Friday, 31 August 2012

A deaf English teaches sign language in Iran

Recently I read an interesting article about a deaf English lady from Newcastle who taught the basics of sign linguistics.

Here is the story culled from BBC website:

Tessa Padden, 55, taught the basics of sign linguistics, which are common across all sign languages, and explained the importance of sign language teaching.

With the help of an Iranian interpreter, she also gave talks and led question-and-answer sessions about linguistics in Tehran, Isfahan and Shiraz.

She said: "I told them about my own journey from leaving school and when I thought deaf people were consigned to working in routine and menial jobs.

"But through improving opportunities for deaf people through TV, university research and better interpreter provision, deaf people in Iran could aim to achieve more.

"I wanted to encourage and motivate deaf people in their own communities to take possession of their own language and culture and take the lead in working for a better future for the deaf community."

She was also asked to address the inaugural Iranian sign language interpreters conference in Zanjan which included about 200 people and ran workshops for groups of interpreters.

She said: "At the conference, the students that I'd been teaching were so motivated. Some of them came up on stage and said how much they'd enjoyed the three days linguistic training and wanted to share that and they wanted to promote this in Iran.

Mrs Padden at Iran's inaugural interpreting conference
"They were really positive and that's what I wanted to see, deaf people being confident and assertive enough to get on stage to talk to interpreters.

"One of the things I respect most is that many of the interpreters in Iran are volunteers.

"They do this work for deaf people because they come from deaf families or because they want to support deaf people and I was really gobsmacked by that. I admire that quality in Iranian interpreters."

After studying sign language teaching at Durham University, Mrs Padden has since taught the basics of sign linguistics in Spain, Ireland and Africa and runs a website that teaches British sign language.

Aside from the basic signs, the signs for other words can vary due to cultural or historical reasons.

She said: "Some signs for the words 'eat' and 'drink' are similar across different languages but can differ for cultural reasons since people round the world eat and drink in many different ways.

"Irish sign language derives more from French sign language through Roman Catholic deaf educators. American sign language is more similar to French sign language as well, for different historical reasons.

"Another feature of all sign languages is the use of facial expression, but the facial expressions don't always mean the same thing in different sign languages."

Stiff upper lip
Mrs Padden, who has been deaf all of her life, said that she can often relate to deaf people's frustrations with communication.

"With growing up in a hearing society, I always thought most deaf people feel the same, that hearing people are above us, they are superior to us," she said.

"When I went to Durham University, I realised I was equal. Our language was equal, we had a culture of our own and it was just a case of upbringing.

"That helped me, and if people lack information and knowledge I can pass that on to them and convey to deaf people that they can achieve the same as hearing people in different ways."

Mrs Padden (right) said the Iranians were "warm and approachable"
During her three-week stay in Iran, Mrs Padden stayed with an Iranian family and said she learned a lot about the Iranian culture.

She said: "I watched the way they were talking to each other and the way that they talked over each other and cut across each other was quite different to British culture.

"But they were really warm and approachable. Iranian men smile a lot more and they show their teeth a lot and you don't get that here.

"While I was teaching them about the cultural differences I mentioned this and they all laughed and asked what British people were like but they already knew about the British stiff upper lip."

Photo from website.

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Olympics is now over

...and Paralympics is now one week away. I enjoyed watching the Olympics. The opening ceremony was inclusive and the best bit was ...the signing choir during the National Anthem! My heart was gladdened at the sight of deaf children being part of a huge moment! I also saw a wheelchair user participating in the Opening Ceremony. A couple of my deaf friends also performed during the Opening Ceremony but I couldn't catch them live. Kudos to the Organisers for bringing in Persons With Disabilities into the main attraction!

My brief research on the signing choir was that the group who performed is called 'the Kaos Signing Choir for Deaf and Hearing Children'. Their next event is on Sunday for the Paralympics Opening Ceremony. They have a new Global Patron in the person of Archbishop Desmond Tutu- a man very highly rated in my books.

I love the fact that this organisation, Kaos run integrated activities in which hearing children participate alongside deaf children. Of note is the Signing Choir which performed in the London 2012 Opening Ceremony.

To know/learn more about them, check their website at