Friday, March 10, 2006

A River Runs Through It

Late afternoon on Wednesday I took my brisk walk through the Tiergarten along this river/canal. It was a gray and cold day. I had to bunch up my hands inside my gloves to keep them warm. That cold. And as you see, there was a thin layer of ice and snow on the water.

After I turned the bend up ahead and walked by the "half-way house" for disabled patients (blind, deaf, quadriplegics, etc.), I saw a deaf young man signing to his female cohort. It was the first time I ever asked myself this question: what is the difference in signing from language to language? Do Germans sign differently than Americans? How do Japanese and Chinese and Iraqis sign, with alphabets so vastly different from our own?

Coincidentally, that evening I was reading from our mental floss that while Americans require only one hand to finger-spell, the Brits require two. In Britain they can even sign with different regional accents and dialects. And then I did a Wiki and found everything I ever wanted to know. Sign language is NOT universal. "Like spoken languages, sign languages emerge naturally in communities and change through time."

See how "a river" runs through our thoughts at any given time and takes us from here to there! Even on gray, cold days!


  1. See, that's what I'm talking about Ginnie! You think about interesting, thought provoking things like this, and I spend most of my time wondering who my fantasy baseball catcher is going to be.

    I JUST discovered Mental Floss while book shopping yesterday. It's great!

    Uh-oh. My verification letters: EVILH

  2. I only knew about the differences of sign languages because my best friend learned it. She told me that there were very few international signs and even those can differ slighly. She now works as a teacher with children with learning difficulties. As a matter of fact, I think I'll dedicate a blog to her in the near future.

    Funny. You kind of remind me of her (or vice versa). :-) You both are very soulful and very special human beings in my eyes.

  3. We have American Sign Language courses at MSU, otherwise I wouldn't have known there were other versions.

    Nice photo of a lovely river.

  4. I was aware that sign language differs from country to country and reagion to region, but I wonder if anyone has made up a basic international version that could be used in an emergency. I can imagine that a deaf person needing assistance in a foreign country could find it quite frightening not to be able to communicate either through spoken or sign language.

    Your photo really captures how cold and uncomfortable it is here right now. Hopefully things will be looking up for April!

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  6. 2nd try:

    When I was in elementary school, a deaf school shared our facilities. So that we could communicate on the playground, we would learn how to sign in the 1-3 grades.

    Who knew we could have become bi-lingual in our signing?!!

  7. Mr. Fab: You can't fool us for one second, dear Teddy Bear. Underneath all that humor is one serious guy. But I DID "make fun of you" in my addendum TGIF post a few minutes ago. Sorry. Couldn't help it :)

    CS: Awww. How sweet to be reminded of someone who is dear to you. Sometimes soulmates haven't even met yet so DO post about her!

    Ruth: I know--it never occurred to me to even think about it!

    Christina: Man, you're right! There NEEDS to be a basic universal sign language. But then, maybe we already have when WE have to use our hands to communicate because we don't know a lnguage! Btw, I thought of YOU when I went on this afternoon's walk and then added the addendum TGIF photos a few minutes ago. If we had sun here, surely you had it as well just a few miles away!

    Mrs. M/Shari: What a fantastic experience! Do you still remember basic signs, I wonder? Bilingual indeed!

  8. One of my friend is a sign translator. So she told us many things about sign langage. And here, in Québec, they have their own, that is a very expressive one.

  9. When we go to hear Sweet Honey In the Rock each year, I often watch the signer (whose parents were both deaf and raised her). It's like her whole body sings what she's signing. Talk about "expressive!" What a gift.