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Lady Gaga Wants To Learn Sign Language

Lady Gaga has been branded as the new “Queen of Pop Music” and a music phenomenon of her generation with a string of hits: “just dance” , “bad romance”, “poker face “and more recently “Judas”. Since 2005 she has sold more than 6 million albums worldwide.

However, underneath the surface gloss, glamour and eccentricity, there beats the heart of a true philanthropist who has contributed to various charities and humanitarian works as well as campaigning for gay rights in America and the fight against HIV. The last year, Lady Gaga held a benefit concert to aid in the reconstruction of Haiti after the devastating earthquake claimed an estimated quarter of a million lives.

More recently, Lady Gaga has expressed a desire to learn sign language so she can communicate with her deaf fans. A source told The Sun newspaper :

“Now she wants to make sure her deaf fans feel included too. Once she’s mastered sign language she’ll be able to respond to the videos that are online, and include signing in future live tours.”

Read more

10 Amazing Sign Language Music Videos

Sign language interpretations of music used to hard to find. Fortunately, that’s changed over the past few years. More and more musicians have sign language interpreters performing at their events. Deaf artists are harnessing the power of Youtube to share their own sign language music videos of their favourite songs, and even musicians who can hear are using the expressive power of sign language in music videos.

Want to see for yourself? Here are ten fantastic sign language music videos!

Please note: When we describe these videos as amazing, awesome, or cool, we’re not trying to trivialise sign language. We think all languages are cool (and deserving of respect). If you appreciate the artistry in these videos, take a moment to learn about the problems Deaf people still face when it comes to day-to-day communication. 

Sia- Soon We’ll Be Found

 

In this video, Australian singer-songwriter Sia signs the lyrics to the song in ASL as she sings. Throughout the video, her hands signing the words appear as shadow puppets, or covered paint, or glowing in the dark – it’s trippy, beautiful and a great way to showcase ASL. (However, it seems like the special effects might make it harder for Deaf viewers to understand her signs in a few parts of the video.).

Pharrell- Happy in ASL

If this ASL version of Pharrell’s “Happy” produced by Deaf students and staff at Deaf Film camp doesn’t make you smile, consider professional help.

Lamb of God’s “Ruin”

This is the latest sign language music video to go viral. Watch as the interpreter breaks out her best metal face to translate Lamb of God’s “Ruin.”

Sign Language Rap Battle with Whiz Khalifa

In 2014, Jimmy Kimmel hosted a “sign language rap battle.” Three popular American sign language interpreters face off, interpreting Whiz Khalifa’s “Black and Yellow” as Whiz himself performs. Although Whiz does not clean up the lyrics, ABC did censor them, so it’s still safe for work, and a lot of fun to watch.

I should note that this video is somewhat controversial amongst the Deaf community because 2 out of 3 of the interpreters are hearing.

Rosa Lee Timm-  What’s Love Got to Do With It?

Rosa Lee Timm is a Deaf performance artist who specialises in music videos and comedy. This ASL interpretation of Tina Turner’s “What’s Love Got to Do With It?” is one of her most popular videos, and for a good reason.

Rosa Lee Timm (and Sherry Hicks)- Uptown Funk

This ASL interpretation of Bruno Mars’  “Uptown Funk” is just incredibly fun to watch.

Pearl Jam- Given to Fly

During a tour in 2000, Eddie Vedder noticed ASL interpreter Kimberly Rae Schaefer and brought her up to share the spotlight for “Given to Fly.” I wish this video focused more on her and less on Eddie Vedder, but it’s still a sweet moment.

Keith Urban Rocking Out with ASL  Interpreter

In this video, from the Jazz Music Festival in Snowmass, Keith Urban performs a duet with the ASL interpreter.  So, she gets to share centre stage instead of being off to the side. One caveat: the audio quality for this video is poor.

Tommy Krångh, the 2015 Eurovision Interpreter


Swedish song language interpreter Tommy Krångh became an overnight sensation in 2015 when he signed for Sweden’s Eurovision finalist competition. This brief clip from the Guardian shows why.

DEAFinitely Dope- No sleep by Whiz Khalifa

This video of DEAFinitely Dope’s Matt Maxey interpreting Whiz Khalifa’s “No Sleep” with an unnamed female friend is infectious and adorable, and the lyrics are uncensored. So, if you click the link, be aware that you will encounter numerous curse words in both English and ASL.

What Does the Fox Say? in ASL

At this point, we know what you’re probably wondering: What does the fox say in sign language? Let the Florida School for the Deaf and Blind attempt to answer that question for you.

As noted above, it’s great to see sign language getting more attention. However, if the only experience you have with sign language is a viral video, you’re not seeing the full picture of the accessibility difficulties faced by the Deaf community. Like all languages, sign languages are both an art form and a means of communication. Thanks to the internet and the increasing popularity of sign language music interpreters, sign language as an art form is more accessible than ever. But when it comes to being able to communicate on a practical, day-to-day level, access is still limited.

If you’d like to make your information more accessible to the Deaf community, we can help.  We offer sign language interpreter services throughout the UK. As you might expect, our interpreting services are primarily in BSL, but if you need another type of sign language, please let us know when you order and we’ll try to accommodate.  We can also provide you with sign language video services and speech-to-text reporting.  For more information, please contact us. 

One Ring To Translate

People who are deaf or hard of hearing and use sign language to communicate may soon get some extra help when it comes to translation, thanks to a sign language translation ring under development by a group of designers from Asia University.

The device consists of a set of rings and two bracelets that sense and interpret finger, hand and wrist movements made by the user. The signs are translated into words, which are relayed to the user’s conversation partner via a speaker. The device also translates spoken words into writing, which is shown on an LED display on the bracelet.

The sign language ring won the 2013 Red Dot Design award. If it makes it through the development phase and out to the general public, it could provide a streamlined, convenient way to help the deaf and hard-of-hearing interact with the hearing world.

However, as with many high-tech translation concepts, the devil is in the details. Questions remain about how accurately the device will be able to translate sign language. As it stands now, it’s certainly not a replacement for a human interpreter. As Howard Rosenblum, the CEO of US organization the National Association for the Deaf, explained to ABC News:

“American Sign Language encompasses more than what would be measured in the wrist and fingers. ASL relies on wrist movements, handshapes, finger-spelling, body movements and facial expressions. The National Association of the Deaf encourages the developers of this emerging technology to work with the deaf and hard-of-hearing community, and the hearing community, to ensure that their innovative product meets our needs.”

Despite these drawbacks, if the Sign Language Ring makes it into production, it could be a welcome tool for everyday situations like shopping. What do you think of it?

Photo credit: © | Dreamstime.com

Sign Language Translation Gloves Win Imagine Cup

A team of Ukrainian students won first prize at Microsoft’s Imagine Cup for their prototype of a device to translate sign language into speech. The EnableTalk gloves are similar in concept to this Fingual sign language translation glove, but with a few significant improvements: they translate sign language directly to speech instead of translating to text, and they are much cheaper.

In fact, the cost for the parts needed to assemble the device is only $50, as opposed to $1,200 for similar prototypes. Here’s how it works: the gloves contain built-in flex sensors, touch sensors, gyroscopes and accelerometers to help them make sense of the user’s hand gestures. The software translates the gestures into text, and a text-to-speech engine translates them into speech. The speech can be streamed to a smart phone via Bluetooth and the speakers on the phone broadcast the translation.

The device is definitely clever, and it’s great to see the price of technology like this come down to something that the average Joe or Jane can afford. Even better, TechCrunch notes that it can be “trained” by the user to recognize custom signs.

There are a couple of drawbacks, however. First, as many commenters on TechCrunch and other sites have already noted, it’s unclear how the gloves will pick up on important elements of sign language like hand placement and facial expressions.

Second, at the moment, the device only works on older Windows Mobile smartphones, as developers aren’t allowed access to the Bluetooth stack on the more up-to-date Windows 7 phones. Hopefully, though, that issue will be fixed (and the gloves will be available for people who use other mobile devices) if and when the product is brought to market.

For the moment, the team is justifiably savoring their win. The Silicon Republic quotes team member Maxim Osika at the Inspire Cup:

“We were inspired to help our friends who are hearing- and speech-impaired to have the ability to communicate like everyone else. The Imagine Cup is an amazing experience; we’re thrilled to be here learning from the experts around us.”

Improving Accessibility: Why More Technology Isn’t Always the Answer

Out of all of the different technologies that science fiction writers have dreamed up, has anything lodged itself in the popular imagination as firmly as the “universal translator?” This fascination with shiny new technology extends to improving accessibility for the deaf and hard-of-hearing community, where it does more harm than good.

Witness the periodic hype around “sign language gloves.” Every couple of years, someone else invents “sign language gloves” that supposedly translate sign language into writing or speech. Journalists cover the devices enthusiastically.

We’ve seen the same tendency this month with the news of a workaround that allows Amazon’s Alexa to understand some signs. This is better than it relying on voice alone (and leaving deaf users out of the loop entirely).

But there’s a problem.  Just as machine translation is still no replacement for a skilled human translator, sign language gloves (and other technologies that rely on machine translation) are not a replacement for sign language interpreters.

Here’s why more technology isn’t always the answer to improving accessibility (as well as some suggestions for improving accessibility that can help).

Sign Language Gloves: Why They Don’t Work

Sign language gloves sound like such a great idea (if you’re not deaf, that is). Why don’t they work?  There are several reasons:

  • Translation is complicated, even between two verbal languages.
  • Translating between a verbal language and a sign language adds an extra layer of complexity.
  • When deaf people use sign language, they’re not just “talking” with their hands. They use their whole bodies and facial expressions. There’s no way a pair of gloves can capture all of that. Other devices that rely on cameras might be able to, but would be a pain for deaf people to use.
  • Because translating between sign language and spoken language is such a big job, the technology involved is too complicated and expensive to be practical.
  • Most of the time, these are projects done by engineering students with little to no input from the deaf community.
  • Most “sign language glove” prototypes only translate fingerspelling.  Do you spell out every word you speak? No? Yeah, neither do deaf people, if they can help it.

The root of the problem is that sign language gloves cater to the wants of the hearing population instead of the needs of the deaf signing community. Read more

Deaf Puppy Joins Deaf Family, Learns Sign Language

With her floppy ears, black spots and one blue eye, you’d think Alice the springer spaniel would have no problem finding a home.   However, the adorable pup was actually neglected and cast off by a breeder after it was discovered that she was born deaf.

The Blue Cross took her in, but was afraid that it would be hard to find her a “forever home” because of her special needs.

Fortunately, Marie Williams and her partner Mark Morgan saw Alice’s profile on the Blue Cross website. Williams and Morgan are both deaf, and they decided that Alice was meant to join their family. Read more

Sign Language Translation at Lollapalooza

By their very nature, live concerts might seem to exclude the deaf and hard of hearing. However, it doesn’t have to be that way, as this year’s Lollapalooza concert in Chicago proved.

The concert featured Barbie Parker, a sign language interpreter from Austin, Texas. Merely signing the lyrics of the songs helps include the deaf and hard-of-hearing in the show, but doesn’t convey the whole experience. So, Ms. Parker takes sign language interpreting to the next level. Recognizing that music is more intense than spoken words, she makes her interpreting into an intense performance of her own. Read more

Automatic Sign Language

We’ve all seen TV shows and movies make use of subtitles for the hearing impaired. However, for many deaf people, it takes more effort to decode the English words used in the subtitles than it would to understand the material if it were presented in their native tongue: sign language.

In an attempt to address this issue, the NHK Science & Technology Research Laboratories just released some interesting new technology: a system that automatically translates spoken language into  sign language using an animated virtual avatar.

As the researchers who developed the system explained to Akihabara News, “Subtitles are fine for people who understand Japanese, and who lost their hearing at some point. Meanwhile, people who are deaf from birth learn sign language first, naturally they study Japanese after that, but they find that sign language is easier to understand than subtitles, so we are conducting research in sign language.” Read more

5 Powerful Lessons from “The Silent Child” About Deaf Communication in a Hearing World

Did you watch the Academy Awards last weekend? One of the most striking moments was when Rachel Shenton came to accept an Oscar for her short film “The Silent Child,” which won Best Live Action Short Film. “The Silent Child” is about a deaf girl who struggles to get by without sign language. In keeping with the subject matter, Shenton gave her acceptance speech both verbally and in BSL.

In her speech, Shenton highlighted the difficulties that deaf and hard of hearing people often face, saying “This is happening. Millions of children all over the world live in silence and face communication barriers, and particularly access to education.” The film was created to raise awareness of these challenges.

With that in mind, here are five compelling lessons from The Silent Child about deaf communication in a hearing world. Read more

GPs Urged to Use More Sign Language Services

Concerns were raised about the lack of sign language services provided by doctor’s surgeries in the UK at the Deaf Day 2009 event in London on the 4th April. People attending the event signed a petition which demands that surgeries use online software called Sign Translate.

SignTranslate is currently a free service for GPs in England, thanks to funding from Sign Health, the health care charity for deaf people.

It is essential that the NHS provide services which mean it can cater for all. Translation services are essential for good communication between the doctor and their patient. Foreign immigrants also often require translation services within the medical environment as the communication must be clear at all times. The patient will feel more comfortable communicating in their preferred or first language.

This free BSL service from SignTranslate was set up in June 2008 and will be free until June 2009. After June 2009 the GPs surgeries will have to pay for this service. Many other companies also provide sign language services at a reasonable cost.