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From:  Valerie Sutton
Date:  Fri Mar 9, 2001  4:59 pm
Subject:  Greetings from James in Maine

Date: Fri, 09 Mar 2001
Subject: Greetings from James in Maine
To: SignWriting List

Hi, Valerie and dedicated Valerie disciples (Suttonites?),

I returned from tropical Bluefields, Nicaragua last Friday, promptly
injuring myself by slipping on ice. Since then, we've had almost two feet
more snow here, and ten inches forecast for tonight.

I trained a USM student in SW last fall and she accompanied me to Bluefields
in order to devote five weeks to eliciting more entries for our SW
dictionary file. So, I will get that to you at some point in the weeks
ahead after we go through it all. It's a process....

We tried a new method for teaching some Spanish this term. Since most
students are able to sight read most of the signs in SW, we decided to work
on their ability to communicate in written spanish. The idea is to be able
to express themselves, through writing, with the hearing people around them.
So we prepared FLASHCARDS depicting sentences: Spanish on one side and
Nicaraguan Sign Language (in SW, of course) on the other.

We were not particularly interested in Spanish grammar. That is, the
sentences were written correctly, but we did not discuss Spanish rules of
grammar. Rather, the students were expected to memorize the sentences by
rote. On the other hand, we would discuss the syntax associated with the
sentences produced in SW. Nicaraguan Sign Language is the student's native
language afterall, and each student has some competency in expressing
opinions as to what is correct and what seems awkward. Anyway, the main
point in doing this was to emphasize that Nicaraguan Sign Language does not
and should not correspond word for word with Spanish.

I have found that if students are constantly taught word-for-word
translations, they invariably fall back into the misconception that
translations of sentences can be matched on a word-for-word basis;
ultimately, the signs are reordered to match Spanish syntax; and in the end
nobody understands anybody.

An example of a flashcard: Yo tengo que ir al doctor. I NEED TO GO TO THE
DOCTOR. In Nicaraguan Sign Language, "need" is a serial verb, almost always
appearing as "I need - I want". You will note that this sentence easily
lends itself to object substitutions: I NEED TO GO TO: -- hospital, --
school, -- store.

Anyway, this seemed to work pretty well. Our goal was one sentence per
week, plus a list of substitution words.

Staples, by the way, sells blank flashcards. We print the SignWriting on
label paper and affix it to the card. Then we write the Spanish on the
flipside with a marker pen.

So much for Spanish -- we continue to distribute stories written only in
sign language, since students ought to be able to read full texts in their
native language.

-- James Shepard-Kegl

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