GeekMom: Make/Play/Watch/Read: Sign Languages

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International Day of Sign Languages

When I was in my first year of school, many moons ago, one of my classmates was a deaf person. It seemed like an easy decision for all of us to learn the basics of Auslan (Northern), also known as Australian Sign Language. Almost 40-years later, I still remember the alphabet, simple counting, some animals, colors, and basic gestures like “eat.” It always surprised me how Auslan wasn’t taught in more public schools throughout Australia and around the world. It is an amazing language and a beautiful way to communicate with people. I also found it helped a lot with my kids when they were younger; it was easier for them to communicate with their hands than to speak in loud surroundings. Sign Language is a language in its own right and can also act as a bridge with other languages.

On September 23, 1951, the World Federation of the Deaf was established, bringing together 135 national associations of deaf people to advocate on behalf of deaf people. One of its main goals is the preservation of sign languages and deaf culture as prerequisites of the human rights of deaf people. In 2018, the first International Day of Sign Languages was celebrated during the 60th anniversary of the International Week of the Deaf. This year, the theme is “We Sign for Human Rights,” highlighting the need for all of us to support the right to use sign languages in all areas of life. Not only in “the class with the deaf kid” but in ALL classrooms. This Thursday, September 23, we should all be celebrating the International Day of Sign Languages with the message: “We Sign for Human Rights.”


Make: A Song With Sign Language

Kids pick up sign languages super fast. “Baby Sign” was a huge thing when my eldest was born, however, I quickly realized how little of it related to official Sign Language. Fortunately, there are plenty of resources now available on the internet, providing lessons to learn the basics. Most of them are very easy to learn, even for the youngest in the family. And songs are definitely the best way to remember the vocabulary.

When our third child started preschool, she made a new friend by signing “The Rainbow Song”—not realizing her new friend was a deaf person. For Zaltu, she was sharing her favorite song with a new friend. For her friend, it was a rare opportunity when a new person made the effort to communicate in their language. By the end of the school year, the entire class had learned the song in Auslan and shared it with family and friends.

I am absolutely positive you can find videos online teaching you how to sign various songs in your local sign language. In the meantime, here is one of the best videos I could find for Auslan. Now imagine 20 little kids with big smiles on their faces doing the same. Priceless.

Play: Dixit (published by Libellud)

This game is possibly one of the most beautiful tabletop games I have ever played. The artwork is by Marie Cardouat, an amazingly talented artist who has been involved with other tabletop games like Hop! (See my review on GeekMom here.)

The artwork of Dixit is its foundation; everything else builds from the visual cues. For each round, one player is the storyteller choosing one of the cards in their hands to represent their story. The storyteller creates a word or sentence relating to the card but does not show the card to the other plates. Each of the other players must select a card from their own hand which best matches what the storyteller said. They each give their card to the storyteller, who shuffles all of the players’ cards together. All cards are then revealed together and every player has to bet upon which picture belonged to the storyteller.

play dixit with sign languages
Image by EG Mum

The reason I picked Dixit for International Day of Sign Languages is that the game is so easy to play using Sign Language! It’s a great way for stretching your vocab and understanding of context. It can also be an example of how easily things can be lost in translation. As GeekDad Jonathan shared in his 2011 review, “the game is language-independent; since there are no words on the cards… it doesn’t require reading and can be played in Spanish or Russian or Chinese”–or Sign Language. 

Dixit is one of those “evergreen” games, in that it will never age. Well, the box might be when the kids are pulling it out every week to play. Let’s just say it has the potential to be a family fave so make sure you take care of it, okay?

Watch: A Quiet Place (2018) and A Quiet Place Part II (2021) (Amazon Prime/Apple TV/Google Play/YouTube)

If you have not seen A Quiet Place (2018), then you definitely need to see it first before watching A Quiet Place Part II. It’s going to be really hard to talk about Part II without spoiling the first movie, so let’s just focus on the sign language elements.

A Quiet Place Part II

Both movies feature a family struggling to survive in a post-apocalyptic world taken over by blind monsters with an acute sense of hearing. The aliens react violently to noise. The family includes Regan, the teenage daughter. Regan is deaf and is portrayed by Millicent Simmonds, a deaf person. Throughout the movie, the entire family communicates with both speech and American Sign Language (ASL)—a core factor in their survival against the aliens.

The movies have been praised by the deaf community for the use of ASL as well as for embracing many elements of deaf culture. During the making of both films, an ASL coach was on set to ensure the signs were clear throughout the movie. Many other cast and crew have since become fluent in sign language, including co-star Noah Jupe.

The use of ASL is taken even further in A Quiet Place Part II with Regan stepping up into the lead role. It is made clear Regan is bringing more people into her world rather than feeling the need to fit into another world. We watch as Regan teaches ASL to another character and points out to them the importance of enunciation for lip reading. Each of these moments is an example of how language can bring non-deaf people into the deaf culture. Now, I’m not saying you should learn sign language to protect yourself against potential future alien attacks, but I am saying there are benefits from learning sign language and being part of an amazing community.

Read: Daredevil: Echo – Vision Quest (#51-55) by David Mack (writer and artist)

Some may have noticed in the recently dropped Hawkeye trailer, Clint Barton is sporting some very discreet hearing aids. It’s a nice callback to classic Hawkeye in the comics, who is indeed deaf. Members of the deaf community have been waiting for this recognition, knowing how important it has been to Hawkeye as a character and the community being acknowledged.

maya lopez echo david mack

However, there is another deaf character coming to the series and you may want to do a little reading before you meet her. Maya Lopez (AKA Echo) was born deaf and developed super-skills in physical mimicry. She is also both Latina and Native American of the Cheyenne Nation. Echo uses both ASL and a Native American system developed for communication between tribes speaking different languages. The significance of Echo as both a deaf person and an indigenous person is featured within the artwork of the comics, both when she is signing and within the background.

Daredevil: Echo – Vision Quest gives the best background story for Echo while also allowing her room to grow. The story focuses on Maya’s vision quest to revisit her father’s reservation and rediscover her heritage. As a young child, Maya was adopted by Kingpin who essentially erased her Native American heritage and removed her from the deaf community. Her connection with Hawkeye will hopefully shine some light on the importance of sign language within deaf culture. Before we reach that point, it’s worth checking out her relationship with Daredevil.

Maya Lopez Echo sign language

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