Sign Languages Study Group ✋

An area with study groups for various languages. Group members help each other, share resources and experience. Study groups are permanent but the members rotate and change.
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arthaey
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Sign Languages Study Group ✋

Postby arthaey » Sun Jan 29, 2017 1:19 am

There aren't very many of us studying sign languages, so rather than make a separate study group thread for each language, I'm creating one combined thread.

Who's out there studying a sign language? Why are you learning it? What resources are you using? Who are you practicing with?
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arthaey
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Re: Sign Languages Study Group ✋

Postby arthaey » Sun Jan 29, 2017 1:31 am

I'll go first!

I'm learning American Sign Language (ASL) as opposed to a different sign language because it's what's spoken in the US, where I live.

I find all languages interesting (as I'm sure many of you can understand ;)) but I think signed languages have a couple additional advantages even for hearing people. For one thing, many people lose their hearing as they get older. Knowing a language that doesn't rely on hearing seems like a good way of avoiding having all of one's communication eggs in one basket, so to speak. ;)

Sign languages are also useful across larger physical spaces, when there's glass between you and your interlocutor, when you need to be quiet for some reason… I'm sure if I gave myself more time, I could list even more practical uses for sign language.

I also enjoy learning about different cultures and making connections with people I wouldn't otherwise be able to in the same way. The same is true of the Deaf community in the US. There is a lot of history and culture there, which most hearing Americans are entirely unaware of.

As for resources, I'm using the Green Books, Linguistics of ASL, LifePrint, YouTube channels by Bill Vicars & ASL Stew, and in-person community center classes. Plus ASLwrite to be able to write down ASL, even if this is use by a very small sub-community.
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Teango
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Re: Sign Languages Study Group ✋

Postby Teango » Sun Jan 29, 2017 3:50 am

Mahalo for starting a sign languages group, arthaey! I know there are several members on the forum currently studying (or proficient in) ASL or BSL, and there are so many other sign languages out there to learn. It will be very helpful to have a place to share notes and links to resources, as well as receive support and motivation when things get tough.

As for me, I'm studying New Zealand Sign Language (NZSL) from scratch and would ideally like to reach a basic conversational level by the end of the year. I'm studying NZSL to gain new perspectives in language learning, communicate with my baby daughter earlier, and in preparation for supporting the deaf community in New Zealand (I'm keeping my fingers crossed for a teaching position at a university there after my PhD).

I'm studying grammar and learning baby NZSL signs at the moment (this is my first day!), but can't wait to dive into a long list of other resources I've accumulated once I'm done with these (I'll post some more links and recommendations in my blog later - Ka upane! 2017). My wife and little baby daughter are my current practice partners for now, but I'd be interested in finding conversation partners or tutors in NZSL further down the road.

I wish everyone here the best of luck in their sign language studies for 2017 and beyond!
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jennybenny25
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Re: Sign Languages Study Group ✋

Postby jennybenny25 » Sun Feb 05, 2017 11:58 am

Hello

Im currently studying bsl level 3 - love it so much! At the moment im practising with my study group :)

Great to see a sign language thread!

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golyplot
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Re: Sign Languages Study Group ✋

Postby golyplot » Thu Feb 09, 2017 4:21 pm

I'm currently studying ASL. I'm learning by watching videos online (mostly The Daily Moth) and going to local Deaf events whenever I can, but it's very slow. I wish I had more opportunities to learn and practice ASL.
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LanguagelJ
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Re: Sign Languages Study Group ✋

Postby LanguagelJ » Sat Apr 22, 2017 10:03 pm

I love the fact that there is a forum for sign language. I am familiar with BSL.
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vogeltje
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Re: Sign Languages Study Group ✋

Postby vogeltje » Sun Apr 23, 2017 1:53 am

I'd love to learn sign language. I live in London, so BSL, but I don't know how because I haven't got a friend who knows it.
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Steve
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Re: Sign Languages Study Group ✋

Postby Steve » Thu Apr 27, 2017 7:40 pm

I had taken a signing class in college many years ago using Exact English rather than ASL. It was a good start, though I never used it much.

My wife and I studied ASL together for a year or so. We used the Bill Vicars site and had a few books. I also ran into a deaf forum that had some very useful threads on signing. We had a good friend (who has been an interpreter for many years) and a Deaf friend at our church who inspired us to start. For a time, we had a small Deaf section going with a few different interpreters. Hearing the words and then seeing the signs for entire services and "singing" in unison was very helpful. We got together with them weekly to practice. My wife and I would spend some time practicing each day. I was getting to the point where I could hold social conversations with (patient) Deaf people. Unfortunately, our friends moved away a few years ago and we let things lapse. We still use it occasionally when one of us is on the phone. "WHO?" "Finger-spell initials" "NOT HERE". :)

Learning ASL was unique for me because it forced me into interactive listening/speaking mode because that's the nature of it. It was the first time I learned a language primarily from interacting with people. It was also interesting to observe some of the range of ASL dialects (since our interpreter friend was from a different part of the country).

Between some basic signs and lots of fingerspelling, I can still hold a minimal "Hi, how are you?" type of conversation if a Deaf person is patient.
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golyplot
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Re: Sign Languages Study Group ✋

Postby golyplot » Tue May 02, 2017 2:03 am

Steve wrote:Learning ASL was unique for me because it forced me into interactive listening/speaking mode because that's the nature of it. It was the first time I learned a language primarily from interacting with people. It was also interesting to observe some of the range of ASL dialects (since our interpreter friend was from a different part of the country).


Yep, that's one thing that's very different. I learned French online by myself via Duolingo, watching movies, etc. ASL is the opposite - pretty much the only way to learn is in person. Even watching videos barely helps. I just wish it was easier to meet people who use ASL.
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Steve
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Re: Sign Languages Study Group ✋

Postby Steve » Tue May 02, 2017 1:04 pm

golyplot wrote:
Steve wrote:Learning ASL was unique for me because it forced me into interactive listening/speaking mode because that's the nature of it. It was the first time I learned a language primarily from interacting with people. It was also interesting to observe some of the range of ASL dialects (since our interpreter friend was from a different part of the country).


Yep, that's one thing that's very different. I learned French online by myself via Duolingo, watching movies, etc. ASL is the opposite - pretty much the only way to learn is in person. Even watching videos barely helps. I just wish it was easier to meet people who use ASL.


It sounds like you are running into the same challenges I've had. It seems like there is a critical mass of knowledge and skill required to get something out of videos. Even when I had transcripts and was in my best practice, native ASL videos flew past me. There's no substitute for a patient person willing to use "contact" signing to get you up to speed.

One thing that is a bit more helpful these days is that some Deaf groups are posting activity calendars on line. If you can find their web sites or Facebook pages, etc. you might be able to find some of their get togethers to meet people. Another place to look is to try to find interpreting services, many interpreters would have a good idea of where the signing hot spots are. In some cities, there are Deaf churches.

As an FYI for people following this thread, in the US, sign language runs the gamut from signing "Exact English" (in which the English language is completely represented in sign) to ASL (which is a unique language with a complete grammar of its own and unique features). Exact English was developed (mostly by hearing people) mainly for education purposes. The idea is that someone signing exact English could communicate all written and spoken aspects of English to a deaf person. This included some basic ASL signs, fingerspelling (each English letter is given a 1 handed sign), and special signs for various English word endings (-ing, -ed, -ly, etc.). "Contact" signing is basically a pidgin or creole ASL where hearing people use whatever combination of English grammar, ASL signs, and fingerspelling they can to communicate. A fluent (and patient) signer will slow down and adapt to whatever you can handle. They will use ASL, see a blank look, and then start using slow fingerspelling until they see comprehension. They may or may not use English grammar.

As more FYI, ASL is a beautiful language in its own right that is unrelated to English. The grammar is unrelated to English. It is NOT a deficient form of English but rather a unique grammar of its own. ASL pronouns are very interesting. If a person is present, you point at them. I, you, he, she, it, they, us, and you-all, are indicated by pointing. If someone is absent, you sign their name or title, point to a blank spot next to you (pretending they are standing there), and then point to that spot to refer to them as if they were there. Verbs have one form with tense coming from time indicators and a progressive tense coming from repeating the sign. I found that thinking of setting a stage for a play, and then describing the play, was the best way to start thinking in ASL. You go from the big picture to the details. For example, here's about our dog (in my poor ASL). 5-YEARS PAST, HAVE DOG NEW, (point to my side to create a reference to him), HE (pointing to reference) VERY-BIG (which is sign for BIG with exaggerated motion) HAIR MUCH SOFT, 3-COLORS BLACK MOST BUT WHITE (then pointing to my hands and then indicating stripe on face and chest) BROWN (pointing to arm above hands) VERY-FRIENDLY VERY-LOVE PEOPLE NOW HE (spell T-H-E-R-A-P-Y) DOG. HE VISIT PEOPLE OLD. HE VISIT LIBRARY ?WHY? KIDS (create pointing reference to other side of me) READ. HE LISTEN. THEY (point both to "dog" and "kids") SNUGGLE. KIDS HAPPY. HE HAPPY. Instead of using words, I'm trying to create a visual picture of a Bernese Mountain Dog and what he now does. Anyway, ASL has some very exotic features.

What little I could understand ASL poetry was beautiful. Sometimes the imagery created is more communicative than words. My friend who interprets for church would sometimes throw in imagery rather than exact words. There are some hymns I now cannot hear to without visualizing how she signed parts of them.

The time I spent using ASL was very good for me. It was the first time in my life I had to focus purely on the core meaning of what I meant. In English, without thinking, I use word order and many synonyms to create variance nuances and emphases to attempt to communicate exactly what I mean. ASL forced me to go to the root of what I meant with simplicity and clarity. I could then add emphasis or nuance by subtilely changing the base sign. I had to take my English and distill it down to pure meaning and then worry about emphasis. For me, every time I signed was an exercise in clear thinking.

I've also intentionally been using the terms Deaf and deaf as typically used in the US. Small d deaf refers to the physical condition. Capital D Deaf refers to the signing community. It's something best explained by long term members of the Deaf community. The Deaf community is fairly close-knit. Physical deafness is often a generational isolator of people. Most deaf people have hearing parents and siblings and were isolated. For many deaf people, learning ASL and becoming part of the Deaf community was their first move into a group of people they could interact with. My sense is for many Deaf people, it was the first real family they had. It seems to be a very close knit community. One result of this is that if you can sign, you are generally accepted in. Within a few minutes, don't be surprised to have someone sharing their life story with you and asking personal questions. The first time we visited a Deaf event, a perfect stranger took us under his wing, patiently signed with us, told us all about his kids and grandkids, where they lived and worked. He asked us about the same.

My wife and I made it to the point where we were given our Deaf names. Where we are at, you start off with your finger spelled name. The local community names you after you have been around awhile. That was a special moment when our friends decided to tell us what we were going to be called. Around them, we still have our names they gave us. In another local Deaf community, we'd probably start off fingerspelling names until we'd been around for awhile and they'd give us another set of names.

In the US, learning ASL is more about joining a community than it is about learning a language.
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