Email Messages About Escuelita de Condega
SW Report About Nicaragua
By Valerie Sutton
Posted to the SignWriting List
January 9, 1999
I have some news to report about SignWriting in Nicaragua...
I received a telephone call from James Shepard-Kegl last week.
I was so excited to hear from James, because we have missed his
energetic postings to the SignWriting List lately, and I was
wondering how they were doing with the terrible floods in Nicaragua.
For those new to the List, James and Judy Shepard Kegl are Americans
who founded a school for Deaf children in Bluefields, Nicaragua,
which is on the eastern coast of the country, a very poverty-stricken
They have used SignWriting in the Bluefields school for several
years now, and Deaf children are becoming fluent in reading and
writing Nicaraguan signs. They continue to develop more written
literature in Nicaraugan Sign Language. They are translating
Moby Dick right now (can you believe)! And some students are
becoming skilled at typing with SignWriter 4.3 too.
Meanwhile...you may remember the terrible floods that occurred
in western Nicaragua and Honduras in 1998? Many people died,
and James and Judy collected funds and then James flew to a western
Nicaraguan city, a small rural town near Honduras, and he gathered
deaf people together there...and guess what?! They founded a
second school for the deaf! This was in November, 1998. And,
they started teaching them SignWriting immediately...and James
told me on the phone that the new deaf students learned it quickly
and love it. They are already reading because of the enthusiasm
from the other students.
In summary, this is what has happened since October...James flew
to flood ravaged Nicaragua and went up in the hills to find deaf
people...they established a new school there....they started
teaching them signs and SignWriting immediately...they flew some
of those deaf students to Bluefields on the other side of the
country so that the new deaf students could attend class with
the students in Bluefields...they started their winter schedule
of classes in Bluefields on schedule, even with all this confusion...and
on top of all that...back in the USA, James and Judy moved their
residence of many years in New Jersey, up to snowy cold Maine,
where they now will be working with the Deaf Community there,
whenever they are not in Nicaragua!
From floods to snow...gosh ...what amazing people :-)
So when James returns from the winter semester of school in Bluefields
in a few months, we will hear from him on the SignWriting List
again. I am looking forward to what he has to say about the new
students learning SignWriting.
James and I only had a ten minute conversation on the phone.
I sat in silence after we hung up, thinking of the miracle -
that SignWriting was being used in the hills of Nicaragua...
You can read more on the web:
SignWriting In Nicaragua
There is also a linguistic research study, posted in its entirety
on the web:
In Nicaraguan Sign Language
Date: Tue, 23 Mar 1999 10:53:11 -0500
Sender: SignWriting List <SW-L@ADMIN.HUMBERC.ON.CA>
From: "James Kegl" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
I just returned from two months in Bluefields, Nicaragua where
I worked at
Escuelita de Bluefields -- the school for about 30 Deaf students
Nicaraguan Sign Language Projects, Inc. For those of you who
may not know,
all classes are taught by Deaf teachers fluent in Nicaraguan
the indigenous sign language. SignWriting is a major component
One of the uses of SW that I find particularly helpful is
For example, working with one of the teachers last fall, NSLP
produced a SW
version of Lindbergh's solo flight across the Atlantic. In January,
worked through the grammar with the class by writing some of
on the blackboard, then breaking down the words into their grammatical
components. We also looked at the word order in order to discuss
of syntax in Nicaraguan Sign Language. Next, each student discussed
or she would rewrite the sentence for better clarity or richer
This proved an excellent thought provoking exercise.
Someday, we will spend more time teaching Spanish (reading
and writing, but
absolutely no lipreading or speaking -- won't spend a second
on that.) Nor
will we cut back on class time for spanish. Rather, we plan to
school day to incorporate Spanish in the curriculum. I submit
teaching sign language grammar and literacy skills through SW,
will have a superior understanding of grammar and syntax concepts
begin to teach literacy skills in a second language.
Last fall, Valerie graciously allowed me to share with all
of you on this
-- James Shepard-Kegl
mailing list our plans to address some of the needs of Deaf Nicaraguans
the area affected by Hurricane Mitch. Just to update everyone,
actively training Deaf adults to be teachers in the new school
setting up in Condega (in the center of the flood area). We ran
language workshop in Condega for ten days in December. The first
session, using three Deaf teachers from the Bluefields school,
7 and will run two months. We were asked to take 70 children,
would swamp us, so we reduced the initial enrollment to 30. SW,
will be a part of the curriculum, although at this stage we are
interested in bringing Nicaraguan Sign Language to these children.
first, reading and writing afterwards. Many of our storybooks
translated into SW (Babar, Taily-Po, Little Engine that Could,
Spider, Trojan Horse, Odysseus and the Cyclops, Odysseus and
...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