Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Loud shirts for deaf and hard-of-hearing

[Michele]  Today was loud shirt day at Mission Beach State School.  The way this works is kids can wear loud shirts instead of the uniform shirts for this day. If they opt out of wearing their uniform then they should bring a 'gold coin' for donating to services for deaf and hard-of-hearing kids.  Gold coins are $1 and $2 pieces.  Have I mentioned how convenient it is to have coins for these instead of $1 bills?  No dollar bills here and no pennies -- it is brilliant!

But I digress.  Robin was so excited to tell me about the fund raiser and she was very eager to both wear a shirt and more importantly give to this cause that means so much to me and our family.

Well, this evening in a twist of strange coincidence I got my first exposure to Auslan (Australian Sign Language).  I have not met any signers here in far North Queensland, there just aren't that many people here. On television this evening was a special report on the devastating fires in New South Wales.  Many of you in the east coast of America may remember Lydia Callis interpreting though hurricane Sandy.  Well the Rural Fire Service had a press conference on the fires and featured a Auslan Interpreter.

She was fascinating to watch!

She was very succinct in her signs and used facial expressions very well -- just like Lydia Callis.  But for me the fascination was that I could understand a good portion of the signs.. that is up until she spelled something.  Many signs "fire" "defense services" (same as army), "information" etc were exactly the same as American sign language. Some signs like "question" were different but I could figure it out from context and lip reading the interpreter.  But then the interpreter would spell something and this would cause me to just laugh out loud.  Imagine someone speaking a language you know pretty well so you are following along Ok.  Maybe it is a Quebecois variation on the French you learned in school but you are getting most of it.  Then imagine that the speaker periodically breaks into rapid fire Urdu for a moment before returning to the French.  That is what it was like every single time she spelled something.

Auslan uses the British two-handed alphabet and to me it looks like gibberish.  So every time the interpreter spelled something I would exclaim "Look! She is spelling again!".

Look! She is spelling! Bah ha ha!
Auslan is a mish-mash of two languages.  Some of the language is based on British sign language (two-handed alphabet) brought over along to Australia with other quaint things like Parliamentary government and a love of yeast extract.  But many of the signs are from Irish Sign language, brought over by the catholic church and taught in catholic schools within Australia.  It is interesting that Irish sign language, due to its Catholic church roots, is derived from French sign language rather than British Sign Language.  French Sign Language, which has a single handed alphabet, is is also a major root of American Sign language (not for church reasons BTW).  On top of all that, recently, Auslan has also adopted a lot of American Sign Language signs.  So Auslan is a really unique mish mash .. and weird to watch!

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