Deaf student Judy Mejia, age 9, learning SignWriting
at the "Escuelita de Bluefields" in Nicaragua.

SignWriting In Nicaragua

Nicaraguan Sign Language Projects,Inc.
A Brief History...

Email Messages & Reports
...from the SignWriting List Archives...

Teacher's Experience In Nicaragua
Darline Clark Gunsauls, 1996

Literacy In Nicaraguan Sign Language
Thesis by Janice Gangel-Vasquez
California State University
Dominguez Hills, California, 1997

If You Give A Mouse A Cookie
Story Written In Nicaraguan Sign Language

Library of Sign Literature
written in Nicaraguan Sign Language


Published Articles
BBC Horizon TV Program

Brown Alumni Magazine, 1998

Rutger's Focus, February 14, 1997

San Diego Union Tribune, March 17, 1996

Bluefields, Nicaragua

A Brief History...

Linguistic history was made in 1996 in Bluefields, Nicaragua. It is extremely rare, from an historic perspective, that a newly developed language receives "a written form" almost simultaneously with the birth of the language itself. Yet, although Nicaraguan Sign Language is a newly evolving language, because of SignWriting, it may become a "written language" while it evolves.

Prior to the Nicaraguan revolution in 1979, Deaf people throughout Nicaragua lived in isolation from one another. In the early 1980's, however, Deaf children from Managua were enrolled in schools for the Deaf for the first time. In 1986, at the request of the Nicaraguan Ministry of Education, linguist Dr. Judy Shepard-Kegl traveled to Managua where she evaluated the sign language phenomenon that was occurring in the school system. It was evident that even though the official philosophy at that time was to teach lip reading rather than sign language, students were communicating manually with each other anyway. Judy recognized that a new sign language was evolving in the Deaf school population. In just a few years, a complex and sophisticated human language system came into being. There were, in 1996, in excess of 800 speakers of Nicaraguan Sign Language living in and around Managua.

Managua is in urbanized western Nicaragua, but the town of Bluefields is in the eastern rain forest region. Services for Deaf children in Bluefields were virtually non-existent, until the summer of 1995, when Judy and her husband, James Shepard-Kegl, coordinated an intensive sign language immersion program, using Deaf teachers from Managua. A second workshop was held in January, 1996. The project is called "Escuelita (Little School) de Bluefields."

And SignWriting is playing an important role. A skilled SignWriting instructor, Darline Clark Gunsauls, traveled to Nicaragua to teach SignWriting literacy to Deaf children at Escuelita de Bluefields from June 15-July 17,1996. See the following pages for Darline's Teacher's Report and photos.

In August, 1996, the BBC from England came to the Escuelita de Bluefields to document the students' work, to be aired on British TV's "See-Hear" program.

In November, 1998, a second school for Deaf children, in Condega, Nicaragua, called the "Escuelita de Condega" was established in the flood-ravaged area hit by Hurricane Mitch. Read James Kegl's stimulating email messages for his detailed accounts of finding deaf people, and bringing them to school.

Literature is continually being translated into Nicaraguan Sign Language, and written in SignWriting for the children to read, including Babar, Taily-Po, Little Engine that Could, Anansi the Spider, Trojan Horse, Odysseus and the Cyclops, Odysseus and Circe, If You Give A Mouse A Cookie, Moby Dick, and more.

For more information contact:

James & Judy Shepard-Kegl
Nicaraguan Sign Language Projects

...two schools for the Deaf in Nicaragua...

Escuelita de Bluefields
Escuelita de Condega

...were founded by...
...and are coordinated by...

Nicaraguan Sign Language Projects, Inc.
James Shepard-Kegl, Coordinator
52 Whitney Farms Road
North Yarmouth, Maine, 04097, USA
(207) 846-8801 voice or tty
(207) 846-8688 fax

...SignWriting in Nicaragua Directory...