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How To Learn Sign Language

Awti at ISD 2014!


Hello, ASL community! I’m here at ISD, Iowa School for the Deaf… Yesterday, I gave a number of presentations; in the morning, I performed for the ISD elementary school students and we did some activities… [Deaf Ninja] was surrounded by his enemies: First, a werewolf [describes werewolf] who let forth a fearsome howl… [Deaf Ninja reacts] Awti: Did you draw a gorilla? What’s that? Look at that big ol’ belly, as he pounds his chest! That’s good! Awti: Hey, hey…oh – a monster? Whaaa?! look-it that that mean grmiace, wow! At noon, I met with the middle school students for a mixture of presentation, performance and activities… Awti: First, what does the tree look like? Ok good so you’ll be the tree, standing like this [mighty stance]. Or the tree could look like this [weeping willow], or this [bonsai], right? Trees come in different shapes! Awti: The rain trickles down my side, the moutainside, right? And goes to you… now you [the tree] pick it up and give it to the cloud… wait a minute, you’re supposed to be a big fluffy cloud, this guy is depicting an emaciated cloud! Nononono, you gotta be fat with water! Ok so you’ve got a bunch of water and you rain it down..oh, this guy…he’s like ‘here’s your water, whatever.’ Ok good, good, now… Next, that afternoon, I spent time with the high school 4PLUS students, performing, presenting and engaging them in various FUN activites… … at the other end of the wooden lane stood a stripe-necked bowling pin, egging on the ball, saying, “Bring it on.”… Awti: Let’s bring up our student performers! Student on the right: I’m warning you, don’t rain on me! Student on left: [personifying a tree, moves water from ground into the air] Student in middle: [personifying a cloud, moves water through air, rains down upon volcano] Student on left: [personifying a volcano] I’m warning you, don’t do it! [erupts in anger, flows lava toward the tree] Student on left: [catches on fire] Student in middle: [rains on tree, extinguishes fire] Student on left: [something flies out of tree and dives into volcano, LOTR-style] Awti: I gotta tell you, I’ve never imagined a volcano in that scenario, good job – how’d you all like that? In the evening, we had the “ASL Power!” variety show… I can hear your hands – I’m not saying that I hear them with my ears, no, this is EYE music! Can you see the eye music? Now, I don’t sign it this way, [produces sign] because this is “noise” not for the ears, but for the eyes! [audience produces eye music!] [ASL cowboy story] [skit] [student on left] My name is DJ Meyer and this is… [student on right] Hi, uh…hey, c’mere… [student on left] Wha…what’s up?… [skit] [Awti] This fellow is joining our team, can you tell us why? [student with cape] Because I’m Superman, why not? [ASL fairytale] I haven’t made any noises with my voice, yet you can HEAR the suitcase hit the ground, open up, you can hear the metallic suit encase my body and helmet clamp over my head [awe-inpsired pause] ASL POWER! [spaceship disappears into warp drive,then reappears] How does that make you feel? ASL POWER! Today I’m back at ISD, presenting a workshop for ASL professionals, both hearing and Deaf. The power of personification! So you know, here’s how I sign “personification” [produces signs] Usually, when people talk about personifying something, our minds immediately go to inanimate objects – but that’s not all that can be personified. For example, parts of the body. Let’s take the heart: Often, when discussing the heart, we depict it in neutral space. We show its valves like this, portray blood circulating to and from it like so…but what if we become the heart, like this? What if we personify the heart, in effect saying that I ‘contract myself rhythmically’, I ‘open and close my vales’, I ‘usher blood into is circulation and keep it going with my contractions.’ How great is that?! Any time I describe something that happens, I’m not re-creating real life; I’m depicting, through words, what happened in real life. That’s why I love this sign [produces sign for depiction]. “Signed depiction.” A depiction of what? Pssh, ANYTHING! Anything you can possibly imagine can be depicted! What’s the fire alarm’s function? It’s wall-mounted, having a red, square-shaped body. On its belly is a strobe light and on its face is a round, grated speaker, specially made to project loudly. The fire alarm stands guard; at first whiff of smoke from a fire, it shouts out a repeated and constant warning to everyone within earshot, “Evacuate!” Simultaneously, the fire alarm flickers its strobe light, ensuring that it gets the attention of everyone possible. The evacuees are grateful for the efforts of this little red alarm box and though it would like to issue a polite, “You’re welcome,” there’s no time for that! “Everybody out!” [workshop participants engaging in group activities] [Awti] And we’ve already chosen what we’ll personify: The skeletal system… Here’s my email address; if you’d like me to come to your area to host a workshop, give a performance or work with Deaf youths and students, let me know. I’d love to visit you! Here’s my name sign; ASL Power!

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