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How To Learn Sign Language

Using sign language as a family (My Perfect Family: The Fergusons Part 1)


* (CAPTIVATING MUSIC) I’d say we’re a pretty
normal family. Most of the time we get along, and, you know, sometimes we fight. The big difference is that some of
us are deaf and others are hearing. So when communicating as a family,
we use New Zealand Sign Language
and also spoken English, but mostly we like to sign. (GENTLE ELECTRONIC MUSIC) Captions were made with the
support of NZ On Air. www.able.co.nz
Copyright Able 2019 (GENTLE GUITAR MUSIC) (ALARM BEEPS) Our day starts a little bit
different to most families. Myself, Zoe and Elijah have to get
up pretty early to get into town
for school and work, and I’m the alarm, so it’s for me to
physically wake up Zoe particularly, and Elijah needs a bit of a shout
and a bit of a shake. Eli, come on. Come on. It’s time to get up. Come on, quick.
(CHILD SQUEALS, FUSSES) And then Oliver has a shake awake,
which he wakes himself and leaves
a little bit later than we do. (ALARM BEEPS, VIBRATES) There’s five of us,
and three of the five are deaf. Out of the three, Zoe’s deaf
and Carter is deaf and
Elijah is hearing. So I’m hearing. I have no
Deaf people in my family.
I come from all-hearing siblings. And Oliver is deaf,
and his whole family are deaf —
so Mum, Dad and two sisters. I think with Eli, maybe he seems
different because he’s hearing, but to us it doesn’t feel
like he’s the odd one out. He’s really, really shy, and, yeah, (CHUCKLES)
quite reserved. But when you get him going,
like, he really gets into it. I mean, you know brothers —
they’re annoying, right? But… I think he’s cool. (GENTLE MUSIC) Carter’s… Carter’s 3, so next year he’ll be 4, and then in two years
he’ll start school. Dad, he taught me
New Zealand Sign Language and has also got me
into Deaf culture. He’s really involved
with the Deaf community, and with him being
President of Deaf Aotearoa, he’s got me into it as well. Mum — she’s really, really strong. She’s what you’d call an advocate. You know, she’s someone
who speaks up — not necessarily for herself,
of course, but she does it for
other people who can’t. The family life is very, very busy. I am currently the General Manager
of Services at Deaf Aotearoa. We have 14 offices throughout
New Zealand, and we provide
services for the Deaf community. So, Oliver works as a freelance
visual effects animator. He’s had about nine years
at Weta working on various films
and now works as a contractor. (CARTER CHUCKLES) I first encountered New Zealand
Sign Language at the age of 16. I was at high school here in
Porirua and was going to Catholic
youth camps in school holidays, and there was a woman there
that was proficient in
New Zealand Sign Language, and I started learning
just the alphabet and
picked it up pretty quickly. At 18, I went and
became an interpreter. So I was already signing
proficiently before I met Oliver. He was in the Deaf Blacks — the Deaf
rugby team — and I was interpreting
for the real All Blacks, and so we met at a rugby function. When we met, Bridget
told me her sign name, which is signed like this. So I knew that, but (CHUCKLES)
I didn’t know her actual name. The day after that, I waited for
a fax to come through from her, cos (CHUCKLES) that’s how we
kept in touch in those days. And when I got it, I saw it
ended with ‘Love from Bridget.’ So finally I had her actual name. (GENTLE GUITAR MUSIC) So, Zoe was born in 2001. We had no idea she was deaf.
Didn’t really know what to look for. I was in, sort of, a haze of newborn
days, but Mum was the one that said, ‘No, no. When I clap or
when I jingle the keys, some days she’ll turn
and other days she won’t. So at 4 months we asked to go and have her tested. She would sit on my lap.
They would do a noise behind me, but she had seen them move,
(CHUCKLES) so she would turn, and
they’d say, ‘No, she can hear that.’ Through my work, I knew that
there was a test called an ABR, which is an Auditory Brainstem
Response test, which they can
check that the nerve works. So I asked for that, and they said
no. Because I knew what it was, they thought I was bolshie
and shouldn’t have asked
for that particular test. A new audiologist came
to Wellington Hospital, and his common practice was to do
these ABRs. He was from overseas. And he said, ‘This kid hasn’t
had an ABR yet. You need to do
(CHUCKLES) one of those.’ Lo and behold, we do the ABR,
and, yeah, confirmed that she was
what they call moderate-severe. So sound has to get to about 80dB,
and then she can hear it. So that’ll be why
she used to squeal, cos she could get herself
to 80dB and hear herself.
That was the auditory loop. (INHALES DEEPLY) Very loud. (SQUEALS) You want the music? (BABBLES) (MUSIC PLAYS THROUGH EARPHONES) (ACOUSTIC GUITAR MUSIC) People assume that Deaf people
can’t hear music, but I can, and I really love it. I just turn up the volume 100%. (MUSIC PLAYS THROUGH EARPHONES) (ACOUSTIC GUITAR MUSIC CONTINUES) Regardless of deaf or hearing,
we had decided that New Zealand
Sign Language would be our children’s first
language. So, for Zoe, obviously
it turned out that she was deaf. Score. She was already signing,
and that was her first language. And when it came time for her to
transition to school, we wanted
her to be in an environment where she could just relax and learn
in her language that was visual. Didn’t want it to be interpreted;
didn’t want it to be mediated
through a teacher aide. We wanted her to engage
with her teacher. And I managed to get a job in Sydney
at Thomas Pattison School, which is an Auslan — Australian
Sign Language — bilingual school, and so we relocated to Sydney. But it just meant she got to learn
all her foundation learning — maths, English, social studies,
those kinda things — in a visual language in a really
relaxed, normal classroom. She had two years of
schooling in Sydney. The cost of living in Sydney
is a lot more expensive
than it is over here, so we decided to come home. When I first moved
back to New Zealand, I was pretty lucky to have one
teacher at primary school who’d picked up some sign language
before I arrived in the class. (INDISTINCT CHATTER) I also made friends
with a hearing girl. (CHUCKLES) I’m still
friends with her. And she’d sit and hang out with me,
which was cool. And then she learnt to sign as well. Yeah, so, we met in Year 9
when we started school. Yeah, the first day at morning tea. Nearly five years.
Yeah, yeah. So when I first met Zoe in Year 9, I had never, like… I didn’t know
sign language. I didn’t even… I had never met
a Deaf person before. Like, I really just
didn’t know anything. For, like, our connection — with
myself and Zoe, we have a greater
connection because we sign together, because she can understand
my emotions and, like,
my feelings and stuff a lot more than other people can,
because it’s easier to say
when it’s not said out loud. * (INDISTINCT CHATTER) (UPBEAT MUSIC) …and the Sisters of Mercy
have offered us their foyer. I’ve had an interpreter for
quite a long time — Angela. She’s been with me almost
nine years, since I was Year 4, and I’m now Year 13. And then you all have
your individual context, which is, for Maya, doggy wear. I really wanna call yours
a mini collection. Mini? OK.
Yeah, nice. Is that cool?
Yeah.
Miss, what would you call mine? ANGELA INTERPRETS: Well, my cousin
is getting married next year. I don’t know if she’d wanna
use something I made, but it’d be really cool to,
like, design a wedding dress. I know that I can trust
what Angela will say, and, like, I know that
she knows my signing. So, you know, I really
trust what she’s saying. Yeah, because I know
Zoe fairly well, I know when to interrupt her
or when to get her attention or when actually she’s probably just
interested in doing her own work. I can’t be interrupting her
every second of the day, saying what everyone in
the room is talking about. So it’s really good
to have an interpreter, but I know a lot of Deaf kids
don’t have one. So, of course, I can really understand how their
education could fall behind. BRIDGET: There was a real struggle
for funding. It continues to be,
I think, for many families, because $17 an hour for
a teacher aide is not gonna pay
for a professional interpreter. So for about a year and a half,
we self-funded a sign language
interpreter to make sure that Zoe could have
access in her mainstream school, and we ended up going to
Human Rights Commission,
and we laid a complaint. Went through nearly
two years of mediation, and the outcome was that Zoe has her
sign language interpreter funded. And the difference between having
a mishmash of good-hearted, well-meaning teacher aides who use
some sign through to a proficient
sign language interpreter that’s able to
facilitate communication
and build independence — I mean, Zoe’s just been
able to become this adult who manages her own communication,
manages her own environment and confidently then imparts her
language and culture to her friends. Good afternoon, everyone. (CHUCKLES) Welcome to
Sign Language Club. Summer. Summer. Winter. Flowers grow in spring. They pop out of the ground. The main thing for me with teaching
is relationship and togetherness. I thought that I needed to
kind of show Zoe that I… I guess that I really see her
and that I really value her. So I went to night classes. Then I set myself a challenge
of coming up with a public way
of sharing with Zoe the fact that I had
been learning sign. I asked Angela to help me translate
one of my favourite songs, and we performed it to Zoe. When Zoe started looking at me,
I realised it was the first time
she’d ever looked directly at me, and I was communicating
directly with her without
anyone else mediating that, and I cried, and, so,
ruined all my sign faces. (GENTLE MUSIC) What class did you just have?
I had bio. Sometimes when we’re
having conversations
between our friend groups, sometimes Zoe will say something,
like, really witty and really funny, and it kind of just cracks,
like, all of us up. (LAUGHTER)
I’m pretty sure. I’m pretty sure. It’s, like, really—
Like, we’ve had all of this,
kind of, like, consensus, like, ‘Oh yeah, Te Reo is one of
our national languages.’ So I don’t understand why there
isn’t the same kind of consensus
about sign language. So, I’ve nearly finished school. This is my last year,
and, like, wow! I’m really, like, really proud
of what my parents have fought for and done for me with my education. But now Carter’s about to
enter the world of education, and I’m like, ‘Ugh! ‘Everything should be set up
for him, but it’s not.’ They have to start again. You know, all the work
that’s been done for me, all the doors they’ve opened, why
can’t that just be there for Carter? Like, come on. (GENTLE MUSIC) There’s about a hundred deaf kids
born a year in New Zealand. The difference is now children are
given bilateral cochlear implants
pretty quickly. And if you have an audiogram
that looks like Carter’s,
where he has no response — so he hears nothing, really —
pretty much, those kids are
implanted within a couple of months of that identification
being confirmed. We declined that offer,
and, again, that’s a rarity. We stewed over it for months. It’s not a quick fix.
It takes a lot of work, and I’ve seen families for
whom — Carter’s cousin,
for example — excel. He speaks so well; he listens well;
he signs. He’s doing it,
and that works really well. But I’ve also seen other kids
for whom it doesn’t work. I’ve seen families who
have been devastated because they put all of
their hopes in this device
working for their child and for speech and listening
to be the focus, and come age 4 or 5,
it hasn’t worked for them. I just want a really confident,
articulate little boy who
gets to grow up normally having a strong first language
and knowing who he is within
the wider Deaf community. * (SEAT BELT CLICKS, HANDBRAKE CREAKS) BRIDGET: When Zoe got to the
age of being able to get
a learner’s licence, it wasn’t till then that
I realised, ‘How do you do
lessons with a Deaf kid? How do they watch the road and
watch Mum or Dad at the side
saying to them, ‘You need to be accelerating.
You need to do the brake’? And so I’ve not done any of it.
I’ve left that to Oliver, cos I don’t think Zoe and I would
gel well in a confined space
like that. (CHUCKLES) (QUIRKY MUSIC) Yeah, yeah, OK. (QUIRKY MUSIC CONTINUES) Yeah, Deaf people can drive. NZSL is a visual language, so we’re wired visually. Of course we can. I mean, we’re not perfect drivers. Just like anybody,
mistakes can happen. With Zoe, I find I have to use
signs a lot — like ‘slow down’. Sometimes it’s annoying. Like, Dad will be trying
to get my attention, and I’ll be like, ‘No way.
I can’t just drive with one hand.’ I mean, you shouldn’t
drive with one hand, and I’d have to sign back, right? There was an instance where
Zoe lost control of the car and crashed into the house. It was unfortunate,
but, hey, that happens. Initially I thought
everything was OK, but actually she kind of
freaked out a bit. (GENTLE PIANO MUSIC) We are quite a close family. We have
morning teas and dinners together. So lots of Deaf dinners go cold
because they’ll leave it and
have the chat and then eat, and then the food’s cold,
but (CHUCKLES) that’s life. You can’t expect a family to just
sit, and you’ve either gotta eat
or you’ve either gotta talk. It’s hard things like when
Oliver’s in the toilet forever and you can’t shout out and go,
‘Get out of the loo.’ We used to write on bits of paper,
and I would shove it under the door,
saying hurry up, you know. Things like that, where as a hearing
person, you would bang on the door. Arguing in our house I think
is like any other house. But there have been examples
where Oliver and I have been
going hammer and tongs in New Zealand Sign Language
and people go, ‘Oh, that’s
such a beautiful language,’ not realising that we
were having an argument. But very quickly you can do a look,
like you can for hearing kids. But it is useful, say,
for Elijah, who is hearing. I’ve been able to tell him off
in NZSL, (CHUCKLES) and people
have been none the wiser. Sometimes signing can
tell a better story of your emotions, your body language or your face— facial features. I do prefer to sign. My mum and I
sometimes have to balance it. I like to sometimes talk if
I want to just talk to my mum, if it’s secretly, even. But normally, when we’re having
dinner or something like that, we would normally sign. So, like,
the whole conversation would be—
Like, everybody would be involved. I sometimes randomly start
signing to my friends who don’t
even know that I can sign. With Elijah, he’s quite
interested in politics, which has been surprising for me, but one of his goals is to work in
government diplomacy or the UN — that kind of thing. My sister and I weren’t interested
in the whole Deaf rights when we were 10, 11, 12, 13 even. Ever since my sister went
to youth camps and had, like,
friends around the world, they kind of influenced her… her idea of the whole subject, of whole, like, ‘Oh, this needs to
happen. Why isn’t this happening?’ And that’s kinda the same thing with
me but more broad— in a broad sense. I’ve got a whole lot
of photos in my room — my Deaf friends
and my hearing friends as well. Most of my Deaf friends I met in
camps in Australia and America — like, for instance,
my friend from Germany. He also likes to listen to music. I mean, I honestly thought I was
the only young Deaf person in New Zealand who liked
to listen to music. I mean, I only know kids who can
hear music that are into music. Anyway, I didn’t ever think
that there could be another Deaf signing person
out there who’s like me. (BASSY MUSIC) In the Deaf community, there
are a lot of older Deaf people who hang out all the time. But in terms of Deaf people around
my age, there’s not very many. So I’m trying to get, like,
Deaf young people together so that they can also have
what these 20-year-olds have. (BASSY MUSIC CONTINUES) When I was little,
I could not hear because… I just lost all my hearing, and I didn’t get hearing aids
until I was 3 years old, which was a long time. And then I got my first
cochlear implant when I was maybe 5, and then I could hear very well. It’s like being in
two different worlds — being in the Deaf world at,
like, night-time or when I want, and then a hearing world. At school, my cochlear implant
can’t really filter out
all the sounds around me, and there’s this
programme called Scan, and I don’t like it because it just,
like, takes out all the voice— sound outside when I go outside, and then, like, my voice
is really quiet and same with the person next to me,
which I don’t like. Cos then it’s not, like, just real. And then it’s just easier to sign
and just, like, focus on that thing. And I like to sign with my friends, but at school I’m the only Deaf kid. I mean, do you know other
Deaf kids your age, Lucy? INTERPRETER: Some have moved to
Auckland. Like, Riley and Cayden,
they moved. Some are down in the South Island, and some don’t sign at all. At the moment, I think that
many Deaf youth are really
kind of isolated. They don’t often meet up as
a community, and there aren’t
many events for them. So a lot of them end up feeling
quite lonely and isolated. I think there are a lot of people
like Lucy out there — you know, a lot of Deaf youth
who would really like
to get together more. (GENTLE PIANO MUSIC) Zoe’s a lot like me in that she’s interested in design. In the past when I’ve asked her
if she’s keen to get involved with advocacy or be on a board
or community committee, she hasn’t really been
all that interested, whereas Bridget and I
are very involved. However, after coming home from the
UN Youth Declaration in Auckland,
I saw a shift. She had begun to realise the
importance of governance and
advocacy for future generations and for all of us. So I’ve seen a real change happen in
her between the ages of 15 and 17. All righty. So, got our list. We’ve set up TripIt.
Have you set it up on your phone?
No, not yet. So I went to World Federation
for the Deaf Congress in Turkey
four years ago and presented there, and it was announced that Paris
was gonna be the next site. And Zoe has been obsessed with Paris
since 6 or 7 years of age. And, so, pretty much four years ago
Oliver and I talked and said if
we can pull together the money, we will try and make it
a family trip to WFD Paris. In the meantime, then it was decided
that Deaf Aotearoa would put a bid
in to host 2023’s Congress. Oliver became President
of Deaf Aotearoa, so he needs to go just
to lead that bid process,
which is really exciting. And my boss asked me
to submit an abstract to see if we could present about
our early intervention service. Every four years, WFD hold a
Congress — a massive conference where people present from different
countries all around the world. They present all about
their culture and homelands, and I’m going to be one of
the youth representatives there, cos I’m in the New Zealand
Youth Board. So, there’s four of us
from New Zealand going. We have started packing
about two weeks ago. So, we’ve got a week in London,
two weeks in Paris. We will be able to do things
that all the kids have, sort of,
decided they wanna do. (INDISTINCT CHATTER) Mum and Dad have decided
that they’d like to have
a bit of a farewell for us, so my sister, Avril,
has offered to host us all. In my big family, some are
really proficient signers,
some are definitely bilingual, and some are still learning their
way with New Zealand Sign Language. As long as you’re communicating,
that’s the important part. For Zoe, the World Federation
for the Deaf Congress is a pretty
incredible environment to be in. The languages that are there,
the variety of Deaf people — for Zoe to experience that in
and of itself will be phenomenal. I know I’ll learn a lot just from being around
the WFD culture. And, like, I know a little bit
of International Sign Language at the moment and what’s happening
on the international scene, but it’ll be cool to learn more
about that in an adult context and also how youth are involved
in the international Deaf scene. FAMILY MEMBERS: Bon voyage!
(APPLAUSE) (UPBEAT GUITAR MUSIC) MAN: You can see… Hi. Captions were made with the
support of NZ On Air. www.able.co.nz
Copyright Able 2019 Attitude was made with funding
from NZ On Air.

13 Replies to “Using sign language as a family (My Perfect Family: The Fergusons Part 1)”

  • No CIs or bone anchor hearing aids among them? I'm determined, never, to go back to behind the ear aids since I was fitted with a BAHA last year. You never know something won't work, unless you just keep trying things. I must have tried around 5 different in-ear hearing aids or behind the ear hearing aids before I said I wanted to try for a BAHA in August 2017. 4 months later, I tried a loan BAHA on a hard headband for 2 weeks… and then, I wished I didn't have to send it back to the hospital. I waited another 5 months then, until I went into theatre on the morning of May 22nd 2018. I made probably, the biggest mistake of my life and decided I didn't want a general anaesthetic, so I went for a local anaesthetic… and completely, lost the plot and had a major, half hour anxiety attack on the operating table because the drilling was just far too much. I couldn't cope with it at all, even when I was moderately deaf on my right side. I had flashbacks for several months after my surgery. I'm only just over the worst of it. I don't dissolve into az aftershock anxiety attack now, thank god.

  • This is so awesome and looking forward to see part 2 too!

    I'm Deaf myself by the way _m/. I wear hearing aids. I speak in ASL (American Sign Language). My brother is the only hearing one in the family (CODF- Child Of Deaf Family).

  • Very, very interesting. While I'm sure this mother has a much greater insight than I do, I don't agree with the decision regarding denying a cochlear implant for their young son. Why not give him the opportunity to hear?

  • my nephew is hard-of-hearing and i have CAPD (central auditory processing disorder) which mimics some aspects of deaf issues. i grew up with learning and social difficulties because of this and i am so glad he is getting a proper amount of help through school and things. i just hope his parents involve him more in the local deaf/hoh community and let him learn all this stuff too; i am only just now getting into it myself.

  • What a beautiful family you are & Zoe’s smile is gorgeous. Keep up your amazing work in the deaf community and I hope you get to go to Paris as a family.

  • How is it that ABR was considered frivolous in New Zealand? And yet in Kenya its been common practice for children and people who can't follow instructions well. That must have been a personal view issue

  • Depriving their son of a chance to acquire oral speech (even if the cochlear implant may not always be as successful as intended), is so wrong. After a window of opportunity he will never be able to speak clearly. The parents are putting their agenda over the well being of their child.

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