Writing in Sign?? | ASL Ponderings

Video: http://youtu.be/PWQ1UjOtWKk

Hello! On my video, 10 Things About Me, someone commented about a topic they wanted me to talk about. When I saw it, I immediately wanted to talk about it, because it’s something that I’m really interested in. I had NO script for this video, no list of my thoughts, nothing. SO, in advance, I apologize if I’m vague and all over the place and not on point. The comment is from Barnabus, shown below.

Great question, for sure! I personally support creating some form of written sign. Barnabus mentioned si5s. I have the book which I got a long time ago, when it had recently published. So some of the information in it is outdated now, but overall, it’s a good starting place. A person named Adrean Clark established a slightly different form, called ASLWrite. Now, from my understanding, Adrean used to work with the person who created si5s. But then they had a disagreement about how to do things, so they parted ways. The reason why I mention this is because si5s and ASLWrite have many similarities because they are based off the same system. Both ASLWrite and si5s have a website, but ASLWrite’s website has a free downloadable PDF of the rules of how to write, handshape symbols, and different things. ASLWrite also has a open Facebook group. I like that there’s a group for several reasons. If I’m writing something, thinking about how to translate that from sign to writing. I’m unsure if it’s right or not, I can upload it to that group, and ask if it’s right, or if it should be written another way, or whatever. I can get instant feedback from that. So that’s a great benefit. I like that you have that interaction, that community. While si5s focuses on a book, classes, workshops, as far as I know.

I like how ASLWrite shows the handshapes over how si5s shows the handshapes. Why? si5s has a basic handshape, a drawing of a basic handshape that looks something like the first image in the sequence below. Then it will use symbols at the top as shown below. The different symbols represent how the handshape changes. Into a flat bent hand, or a claw, or whatever else.

On the other hand, ASLWrite throws out those symbols and just directly shows the handshape itself, and doesn’t depend on symbols to tell you how the handshape changes. I personally am leaning more towards ASLWrite than towards si5s. [UPDATE: I was informed after posting this video that si5s has moved away from these symbols and now follows the handshapes much like ASLWrite.] The basic point is I support establishing some form of written system for sign.

However… I don’t know if we’re there yet. That’s important to say, I don’t think we’re quite there yet for having a full system of writing in ASL, and teaching children how to write in ASL. I think we’re still in the infancy stage. We still have to seriously develop a course for teaching how to write in sign at all age levels. Also, I’m having a hard time seeing how we can use this in our everyday lives. Because sure, writing in sign is great! It’s a good way to preserve and record our signs. Though… How do we make it possible for us to be able to “write” in that on Facebook or something like that? I think that’s way beyond what we’re capable of right now. And honestly, creating videos is easier. Just film yourself signing, upload it and send, you’re good to go. So, I don’t know. I think it’s cool to have a written system for sign, but it’s hard to do it alone. You really have to do it with other people too, to really to be able to develop it. And have it become innate, to be able to write without having to think “how do I represent this sign right?” Much like learning any new language really. That’s one struggle I have when I’m trying to learn how to write in sign. Reading is different, I can kind of read and understand some. But do we really need this written system? We have videos, that is our “writing.”

Okay, this is a topic I can probably go in-depth on in another post, but I’m going to give you the basics. When I went to Frontrunners, my school in Denmark, we discussed frequently about bilingual education. I actually ended up cutting a lot out of my video related to this topic, because I went off point and started talking about bilingual education. This is a really complicated topic, and I struggled a little bit with figuring out how to explain this. BUT. I’ll stick to the basics. We talked about how videos is a way of writing for signers. How does this work? We “hear” with our eyes, we “speak” with our hands, we “write” with filming ourselves, and we “read” with watching videos. That is the extreme basics of it. Therefore, do we really need a written system? Videos are the most accurate way of expressing our language. I don’t know, maybe I’m just blowing air. What do you think? Should we have a written system, or is videos good enough?

IMPORTANT: I encourage you to go read the comments on the video linked to this topic (at top of this post), there were a lot of great thoughts and fantastic points. Some of them were things I never thought of before!

I apologize if this post was a little bit all over the place and long. I hope you liked it anyway. Let me know what you think of this post, and if you want to know more about this. Thanks for reading, see you next time.

Published by Rogan Shannon

Hello there! I'm Rogan, a queer deaf guy who has a passion for leadership and advocacy. I create YouTube videos about a lot of different topics - being deaf, queer, reading, language, and whatever else interests me!

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