is at the other end - at least in my opinion. You are right
Valerie with you quote of SW - widdows . I īm so eager to pile up my
dictionary and it is sooooo time consuming to look through dictionaries and
CD - roms in SL that there is almost no time for other things.

So teachers have to be a little bit crazy to start this thing! They have to
accept that deaf pupils need SL and they have to experience the glance in
their eyes and the wonderful development that is set up once you started
doing this.
So itīs not a question of paedagocical pros or cons . Itīs almost the same
discussion concerning the use of SL during teaching - lessons - or th pros
and cons regarding SL and CI !
Believe me honestly - I canīt think of any teacher for the Deaf in the world
who would avoid to use SW as soon as he/she is able to read and write it.

We are desperately waiting for better printing possibilities and hopefully
SW 5.0 will allow to use the winword screnn - that would make it much easier
in practical life.

But - donīt misunderstand me please - Iīm sooooooooo happy for this SW 4.3
program . It allows us to collect signs very quickly and my pupils love more
and more to type this or that sign on SW (just taking it from the

But - and this is another point - in order to be able to copy the sign for
table, chair or lion - you have got to know the spelling of the word. That
does mean that my little friends look at the keyboard with all the capital
letters - they have to know that the small letters are hidden .. they have
to learn to use a picture -dictionary in order to copy the spelling or to
read my fingerspelling correctly -- in the end they have to know how to
handle the procedure - alt + D , enter, down , check the SW spelling
that shows up in the window (Irina insists to use special SW spellings and
dislikes so other dialectic versions) copy it to the text and start this
process all over again! They do learn so much out of this - I can tell you

What I need most is a constant feedback that our way of writing is almost
;-) correct - spider Jim at least is doing his push ups now in a different
way - and that is fun.

Iīve got back to work -- writing new signs about animals - can anybody
offer a sign for Koala bear?
Whoever is able to share some . sgn files - I would appriciate that very
much !!

All the best and keep up with your great job Valerie

Stefan :-)

>From: Hope Hurlbut
>Reply-To: SignWriting List
>To: SignWriting List
>Subject: Re[2]: SignWriting as a gateway?
>Date: Tue, 14 Mar 2000 20:46:00 -0500
> To: Donald Grushkin
> From: Hope Hurlbut
> I read your note to the SW list with interest.
> As you probably know there have been many studies done which show
> children learn best in their Mother Tongue first. Other languages
> be added later. I think it is the same for the Deaf children. If
> they become comfortable and fluent in SW then they will be better
> prepared to spend time learning English or French or whatever the
> national language of their country is.
> It is not a waste of time to learn SW, but from the testimonies on
> list, it seems that the children get really turned on to learning SW.
> Hopefully this enthusiasm can gradually be channelled into learning
> other languages as well. Of course something new like this does take
> time and commitment, but the results will be worth it.
>______________________________ Reply Separator
>Subject: Re: SignWriting as a gateway?
>Author: at Internet
>Date: 10.03.00 09:10
>----- Original Message -----
>From: Akehurst
> > I am not the children's 'school' teacher so I'm not really sure about
> > abilities to read in English improving (actually, when they are with me,
> > they don't want to read in English they want to read in SW) but my
> > impression is that they are improving. The parents have asked me to
>This observation is something that concerns me. I do support, tentatively,
>the idea of a writing system for sign language that could help Deaf kids
>learn to write in their own language. However, as we all know, Enlgish is
>the lingua Franca of our American society, not to mention the world. Being
>able to use English through reading and writing is SO vital for them. From
>what I see from this comment, it sounds like they would rather do all their
>reading and writing in SW rather than bilingually switch between the two
>(which would be just fine with me). We know how hard English can be for
>kids to learn, so it sounds here as if they're trying to "take the easy way
>out" (I hate that phrase for its application to oralism and sign, but it is
>appropos here) by sticking with SW rather than English.
>I mentioned SW to my wife, who is an elementary teacher of the deaf at a
>school for the deaf. One thing she said, in addition to the fact that SW
>not "English" (as it shouldn't be), is that for her, she finds no way she
>could make room in her schedule to teach English AND SW, even if she were
>inclined. How do the classroom teachers out there make time for both SW
>English instruction? How do the classroom teachers help the kids make the
>connections and transitions between SW and English?
>--Donald Grushkin
> Ph.D., Language, Reading & Culture (Bilingual Education)

  Replies Author Date
3633 SignWriting can inspire speech.... Valerie Sutton Sun  6/25/2000

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