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American Sign Language and Music

black walnut 16 Dec 04 - 01:07 PM
MMario 16 Dec 04 - 01:20 PM
PoppaGator 16 Dec 04 - 01:37 PM
Sorcha 16 Dec 04 - 01:44 PM
open mike 16 Dec 04 - 02:38 PM
Bill D 16 Dec 04 - 02:51 PM
Brían 16 Dec 04 - 07:22 PM
KT 16 Dec 04 - 10:20 PM
Kaleea 16 Dec 04 - 11:01 PM
Margret RoadKnight 17 Dec 04 - 12:23 AM
GUEST,bbc at work 17 Dec 04 - 11:20 AM
GUEST,Raggytash 17 Dec 04 - 11:25 AM
black walnut 17 Dec 04 - 01:04 PM
squeezeldy 17 Dec 04 - 03:33 PM
black walnut 17 Dec 04 - 04:39 PM
dianavan 17 Dec 04 - 10:29 PM
Tannywheeler 18 Dec 04 - 11:35 AM
GUEST,MC Fat 18 Dec 04 - 01:03 PM
Dani 18 Dec 04 - 01:24 PM
Red and White Rabbit 20 Dec 04 - 11:29 AM
darkriver 20 Dec 04 - 01:09 PM
RiGGy 20 Dec 04 - 03:00 PM
squeezeldy 20 Dec 04 - 03:02 PM
GUEST,Susu (susanneboston@msn.com) 20 Dec 04 - 06:12 PM
darkriver 20 Dec 04 - 06:22 PM
Bill Hahn//\\ 20 Dec 04 - 09:01 PM
darkriver 20 Dec 04 - 09:27 PM
Margret RoadKnight 20 Dec 04 - 10:27 PM
Red and White Rabbit 21 Dec 04 - 03:45 AM
black walnut 23 Dec 04 - 10:18 AM
lennice 02 Mar 07 - 02:31 AM
lennice 02 Mar 07 - 03:13 AM
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Subject: American Sign Language and Music
From: black walnut
Date: 16 Dec 04 - 01:07 PM

I've recently visited a local school which is for students with severe learning disabilities. Most of the children can't speak, and so ASL (American Sign Language) is used as a way to help them to both better understand what is being said, and sometimes as a way for them to communicate back to the teacher. A couple of the teachers at the school have been signing as they sing, or play recorded music, in their classes. It's quite wonderful to watch!

Wondering if anyone else here at the Mudcat has experiences to share where they've seen or used a combination of ASL and music?

~b.w.


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Subject: RE: American Sign Language and Music
From: MMario
Date: 16 Dec 04 - 01:20 PM

The summer camp I used to work at always included one song for our "parents performance" that the entire staff and campers would learn in ASL as well as to sing.

I've seen it being used at Ren-faires during pub sings. In particular I know one performer who frequently signs as he sings


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Subject: RE: American Sign Language and Music
From: PoppaGator
Date: 16 Dec 04 - 01:37 PM

The last time I visited O'Flaherty's pub in the French Quarter, a group of six or eight college-age deafmute kids -- obviously friends, probably schoolmates -- were obviously enjoying the music. When Danny O'Flaherty (publican and featured performer) switched from guitar to concertina to play some traditional dance music, the deaf youngsters were the best and most enthusiastic dancers, putting on a great show for the rest of us.

It was obvious that these kids could sense (and throughly enjoy) the rhythmic vibrations, regardless of what little their ears could pick up.

If anyone is offended that I didn't use a term like "hearing-challenged" -- tough. Call me old-fashioned, but I think the word "deafmute" is descriptive and inoffensive. The word "dummy," of course, should be avoided. I've worked at least two jobs in my lifetime with deaf coworkers and learned some rudimetary ASL -- just a few words/ideas, plus the hand-sign alphabet (which always works, albeit slowly).


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Subject: RE: American Sign Language and Music
From: Sorcha
Date: 16 Dec 04 - 01:44 PM

You haven't lived until you've seen Linda Tilton sign for musicians. She works a lot with John McCutcheon, and can sign instrumentals as well as words. She has degrees in ASL, dance and theatre and uses her whole body not just her hands. Her Rubber Blubber Whale is a hoot! She gets the audience doing it too! Google Linda Tilton for more info.


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Subject: RE: American Sign Language and Music
From: open mike
Date: 16 Dec 04 - 02:38 PM

some of my first exposure to ASL was with Holly Near when her sister Timothy (yes sister--yes timothy) signed along...the movements were often exaggerated as if a dance....since then i have studied ASL and the final test of my class i signed From a Distance the song by Julie Gold which has been recorded by Nanciu Griffith and Beet Midler...it is a good song for that as there are a lof of images that are easily depicted
snow capped mountains, river meets the stream, no guns, no bombs, no diseases,
I worked for 5 years as a classroom aide for the severly disabled and did some class aide work for deaf children to interpret for them in teh class. Thge class often learned a song for the shcool christmas program and we did the sign language too. "I'm dreaming of a white christmas"
comes to mind as a good one to sign and sing.
the sign for "music" is one arm outstretched and the other (thumb up)
brushing back and forth across the top of it from wrist to elbow as if buttering bread...this indicates that instrumental music is going on with no lyrics. a good book to read for insignt on language learning for the hearing impaired is Oliver Sach's Seeing Voices. It points out the two schools of deaf learning--Lip Reading verses Sign Language.
and highlights the history of deaf education, Gaulidette university, etc.more info here:http://www.lessontutor.com/ASLgenhome.html
http://www.musictherapy.ca/content/postconf/curtis.html
in some communities, the seats in the front rows on teh right hand side of the hall are reserved for hearing impaired audience and the sign language interpreter is positioned on the stage near them.


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Subject: RE: American Sign Language and Music
From: Bill D
Date: 16 Dec 04 - 02:51 PM

We (Wash DC--FSGW) had a local man...Barry Nicklesberg...do signing for our festival and a few concerts a few years ago. He even did a concert with Peggy Seeger & Ewan MacColl and had THEM watching to see what he did! He was fast, animated and fun....I have not seen him in several years, but I know it was a treat for both handicapped and everyone else, too.


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Subject: RE: American Sign Language and Music
From: Brían
Date: 16 Dec 04 - 07:22 PM

Deaf people in my area (New England) refer to themselves with a sign pointing to their ears and mouth that would correspond with the English word "deafmute". I have seen the group Altan use a signer onstage. I found it ironic that deaf people could understand the Irish Language songs better than many of the audience. I have heard of competitions where groups sign ASL to popular songs that are well attended by the Deaf community. There are different degrees of deafness as there are blindness. Most of the deaf people I have met love to dance.

Brían


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Subject: RE: American Sign Language and Music
From: KT
Date: 16 Dec 04 - 10:20 PM

Sign langueage is such a beautiful language, so rich in symbolism. I'd love to see "From A Distance" signed.

Using sign language in music is a great way to involve kids more fully, while at the same time extending their comprehension of the music.


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Subject: RE: American Sign Language and Music
From: Kaleea
Date: 16 Dec 04 - 11:01 PM

Love Linda Tilton! She has inspired several people I know to become interpreters because they saw her at the annual Walnut Vallley Music Festival in Winfield, KS.
   My degree was in Music Special Ed, & in my student teaching days I worked at 3 different schools for kids with various special needs. The hearing impaired program for elementary kids had "The Singing Hands Choir." Yes, various degrees of hearing impaired kids in a choir with relatively good pitch overall. We always signed everything spoken as well as sung, & used varous signs & movements for instrumentals. One thing I noticed is that many kids learn faster & more thoroughly when signing is used. We humans learn better when we experience a thing with more than one sense-preferrably as many of the senses as possible. I have used this over the years with Church Choirs, private lessons, Guitar classes, workshops, training employees in the business world, & etc.


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Subject: RE: American Sign Language and Music
From: Margret RoadKnight
Date: 17 Dec 04 - 12:23 AM

In late 1983 I toured Holly Near to Australia, and also brought her signer Susan Freundlich.
(Susan produced an Academy-nominated docu on sign language called - I think - "See What I Say")

As the opening act I also had a signer, but my signer used Auslan rather than Ameslan.
(Ironic that I can come to the US & chat to folk - albeit with an accent - but my deaf friends can't, as the two visual languages are quite different).


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Subject: RE: American Sign Language and Music
From: GUEST,bbc at work
Date: 17 Dec 04 - 11:20 AM

My grandparents on my dad's side were both deaf from childhood. They always signed the hymns in church. Grandma "sang" hymns to me; it was beautiful to watch--one of my special memories of her.

best,

Barbara


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Subject: RE: American Sign Language and Music
From: GUEST,Raggytash
Date: 17 Dec 04 - 11:25 AM

Send a PM to Red & White Rabbit, she is brilliant at this and very knowledgable about the subject as she also teaches signing


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Subject: RE: American Sign Language and Music
From: black walnut
Date: 17 Dec 04 - 01:04 PM

Thanks Raggytash.
I'm really enjoying reading your responses to this thread, everyone!

~b.w.


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Subject: RE: American Sign Language and Music
From: squeezeldy
Date: 17 Dec 04 - 03:33 PM

I teach middle school music, and two of my classes are special education. One group has several non-verbal students, and one of the teaching assistants is severely hard of hearing. I use simple songs with hand motions, but incorporate some ASL into certain songs. Cumulative songs become very challenging, and very funny, with the addition of ASL. But one of the finest things ever said to me was when Mrs. A said, "I love to watch you sing. To me, your lips are the music." It was not of course, sexual, but musical. Music is many things to people.


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Subject: RE: American Sign Language and Music
From: black walnut
Date: 17 Dec 04 - 04:39 PM

This is very interesting to me, because the school I was visiting, as mentioned above, is a special education school, with a few non~hearing students, and sign language is used there, as I said, not exclusively for the non~hearing. One of the teachers is using my children's CD as the basis of her classroom music this year, because she has found it to be ~ how did she put it? ~ I can't remember the word she used, but it had to do with the songs having clear images, being somehow basic yet still imaginative, accessible but at the same time not simplistic. I hope I don't think of the word she used for this in the middle of the night. Anyway, it seems that certain kinds of music work better for signing than others. At least in that particular situation, with that particular teacher. I wonder if that's true generally.

~b.w.


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Subject: RE: American Sign Language and Music
From: dianavan
Date: 17 Dec 04 - 10:29 PM

One of the things I thought I wanted to do when I was much younger was "sign music". There are about eight levels to learning American Sign Language. I only made it to level three. I was really disappointed! Anything I ever wanted to do, I could do. This was very, very difficult. I am an auditory learner. Remembering all of the visual signs was more than I could do.

I still think it would be a great job if you like to dance and can sign. Sort of like a new age go-go girl dancing on a corner of the stage and giving all of that music to the deaf community.

Yes, children learn to read much faster when the words are presented musically. I always encourage my students to join the Jr. Choir. Those that do, are always the fastest to learn, regardless of their first language or whether or not they are challenged.


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Subject: RE: American Sign Language and Music
From: Tannywheeler
Date: 18 Dec 04 - 11:35 AM

I'm churchfolks. I sing in the choir. There are 2 or 3 families in our congregation that have deaf people in them. Usually a member of the family "translates" for their deaf member in the pew. For Christmas and Easter, with larger crowds and extra family visiting we bring in a "professional" signer. I get very involved in the special music; when I look over the choir-loft rail and see the words/music being signed rhythmically I get goosebumps. I also see some of the congrgation's deaf members signing the choral responses and congregational hymns during such services. I get fascinated and sometimes forget to sing while I'm watching.      Tw


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Subject: RE: American Sign Language and Music
From: GUEST,MC Fat
Date: 18 Dec 04 - 01:03 PM

I know that R&W Rabbitt will help however as a basic rule I believe that American sign language only uses one hand


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Subject: RE: American Sign Language and Music
From: Dani
Date: 18 Dec 04 - 01:24 PM

What a wonderful thread!

I've done a couple songs with a pickup kid's choir that involves ASL. It was tricky to learn/teach, but lovely to see and do.

I'm surprised no one's mentioned the woman who signs for Sweet Honey in the Rock: Is it Carol Maillard? I'll have to check. When you see them in performance, her signing adds so much texture to an already amazing experience. One of my favorite musical experiences was seeing A Prairie Home Companion live in Chapel Hill NC, and SHIR was featured. She signed for most of the rest of the show, including for the Red Clay Ramblers doing "Wahoo". What fun!

Dani


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Subject: RE: American Sign Language and Music
From: Red and White Rabbit
Date: 20 Dec 04 - 11:29 AM

I havent been on mudcat for a while and someone told me about this thread. I sign songs in the UK using BSL ( British Sign Language). I met Pommes from Aus.- they do a song in Auslan and we compared notes - there are certainly differences between the two langauages and even more between BSL Auslan and ASL which has a one handed alphabet. We had some deaf children who came over from the West Indies who were using ASL and they were a signing choir going round the country demonstating as part of a christian mission thing. It was really beautiful.

In the UK children who have special needs but are not deaf mostly use a system called Makaton that has simple sign shapes compared to BSL.

We have just finfished our Xmas concert which involved 200+ hearing and 9 profoundly deaf children all signing all the songs. I work with a team of 5 others and we all discuss how the songs will be signed to convey the meaning linked to the music
- more like a dance I guess we then get our two deaf adults to assess it and hopefully we then teach it to all the kids.

One of the parents at my clogging workshop in the summer was amazed that all the children learnt to sign the song we use as well as learning the clogging routine. Research shows that hearing kids do learn to read quicker and remember things better with signs - I wish the same could be said of my deaf kids!!


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Subject: RE: American Sign Language and Music
From: darkriver
Date: 20 Dec 04 - 01:09 PM

Hello all.

I'm almost completely deaf, although I became that way, so I learned English the easy way, by hearing it.

I was raised outside the deaf community and only turned to it after I learned sign language. I even went back and got my degree by attending Gallaudet.

If I may first correct some misconceptions or forestall them, ASL (and most other sign languages I know of) are two handed, not one handed. ASL uses a one-handed manual alphabet (whereas Britain uses a two-handed alphabet). Not all sign languages are the same (for example, ASL is much more like French SL than it is like British SL). When you begin to learn one, you at first see what is termed the 'iconicity' of the sign (some feature that may be reminiscent of a visual aspect of the concept being signed), but as you learn more, you realize that other signed languages use different (in some cases, radically different) signs for similar concepts. These are true languages, and although they are in fact visual and sometimes iconic, they are abstractions.

Another point to note is that traditional signed hymns, such as are mentioned above, are part of a more formal traditional form of sign that is not always like everyday signing, just as the language of the King James bible is unlike everyday English. There's a less hurried, more formal approach.

I have mixed feelings about sign language and music. Yes, it is beautiful, but part of the beauty for hearing people is the combination of sign and music. For deaf people who cannot hear (which is not a redundancy), and who have never heard, they are more likely to judge it strictly from a sign-language perspective. More often than not, these performances may be found wanting. A notable exception is the work of the (lamentably) late Lou Fant, who made his song translations works of art in sign language and not merely pretty arm waving to music.

There's a singer in the group Sweet Honey in the Rock (her name escapes me at the moment) who does beautiful signed singing. Her parents were deaf. She often signs while she sings during their concerts. Anyone remember her name?

Thanks.

doug


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Subject: RE: American Sign Language and Music
From: RiGGy
Date: 20 Dec 04 - 03:00 PM

My wonderful stepson, Paul, is deaf.
Never quite a fan of my music, but a true supporter.
He's the best dancer I've ever seen. Surfer, too, so grace is his.
He doesn't dance to the beat he feels thru the floor, as runs the myth.   
He picks up visual cues from the other dancers, sorta like the way birds
and fish swim/fly in flocks/schools. Very WOW.

Riggy


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Subject: RE: American Sign Language and Music
From: squeezeldy
Date: 20 Dec 04 - 03:02 PM

Doug, thank you for your perspective. When I have my kids sing in a foreign language, I work very hard at getting the correct pronounciations and nuances. It is important to do the same thing when I am using ASL. You gave me an important reminder that what we are doing is far more than "pretty arm movements."

I have a question for you, if I may, because I have been given conflicting information. I am left-handed, and I sign left-handed, using the right hand for the "base" of two-handed signs, such as the sign for "music." Is this incorrect? Should I make an effort to use my right hand? Thanks again.


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Subject: RE: American Sign Language and Music
From: GUEST,Susu (susanneboston@msn.com)
Date: 20 Dec 04 - 06:12 PM

I am in agreement with Doug on this subject. I took ASL in college because for some reason deaf people tend to gravitate toward me, even before I knew that they were hearing impaired. People tend to take the ASL language and butcher it up faster than a redneck speaking French. (I can say that, my husband is a redneck). Anyway, seriously, the deaf do not always have privy to the colloquial terms in our language i.e. "I found a dollar walking home" gives rise to the illusion that you saw a dollar bill sprout legs and walk home" or "You're killing me" could make them think that whatever they are doing may cause you to die. For the most part, they pick up on this fairly quickly, but some slang is regional and that is where the problem can lie. Or as new slang emerges they may not pick it up as quickly as the hearing world that may be exposed to it more than they are. I get really irritated when I go to a place where someone decides to "interpret" their song and they use the sign for "baby" when referring to a significant other. It should be changed to "sweetheart" or some other appropriate phrase! Also, all these "amateur signers" who think they can just go out and buy a sign language dictionary with pictures and use it to interpret a song and they butcher it up just irritates the crud out of me. I am even more disgusted when they do that and teach it to children, this may be the only exposure they have and that may screw up any chance they have of learning the language properly. Here is an example of how well intended people can mess things up. While I was in college, I had a friend named Mark who had a crush on a friend of mine Jill, who had been deaf since birth. He begged me to teach him some signs so he could go up and talk to her. I worked with him and even wrote down exactly how to sign each word, way more detailed than any book I have seen. He picked up the few key phrases really quickly, and we practiced for hours. I must add that I tried to dissuade him from using this without "adult" supervision as she may begin to sign back and he will not be able to interpret what her responses are. Mark was undaunted. Several days later he came to me very upset. He told me all the phrases he used, "Hello, how are you?" "You are very beautiful" and then the one that got the snot slapped out of him, "I met your mother" I asked him to show me how he signed it, and I burst out in uncontrollable laughter as he signed, "I had sex with your mother" After smoothing it over, they did date for a while until they lost touch when Mark moved away. SO this is why I think amateurs need to stay away from signing songs unless they have a qualified person to make sure they are doing it properly. Also, Squeezeldy asked an important question in the previous post, no matter which hand is your dominant hand right is ALWAYS base, unless you do not have a right hand or it is non-functioning these are the rules, it is like you trying to read the paper by putting it up to the mirror. Susu


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Subject: RE: American Sign Language and Music
From: darkriver
Date: 20 Dec 04 - 06:22 PM

squeezeldy,

If you're left-handed, that's your 'base hand.'

Whatever's comfortable to you. You can even switch them depending on whether or not you're left hand's carrying something or in pain. Unless you're using a lot of spatial references or classifiers, I wouldn't worry about this part of it.

And I don't want to leave any false impressions about what I was saying. I certainly don't mind if people sign, and I don't mind if they sign a form of pidgin English. That wasn't my point. I was trying to address the thread title, and trying to make the point that some of the signed songs I've seen appear to depend more on the music to carry them, rather than on the lyrics (which, after all, what you're supposedly translating).

That's all.

Thanks.

doug


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Subject: RE: American Sign Language and Music
From: Bill Hahn//\\
Date: 20 Dec 04 - 09:01 PM

May I add the name here of a signer who is just wonderful. In addition for those blessed with hearing it is like watching a dancer on the stage as she moves with the music and does the signing---and also has a humor beyong belief when some artists joke with her----Jodie Gill.    See her if you can.   


Susan Freundlich is a marvel too.

Bill Hahn


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Subject: RE: American Sign Language and Music
From: darkriver
Date: 20 Dec 04 - 09:27 PM

sorry, back again. I forgot something in my last post.

In the past 15-20 years, there's been a movement to consciously create "poetry" in sign language, based on strict ASL principles rather than on English principles. Clayton Valli, John Smith, and Ella Mae Lentz (among others) have created works that take off from and play against the fundamental rules of ASL. As far as I know (and at this point my knowledge is sketchy), no one has tried to set these poems to music....

The member of Sweet Honey in the Rock whose name I couldn't remember earlier is Shirley Childress Saxton.

doug


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Subject: RE: American Sign Language and Music
From: Margret RoadKnight
Date: 20 Dec 04 - 10:27 PM

Shirley Childress is/ was the long-time signer for Sweet Honey in the Rock
When they toured Australia Shirley didn't come, as the languages are quite different. However, ocassionally Carol Maillard would sign as she sang....


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Subject: RE: American Sign Language and Music
From: Red and White Rabbit
Date: 21 Dec 04 - 03:45 AM

I agree in parts with dark river and susu - I think for most hearing people it is seeing the signs accompany the music that is beautiful and if that gets people interested in sign and wanting to learn it then I am all for it. We have a group here called music for the deaf which run workshops on music with deaf children and also sign performances of musicals like CATS and Joseph etc. There is a big interest amongst the deaf where I live in songs being signed but my bug bear is when they are signed literally.
I go to great pains to make sure it is the meaning not the words thats put to music so that the 'dance' for the hearing has meaning for deaf people. When I teach songs in sign workshops at folk festivals I always get people to talk about what the words actually mean. I then give them some signs to chose from and show them how the change of sign can alter the meaning most people I work with are really intersted in this
Carols in churches here in the UK seem to be signed in Signs Supporting English ie. signs for keywords in English Word order - this is great for the deafened people I know as they are aware what the song already is but most born deaf people I know make no sense of this they sign along only when they have had a BSL explanation about what the song is about. The children I work with love music especially buffalo drums and big djembe because your bones vibrate with their resonance but the havent much interst in songs in sign.

By the way the best piano player I have known was profoundly deaf and later went blind through Ushers syndrome at which point she gave up on her piano playing - a real shame


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Subject: RE: American Sign Language and Music
From: black walnut
Date: 23 Dec 04 - 10:18 AM

The teacher who talked to me about using ASL in her classroom was keen to differentiate what she did from the simple sign=word approach used by some. "Baby~signing" is gaining popularity for hearing children. It seems to be the sign=word system, but I haven't looked into it yet.

My daughter belongs to a large high school with many deaf students, and she was able to take a one year credit course in ASL last year. I think it's the only high school in Ontario that offers the course. She got an award for the highest mark in her grade ~ but they only offer it as a one~year course...I hope that some day she might want to continue with it.

Thank you to all who responded on this thread! Look forward to reading more if there's more to be shared....

~b.w.


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Subject: RE: American Sign Language and Music
From: lennice
Date: 02 Mar 07 - 02:31 AM

Many years ago I attended a MUSICAL at Gallaudet College for the deaf. When I was invited I couldn't believe it was for real. It was amazing - Sweeney Todd. The leads signed and acted their parts. The people actually singing were hidden in the crowd and I found it fun trying to spot them. For instance, the woman singing the female lead was a beggar sitting down right with a shawl over her head, looking at her lap. (How could she sing in that posture?)

It was really noisey during the performance, people coughed, shuffled their feet, made various verbal noises - it didn't bother them, they weren't LISTENING to the show, they were watching. At intermission, when everybody usually gathers in the lobby and it's really noisey because everybody is talking, there it was deadly quiet because everybody was talking - with their hands!

Somebody in this thread mentioned dancing and signing. There are some songs I sign when I sing (including "from a distance", which someone mentioned) because I have to - I feel the song requires that physical expression, and it is like dancing. I'm not at all good at sign language but I love it because it feels so right to express yourself with your whole body, especially when singing. ASL is by nature rythmic and sort of melodic. It's also full of puns!

BTW many people in the deaf community enjoy dancing and there are dance venues specifically for the deaf community where they really crank up the music so they can literally feel it. There is an entire (ouvre?) of deaf theatre that is sort of more like musical theatre than ordinary musical theatre because the fluidity and rythms of body movement are not just integral, they ARE the medium.


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Subject: RE: American Sign Language and Music
From: lennice
Date: 02 Mar 07 - 03:13 AM

addendum re the posters who expressed concern about amateurs just making pretty arm movements and the problems of amateurs signing inaccurately:

Because I am a rank amateur, I don't sign songs for others, I do it for myself, like singing in the shower. I am frustrated that I don't know the language better, and because I'm rather isolated I don't get much practice with people who know the language so, like with any language, it's hard to learn more, and to learn accurately - like ya'll said, reading the Joy of Signing just doesn't cut it. However, I am a linguist by training and it isn't just the pretty arm movements that attract me, it is the totatallity of ASL as a language - it is a beautiful language, and I think that as it does involve your whole body it is in a sense a more complete language than one that just uses the spoken word. For those unfamiliar with ASL, it is NOT signed English. It has a unique syntax and vocabulary and reflects a distinct world view just like Chinese, Russian, Spanish, English, and every language. And so, as one of the posters noted, you can't just substitute individual ASL signs word by word for the English anymore than you can Chinese. - I loved the "baby" example.


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