Mon, 16 Aug 1999
From: Stefan Woehrmann
Subject: contact - mistakes are our friends
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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
step: Go for it -
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 ...)
browsing through the pages I find almost every
day something new. Slowly I catch this or that
and get oriented within very small steps.
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
lesson seems so dificult to me. I'm lucky that
you are there offering your help whenever 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?
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?
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. )
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.
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,
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. ;-)
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.
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?
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.
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.
Teacher of Deaf Children
Date: Mon, 16 Aug 1999
From: Stefan Woehrmann
Subject: contact - first steps in SW
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.
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
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.
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!
...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.
Teacher of Deaf Children