Wednesday, February 27, 2008

The Bamberg conference; sessions about signing and gesturing

I am in Bamberg, there is a meeting of the German society of linguists and I am sitting in on sessions that are themed about signs and gestures. These are scientific presentations. As particularly deaf people have an interest in this subject, there are not one but two people who translate into sign language. One translates in German Sign Language, the other in American Sign Language.

There is a lot of interest for these sessions; all seats are taken and for nine people there is standing room only. The first presenter is not able to speak English and presents in German. Sadly the ASL presenter does not know German ... The German translator does :) When you give a presentation on gestures and signs, I would expect that you want to be seen. I am perplexed that this man does not only does not speak English but also sits on his chair preventing people to see his gestures.

In the first session of the conference, the notion of theorising was considered to be of importance but its relevance is established when these theories are proven by further research. This means that the numbers should not be massaged to prove a point. What I wonder is what numbers, what research underlies what I will hear in the sessions about signs and gestures

Watching a translator into a sign language is really interesting; one big thing is that to be effective, the translator has to be seen. In a full room with many people, this is not a given. I am not small, but another big person is in front of ME. :)

When sign language is to be written down, it seems really relevant to be able to have a video, it goes SO quick from sign to sign. Then again this is also true for spoken language, this is what steno is about. So when you are to give to as diverse a group of people as this, what do you do? What is on your power point, do you use power point. Do you want to organise the people that are in a room based on what you can see where? Having a full view of a signer is of no use to me, being at a fair distance to a screen is nice.

The question if a signer can gesture is something where I think I see an answer in front of me; the expression of one person signing to another is telling to me. The way the angle of the body is used is something that is not part of ASL as far as I know but used to emphasise. This may not be seen as gestures but they are similar to the way I use my hands and my face as part of getting my message out what are considered gestures.

One presenter is really sympathetic to me because she keeps track with how the translators are doing this is to prevent a gap to start between what she is saying and where the translator is left behind. It makes the presentation less fluent ... it is however NICE.

Before I went to these sessions, I thought what to wear .. I decided on my SignWriting T-shirt. Thanks,


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