SignWriting List Archive 1
October 1997 - May 1998

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April 28, 1998

SUBJECT: Re: Message #2 from Brazil...

Date: Tue, 28 Apr 1998 08:33:58 -0700
To: SignWriting <>
From: Cindy Neuroth-Gimbrone <>
Subject: Re: Message #2 from Brazil...

Please Post to the SignWriting List:

Good Morning,

I've been mulling over some responses to the various postings that began with Mairanne's request for comments on children's learning of SignWriting. As a teacher, I've used various systems and approaches to teach "writing" of ASL to children and adults. Although my experience is more heavily emphasized in the use of a glossing system, I'm less intersted in the actual system itself but more interested in what the community of language users find acceptable. In other words, I don't have a vested interest in using a glossing system per se. In a 1992 article I wrote on a program for deaf adolescents, the deaf students were writing in a glossing system which as a group, we formalized to separate the languages (at that time, in education, there wasn't much talk about ASL and the students didn't know what it was!). In that particular project, the use and standardization of what the students already were using was significant, we didn't start from "scratch." The students developed symbols for facial grammar that interestingly bear some resemblance to particular symbols in SignWriting (I'm still learning SignWriting and can't go into much depth here, I'm still looking at the data).

In a different program where I later taught freshman English, one of my students had developed a system for writing ASL beginning from the time he was a child at a residential school for the deaf. Fascinating!

One last bit of information - more recently, I have worked with deaf and hearing children in K-3 learning a glossing system (limitations of glossing aside, that's another discussion, smile) - some of the same barriers Marianne and others have mentioned are similar. There are some fundamental difficulties introducing any writing system for a minority language when the broader (hearing) society is a highly literate one.

The lack of materials in SignWriting is a contributing factor to the lackluster success Marianne is experiencing. Another factor is the *use* of SignWriting in the environment. As someone else pointed out, if one is inclined towards the "whole language" philosophy of immersion in print, then certainly lack of materials can cause a lack of immersion. Further, the adults in the environment are most likely communicating via written majority language (and I mean the d/Deaf and hearing adults in the environment). Do the children see adults use SignWriting? Are the adults leaving notes for one another in SignWriting? Are the parents using Sign Writing with their children? I would suggest taking an inventory on the use of the majority written language and the use of Sign Writing in the environment. How do they compare? Is there a heavier emphasis on the majority written language? I would also agree with Norine that if the children are at a particular level of proficiency in the majority written language, then it is indeed a disincentive to learn Sign Writing. In that case, writing signed languages can take on a negative connotation.

One particular activity that K-3 children enjoy is videotaping their morning "news" (i.e., personal information, what they did last night, major events in their lives). Writing each other's "news" can be particularly motivating for them and is not dependent on how large the child's vocabulary is. I don't know if Marianne has access to videotape equipment to do this. If yes, this can enable a variety of activities around the children's self-generated information.

A few suggestions, hope they are helpful. Have a good day everyone!



Cindy Neuroth-Gimbrone