Radio Inspire

How To Learn Sign Language

Sign Language in a Mirror – with Charles Stirling


-You’re a right-handed signer aren’t you
Katherine? Is that right? -Yes. -Okay. So that is your passive hand, yes? And you’re doing most of your signs with your right hand. And so we have a member of the
audience who can’t hear what I’m saying. Mika can’t hear what I’m saying but he’s
in touch. And Katherine is able to sign to him as fast as I can speak. Now there’s a little experiment because you’re in the cradle of British
science, the crucible, so let’s do a little experiment. We’ve been talking about appearances
and right and left handedness. Can a deaf person pick up the
message of sign language when it’s reflected in a mirror? We think so far as
we know that’s a unique experiment and this is the home of unique experiments
so if you would ask Mika to come down and join us, we can do this experiment. [APPLAUSE] Hello Mika, thank you very much for joining us. Would you like just to sit, just to stand there
because it’s important for seeing the reflections. And Katherine if you’ll go round
to the mirror, thank you very much. And why not say something to us
first, right? What I’ve forgotten to ask you was just to say
something to the audience specifically in sign language, all right? So will you
say that for us, to the audience? And then tell us what you’ve said. Thank you very much! What did you say?
-Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. -You’d never have guessed it, would you?
Very good! Now, can we do the experiment of the
reflection of the sign? Now I think the result of that experiment
Katherine you’re going to have to tell me. -I said “Hello Mika, It’s nice to see you again”. -Very good and Mika could understand.
-He said “It’s nice to see you again too”. -So, this language is so effective that
even when the images are reversed, as we shall see at the very end of the lecture, communication is unaffected. Thank you very much indeed for
coming and helping us with this demo. [APPLAUSE]

9 Replies to “Sign Language in a Mirror – with Charles Stirling”

  • I would rather ask, how much (visual) noise can be added to sign language, until is not readable anymore.
    Would be a similar question to how much noise does it take, to make you unable to understand something.

    Or how much can we reduce the information of sign language? How much can our brain interpolate?
    How complicated is it to input things via sign language to a handy or laptop. (Voice Control and Voice to Text)

  • What's always made me wonder about sign language is why it was never made a standard around the world, with American and British along with quite a few other native languages using their own version of sign language. Even now looking for youtube videos it's quite hard to find British sign language videos amonst the American sign language and vise versa. At the very least I'd have expected English to use the same sign language universally – while I could understand if French, or even Russian with say different tenses means it just wouldn't work as a universal language.

  • It's not the best controlled experiment ever, but the results surprised me.
    Do left handed and right handed people use mirrored signs? Or does everyone use the same hand for the same sign(-component)?

  • sign language uses so many other components such as facial expression, body position, mouth shape, eyebrow position, and sign intensity that running into someone who uses the opposite dominant hand to sign can easily go unnoticed in conversation. obviously hand movements and shapes are a huge portion of the language but when you're brain is processing all of the components together, the question of dominant hand usage becomes such a small factor in understanding each other.

  • "Unique experiment"???

    Left-hand dominant people sign left-hand dominant. Every bloody time this guy meets a left-hand dominant signer (which I'm sure he does at least once a day) he does this "experiment".

    It's a natural function of the language. It's actually considered really poor form to switch dominant hands while signing, because it throws deaf people off a bit, but as long as you stick with either one, they'll understand you just fine, so there's absolutely no reason to expect using a mirror would have confused this man.

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