Sign language campaigners launch petition

Image copyright The Richardson Family Image caption Tanika Richardson wants signing in mainstream American schools to be recognised as a language of choice Speech-language therapists and educators are petitioning to make signing a recognised…

Sign language campaigners launch petition

Image copyright The Richardson Family Image caption Tanika Richardson wants signing in mainstream American schools to be recognised as a language of choice

Speech-language therapists and educators are petitioning to make signing a recognised language of choice, in schools and in the wider world.

Tanika Richardson, a sign language specialist, started the fight to save the endangered language on behalf of her students at Sheldon High School in Los Angeles.

Since then, she has launched the advocacy group “Hawaii PDL! Who’s yelling for?”

In June 2017, a documentary film was released, outlining what is being done to support the culture.

“There was a lot of despair, a lot of hopelessness,” she said.

“So, one of the real reasons I wanted to focus on starting a group was to say, ‘Hey, we’re here, this is who we are, what we love, and we deserve to be respected and to be able to tell our stories’.”

Image copyright Youtube Image caption A graduate of the five-day filming project is Suzy Coleman

You can read our interview with Tanika and Suzy Coleman, the students from Sheldon High School in Los Angeles who were filmed by director Sage Bruce for his movie, Here, Here, Here

Filming took place over five days in November 2017 in Los Angeles and Las Vegas. More than 35 students and their signers were filmed as they performed at a concert and in the street.

Sage had said he would only use people who signed, so that they would be “authentic”.

“When [speaking English] is required, because it’s a vocabulary term, if I ask people what you’re supposed to sign, they don’t have the word for it in English,” Suzy said.

“So you may have to ask them to say it word for word, or you may have to have a sign for what that means.”

Tanika said: “It was really important for us to have movie made in English, because it would make it easier to communicate back to the Sign Language community, and make them feel proud that there was something in the film that had been made in sign language.”

“They’re excited that this community is making a difference,” she added.

More than 80% of ASL is English, while English is used by only 20% of ASL speakers, meaning that ASL is, by definition, endangered.

Every year, almost 3000 new participants sign up as signers. Of the 370,000 signers in the world, 22% of those born in 2018 are signers, making them the fastest growing segment.

“Despite that 70% of signers actually still live in the US, it is often assumed that the language is practiced mainly in other countries,” said Nina J Caver, executive director of the International Sign Language Foundation.

Image copyright The Richardson Family Image caption Signers perform outside “Here, Here, Here” in Los Angeles

Yet, although the US spends around $9,000 (£6,100) to train two teachers at a time to teach sign language in LA County, nothing is done on a larger scale for sign language, she added.

“It seems that the arts and music are tied up in the arts and music pedagogy; that speaking is proper, that it’s necessary and that giving musical instruments in schools is a way to have kids learn music,” she said.

“None of that is true of signing.”

They argue the principles of Sign Language do not require educators to identify a language as either spoken or a sign.

Now, more than one million people around the world have signed the petition to get connecting with sign language recognized as a distinct language of choice.

Tanika Richardson said: “Everyone is hurting. I want to make the world a better place, a better place for the people around me.”

“If you can sign, if you’re smart enough to use it, it should be accepted as language of choice.”

“I want this language, the language of the deaf, for every single person out there.”

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