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Week 1 wrap-up

Below you’ll find a summary of our general orientations, management issues and some clarifications:

Contents of the course. Every week deals with two major themes: learning the language and thinking about the deaf community. We will learn how to sign, but it is also very important to place the language in the environment where it is used. This is the reason why the contents include instructional aspects, as well as food for thought.

Right and left hands. All sign languages have signs which are articulated with one hand or with two hands. In two-handed signs, there is always one hand which is more active. This is called the dominant hand. For right-handed signers, the dominant hand is the right one. For left-handed signers, the dominant hand is the left one. This means that one-handed signs are always articulated with the dominant hand (left or right, depending on you) and in two-handed signs the dominant hand has a more active role.

Variation. As any other language (spoken or signed), LSC has variation. Some of you have already observed that not all signers in the videos articulate the signs in the same way. This is normal! LSC is a natural language and shows the same variation parameters as spoken languages. There is also geographic variation, generational variation, style and register variation.

Communication barriers. We live in a society that is not very sensitive to impairments in general, so we still have to fight to break down communication barriers. An activity that we suggest to our students at UPF is that they become “deaf for one day” by using earplugs. This is striking… And they get to know those uncomfortable feelings that you have described in the discussions and conversations: with different means of transportation, at the supermarket, at school, at the museum and other cultural activities, with neighbors, in education areas, in emergency situations, at the dentist, etc. By the way, deaf people cannot hear but they can feel the vibrations. For example, at a pub there are fewer communication barriers!

From our point of view, there are two important aspects. On the one hand, as a society we need to be aware that communication barriers exist (the first step to improve things is to accept that things need to be improved). The fact that you are learning in this course is a way of achieving this goal! On the other hand, besides finding solutions to particular problems (which we must do), we also have to think about long-term strategies to contribute to deaf empowerment.

To conclude, a couple of aspects related to management:

The speed of the videos: a language needs to be learnt within a context. Immersion is the best way to learn a language and this is why from the very beginning we offer you signed materials. In these videos, Santi and Delfina sign much slower than how they usually sign. Promise! However, we are aware that speed might be an issue for some of you. At the bottom of each video, there is a speed selector. By default it is set at 1x, but you can select 0.5 and it will show at half speed.

Subtitles: subtitles are provided for every video, but we encourage you to not activate them as a general practice. The syntactic structures of English and LSC are very different, so there is not a one-to-one correspondence between a signed sentence and a written sentence. Videos are not voiced for the same reason. In any case, don’t worry if it is difficult to understand (parts of) the videos at this point. This is absolutely normal! Just focus on the general ideas and you will see that you gradually start understanding signs and fragments of discussions.

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This article is from the free online course:

Introduction to Catalan Sign Language: Speaking with Your Hands and Hearing with Your Eyes

Pompeu Fabra University Barcelona

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