One thing that my college teacher does is different than any of my other teachers. When he uses a sign and a student asks what it means, instead of finger spelling the word, like many do, he will try to get the meaning across by using other signs and using the unknown sign in context. And in the same way, if we want to know the sign for something we have to figure out a different way to get across what sign we are missing without using finger spelling. Though it certainly is more difficult, I think it is great. It accomplishes two things. One, it gives you the meaning of the word without associating a translated English word with it, which may or may not be very close to the actual meaning. And two, it ensures that the sign is the correct one for the context. For instance, if a student asks, “How do you sign G-E-T?” The teacher will respond with the sign that would be used in the context of, “I’m going to get a bag of chips from the cupboard.” Well, what if the student goes out and used that sign in the context of “I just don’t get it!” LOL
When we first started the class, the teacher was commenting on how late the class was and that many of us had worked all day and now we have to sit in a three hour long class that went until 9:30. He signed that at the break maybe we better go get coffee, or candy, or…and he listed several things with caffeine in them. And then he made a motion like injecting drugs! I must say I was rather surprised to see a teacher suggest that.
But then later in class the subject of soda pop came up and he used the same sign. Then I remembered--it is the sign for Coke, the carbonated drink! LOL In fact, the teacher himself said that the first time he saw that sign he laughed and laughed, thinking it was a joke. But that really is the sign!
Yesterday Shelley asked about Signed English. There are primarily three types of sign languages used in US; American Sign Language (ASL), Signed Exact English (SEE), and Pidgin Signed English (PSE). ASL is what most Deaf people use. It is a complete language of its own, with its own grammar and etiquette. ASL is a very beautiful, expressive language.
Signed Exact English is just that--using your hands to “speak” English. It uses English grammar and is very cumbersome with every word signed and added suffixes, etc. Whereas ASL signs use the meaning of ideas, SEE copies, for example, English homonyms , giving both words the same sign.
Pidgin Signed English is a combination of ASL and SEE. It uses the ASL signs, but closer to an English sentence structure. When using PSE you do not, however, sign every English word--just the important ones. I’ve heard that most hearing people use PSE. I know I do! But I am learning ASL grammar and I am trying to apply it. One thing about PSE, though, is that both users of ASL and SEE can understand it.
So, now you know a little more about sign language! As you can see, all three have good things about them and as an interpreter, I will have to learn some of all of them.