Can't most deaf people already read and write German?
Unfortunately not. Many deaf people find it difficult to read and write written German. This is due to the fact that, due to the hearing impairment, they cannot hear spoken language through the ear. Therefore, most deaf people cannot use spoken language when (learning) to read and write, which is directly related to written language representation - consequently difficulties arise in understanding individual words, sentences and texts. The experience linked to spoken language is lacking in the deaf, so that written language is a completely new, foreign language for them, which they have to learn - often in a laborious way. Another problem is that deaf people cannot use their first language (sign language) when reading and writing due to the lack of possibilities to write sign language in writing - sign writing offers a good means of solving this problem.
Is sign writing for the deaf a substitute for written German?
No - the German written language is indispensable for the integration of the deaf in society, so that the sign writing is by no means to be understood as a substitute for the written language. Rather, the sign writing is a great help and support in learning the German written language, which is initially intended to create an awareness of the structure and use of sign language. This awareness is in turn necessary to understand the structure and grammatical rules of the German language. With sign writing, deaf people have the opportunity to acquire spoken language based on their everyday language, sign language. As a result, sign writing represents a kind of “bridge” between sign language and written German.
Is sign writing difficult to learn? Is it worth the effort?
In general, it is difficult to make a statement about whether something is easy or difficult to learn, as this always depends on individual conditions or prerequisites. The GebärdenSchrift uses pictorial symbols to represent individual signs that represent hand shapes, movements and various facial expressions. Due to the pictorial nature of this symbolism, the sign writing is very easy to understand - especially if you already have some knowledge of sign language. In principle, reading the sign writing can then be learned very quickly. In our experience, deaf people with sign language competence can read texts in sign writing well after just a few hours of instruction. Writing the sign script is more difficult and requires more learning than reading. In our experience, learning to read and write the sign writing is comparable to learning to read and write the German written language for the hearing. We can also judge from the experience with German courses for deaf adults and the observations in the course groups how helpful sign writing is for developing awareness when dealing with two different languages. Thanks to the sign writing, the learners can better separate structures such as the sentence structure of both languages (German / DGS), compare them with each other and draw independent conclusions that are very helpful for their language development. In other words: With sign writing, the learners have something “fixed” in their hands on which they can examine various aspects and develop knowledge for their language use. The extent to which they (can) transfer the knowledge to their use of both languages, however, seems to differ individually. We are still at the beginning on this point and have to wait for the final tests of our current training series.
Is the Web 2.0 Sign Language Editor an “automatic translator” from German to German Sign Language (DGS) - and vice versa?
No - so far the Sign Writing Editor cannot be used as an “automatic translator” from DGS to German or German to DGS. Rather, the editor is a tool that enables a clear comparison of DGS and written German. The editor can be used both interactively in lessons and to create teaching materials, e.g. vocabulary lists. Like any other language, the DGS is a fully-fledged, independent language that differs greatly from German in terms of grammar and syntax, among other things. An “automatic translator” from German to DGS is just as much a dream of the future as a good automatic translator from German to English. The Sign Writing Editor offers people with appropriate DGS and German skills very good support when writing signs / words or even entire texts.