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SignWriting in Germany
Osnabrück School for the Deaf


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Email Messages From Germany
Stefan Woehrmann

...taken from the SignWriting List Archives...


SignWriting on Tommys Gebärdenwelt

Date: Mon, 16 Aug 1999
From: Stefan Woehrmann
Subject: contact - mistakes are our friends :-)
To: SignWriting List

Dear Valerie,

This week I`ve been very active in getting more familiar with SW. First of all let me tell you that again and again I feel very lucky to get in touch with this instrument. Your idea of developing this SW-system is so fascinating that I cannot help but work and work on it in order to get acquainted with what seems so obvious to you.

That is my first point. Did you ever - write an article or a report about your ideas and the new insights which came to you during the process of developing and elaborating this SW system? I mean that I (maybe other beginners as well) could prefer some more insight in your process of developing all the different symbols. To look through your eyes at Sign Languages around the world may help to realize aspects and needs for the various aspects that are important for the transfer of meaningful expressions by movements to a written form.

How to teach the system to myself? As an experienced autodidact in other fields I try to find my way. First step: I'm positive that my dedication to my ideas concerning deaf education, my enthusiasm for DGS is one of the foundations I can count on. Second - teachers like you - who are themselves convinced of their ideas and who are sharing their satisfaction and happiness with what they are living for, inspire me and reinforce my efforts. The advantage is that this SW-thing seems to be selfreinforcing. Its not for another goal .- Psychologists speak of intrinsic motivation, flow - experiences - something like this happens to me.

I'm absolutely confident that it will help me tremendously with my little deaf pupils. (While the hearing beginners at school start with reading the words from the very first day - just naming the pictures shown together with the words - the deaf are obviously unable to do so.

With your system it can change. My plans are to combine SW with written words /photos or pictures or actions and signed conversation starting with the first days of school-life of my new little pupils. Almost like flash-cards. (I can write the name of the pupil together with the SW symbol beneath a photo of the child.) So we need to develop the sign-names of the pupils. I already talked to the parents. One family - I will tell in the future more about them - are all deaf. They showed great interest. Another mother of a multiple disabeled daughter was interested too. I`ll talk to the other parents in the first week of September.

Same thing (introduction of SW) can happen to other nouns (car, ball, flower, book, pencil). The enormous advantage of Your System is the direct transfer from what the signer is doing quite effortlessly to the writtten (and now) fixed form.

Second step: Go for it -

I downloaded as much as possible from the SignWriting web site to my computer. So off-line I can browse as long as I want to (as long as my family allows). (Of course they do not accept to be neglected and especially the elder boys need to be taken outside for biketours, socker ...)

While browsing through the pages I find almost every day something new. Slowly I catch this or that and get oriented within very small steps.

(I look at my son Gordian. Is not it amazing for how long he practices to stand, to stick things together, to voice all kinds of different sounds - he does not get nervous, bored or angry - he takes his time knowing that his potentials will enroll when his time has come - as long as all the circumstances are nourishing and very supportive!)

Same lesson seems so dificult to me. I'm lucky that you are there offering your help whenever I contact you!

I started to copy the basic signs - enlarged them and fixed them at the wallpaper . Going up or down the stairs you have a look at this. How did you decide to mark the handsymbol with this gap if the hand is parallel to the floor? I try to figure out what kind of explanations I might offer to my pupils. What made you initially think of this difference?

I haven't learnt your Lessons in SW yet. Maybe you explain in detail - excuse me for my impatience. I always get confused with the face. When do I have to add a face symbol? What is the rule?

I successfully downloaded of the SignWriter computer program. (Although there are still the problems with my printer, I found a solution and got wonderful printouts on another computer . Nevertheless I`d love to get the problem at home solved. )

First of all I wanted to get in contact with the dictionary. By trial and error I found my way through. I took the print-outs to town and asked the copy-shop to bind them to a nice book. (my treasure). So my workbooks (manual - and Lessons in SW) are now on my table. - ready for use. Browsing through the pages I felt tired and a little bit hopeless. So many signs, so many specific details. "Do not worry- take your time"...I heard myself talking to myself.

I copied the pages of the Three Bears and Goldilocks , Cinderella. It took some time to arrange the SW symbols and the written sentences in Winword together - But what was that ?- I realized that I had made a mistake. I could read the SW-symbols (just a few) and realized that a specific page was nonsense. The SW didn't belong to the sentence at the bottom of the page. So I went back to the SW-Dictionary . I wanted to browse for signs that look almost the same in DGS. ( cat, cry, red ...)

I did this for a while - and left this task again. It would be so much easier to learn SW, if could get a long list of German SW-symbols . (My pupils will get that. So, that means that I can look forward to that without headache.) So I concentrated on comparing videos (gifs) of ASL - signs (I looked for them in the internet DWWW and another source in the internet) with SW - symbols. Looking at a symbol I asked myself whether or how I would sign it. Afterwards I compare my ideas with the videoclip. This way I learn - just by the way a lot of ASL - signs. Hopefully I do not get mixed up with DGS. ;-)

Yesterday I browsed through the Teachers Forum. I read many many feed-backs and reports. I need examples of how to formulate our confirmation letter. There I read again that the pupils would rather take advantage of the SW-symbols as one entity. Do not try to analyse and memorize all the different aspects: cat, table, walk - "You can keep that in mind Stefan" - I heard talking to myself.

Next step was to take a copy-book without lines. I switched to the Browser and looked up one SW symbol after the other - sometimes I had to enlarge it in order to get a better picture. So I painted symbol by symbol into my copy-book . By doing so I tried to move my arms, head , body - as what I learned from my painting. (mistakes are our friends!!) I realized as well how difficult it can be to draw exact and equal forms. (Developing sensitivity for the efforts of my little friends!) Big difficulties with drawing the "P" (people, ) Big difficulties with drawing circles (sign, people etc) One very important aspect of this method is that I really pay a lot of attention to the exact performance. Never thought about SL as much in the past. There might be the danger to become a signing stutterer? (hi hi hi) But honestly - I get stuck if I try to describe exactly the position of my palm, of my baby or index fingers ... are you familiar with this problem?

I really looked up several lists of the German Fingeralphabet - some of them differ in various aspects. I have not got any problems with reading the SW-fingerspelling because I am used to the Gallaudet fonts. It takes about 10 minutes and my 7 year old son can read the SW- fingerspelling as well -so that is a great thing! In the first moment my wife compared SW with Braille system. We discussed the differences. You see - SW is family-talk every day.

Do not know how to continue. I love to get in touch with other people who managed to get through. I`ll send you my letter of introduction the next days and then hopefully the one or other teacher, Signer, DEAF or SW-instructor will answer to my need of support. When I got the answer from Brazil I felt very happy! :-)) From time to time I read it again.

Many blessings

Stefan Woehrmann
Teacher of Deaf Children
stefanwoehrmann@gebaerdenschrift.de



Date: Mon, 16 Aug 1999
From: Stefan Woehrmann
Subject: contact - first steps in SW
To: SignWriting List

Right now I'm busy to prepare the first forms. I contacted the headmaster of our school. I explained my idea of combining SignWriting-symbols within the writing and reading course for my little pupils. Maybe that these kids would take advantage of a combination of written words in German and the specific sign-symbols in SignWriting instead of photographs or paintings or signing word by word (LBG = Lautsprach begleitende Gebaerden) live in that situation. He listened to me carefully and agreed with my plans. He asked me very clearly to make sure that our school hasn't to pay any money for using the materials. I explained the procedure of Your literacy project - and asured that I will write the reports concerning our experiences with your SignWriting -project. What counts in the end is that I feel much better. I would like to share my experiences with other colleagues in the world. I am fascinated and eager to work with you in a team to introduce SW in Germany. Do you realize that your kind influence in your letters is doing good?

In my dreams we will influence many many deaf pupils, students, parents - teachers and really help to strengthen deaf culture and to help deaf pupils to make better progress.

I got a printout of the Lessons in SignWriting from the downloaded computer program (both the Manual and the Lessons itself : introduction, swhands 1 ...) I made a download from the homepage of SW.Org. Your explanations how to get started are wonderfull : congratulations.

My sons and my wife cannot help but learn the basics of SW just by the way. Coming up the stairs to my bureau I fixed several DIN A4 papers at the wallpaper showing basics of SW.

Johannes can show easily the position and form of his hands if I point to one or the other symbol (open fist, closed fist - parallel with the floor, parallel with the wall, I-finger, flat hand , frontview, top view) no problem to us any more. So - a big smile - the first steps are done successfully. This morning I sat in the sun, 3 of my Grey Parrots in cages where outside, Gordian standing (!!) next to my chair in his play-pen - having a little break.

I wanted to present my SW print-out -books to my wife. Believe it or not - looking at the one and other symbol she was able to recognize easily the sign and compared it to the DGS version. She is not an expert on DGS - but this experience blew up my spirits once more!

Well ...between reading the first words and being able to write whole phrases or even stories is a long way .. nevertheless - I wanted to let you know.

kind regards

Stefan Woehrmann
Teacher of Deaf Children
stefanwoehrmann@gebaerdenschrift.de


Date: Tue, 14 Sep 1999
From: Stefan Woehrmann
Subject: Re: Announcing: SignBank Database Online
To: SignWriting List

Dear Valerie,

I just had a look at this new SignBank Database Online - I love it. That would help a lot to look for SW symbols that I need for my translations in DGS. There are quite a few signs that can be taken for DGS as well. As soon as this dictionary grows it would be a big help.

Perhaps we could add some signs to the list that are needed -

If there is something I can do for you sometimes - please let me know!

Hopefully I do get help in the very beginning. Perhaps there is somebody on the SW-list who could have a critical look at my first steps in SW? Would be great!

Stefan Woehrmann
Teacher of Deaf Children
stefanwoehrmann@gebaerdenschrift.de



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For more information about
SignWriting in Germany, contact:

Stefan Woehrmann
Teacher of Deaf Children
stefanwoehrmann@gebaerdenschrift.de

GebaerdenSchrift Web Site
by Stefan Woehrmann
http://www.gebaerdenschrift.de

or...

Verlag Birgit Jacobsen
Fachverlag für unterstützende
Kommunikation und Gebärdensprache
Bei den Höfen 11a
22043 Hamburg
Geschäftsführung:
Birgit Jacobsen
Kontakt:
Tel: +49 (0) 40 – 69 70 40 - 26
Fax: +49 (0) 40 – 69 70 40 – 87
E-Mail: info@gebaerden.de


or...

Lars Majewski
SignWriter Python Developer
takdoc@t-online.de

SignWriter Python Web Site
http://signwriter.takdoc.de

...back to...
..SignWriting in Germany...