Sign Language on the world stage

It was a very interesting week in sign language, don’t you think?  On one hand, we had an absolutely appalling example of a fake sign language interpreter during Nelson Mandela’s memorial service.  On the other, a joyful and meaningful interpretation of holiday carols by a cute-as-can-be kindergarten girl for her deaf parents. 

Two extremes and, ironically, two vastly different expectations about the intended audience.  In the case of the memorial interpreter, my only guess is that he didn’t realize he was going to be on the world stage, somehow didn’t realize that there would be video cameras broadcasting the fact that he doesn’t actually know any kind of sign language to millions, possibly billions, of people, nor did he understand the outrage he would stir.
Juxtapose that with the little girl whose proud Mom posted the video to demonstrate what real sign language interpretation looks like, with a child’s flare, of course.  This video was intended for a small audience, but has gone viral.  It’s been featured on CNN, profiled on websites across the globe, and it has over 5 million hits on YouTube.  For so many people, that little girl seemed to reach the essence of what Christmas is about, offering a simple gesture of love.


All in all, I’d say it’s been a good week for sign language and the people who use it, and the discourse is good for the community. Real-life examples were thrust into the spotlight to highlight the important mission of inclusiveness for all.  Additionally, as someone who uses music and sign language to demonstrate inclusiveness to kids Claire’s age, it was especially touching to see Claire’s desire to keep her parents involved in the performance, to give them “music for their eyes” as my spouse likes to say.
What were your thoughts?
I’ll be posting more sign language videos in the days and weeks ahead, so be sure to check back. 
Merry Christmas!

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