I don’t usually blog about work, on the basis that if somebody has to pay me to turn up somewhere it probably isn’t very interesting. However, MPOW
recently set up a course for learning Auslan
, aka Australian Sign Language, and it’s chuffing brilliant.
We’re 3 weeks in and I’m fascinated. It’s very intuitive, and I love the way that you set up a situation in your “signing space” and then can tell a story within that space. That is, if I establish first that my back of my right hand is “car” and the index finger on my left hand is “Jim” then I can easily go on to show that Jim is in front of the car, Jim is behind the car, Jim was hit by the car, Jim was working under the car and so on.
Similarly, you can improvise once you know a basic sign. So if you know “walk” (two fingers on your right hand walking across the palm of your left hand), then you can intuitively say stagger, tiptoe, hop, bound and so on.
There’s a horribly designed but content rich website called Signbank
that I spend a lot of time on. Basically it’s an online dictionary and each word has a wee video to show you the sign. The connections between sign and meaning can be straightforward, witty or baffling, but are usually interesting.
The politics of the Deaf community are also interesting. Many Auslan users don’t consider themselves as disabled, and I can see their point – if I turned up at a party and everybody else was signing I’d be the one in trouble. On the other hand, you’d want to be covered by the same anti-discrimination legislation as, say, wheelchair users.
Next week a new teacher takes over who is himself Deaf, and the whole class will be “Voice Off”. I’m a little bit scared at the prospect, but also excited and I expect it’ll be a lot of fun.