Sign language opens new world
Her deaf son is already 36 years old, but thanks to a course in Sign Language, Ms Francie Jorgensen can now, for the first time, make peace with her son’s deafness.
“I’ve always been a bit sad about it, but now that I’m learning Sign Language, my feelings are starting to awaken. Now I understand the deaf culture. My son is who he is and I am who I am without giving up my culture,” Francie said this week at the Potchefstroom Campus of the North-West University (NWU), where she is following the course.
Although Francie initially enrolled for the course to better follow her son, Ollie, and his friends, it has now become a lifebuoy for her. Francie’s sight and hearing are also deteriorating gradually.
This gave rise to a unique situation in the Sign Language class on the Potchefstroom Campus of the NWU. Students from different disciplines follow this course, but according to Ms Ananda van der Walt, Sign Language lecturer, they are usually students that can hear and see.
Special adjustments therefore had to be made for Francie and another deaf student following the course.
An interpreter repeats the theoretical part of the Sign Language course to Francie in special earphones because she cannot hear the lecturer.
When Mr Dawie Melamu, the practical lecturer, teaches Sign Language, another interpreter, Ms Susan Conradie, repeats the word that Dawie writes on the board to Francie in her earphones. Dawie then demonstrates the particular sign, after which Susan stands close to Francie and also makes the sign so that she can see it.
During the theoretical lesson, Susan sits opposite another student, Adelaine van Zyl. Adelaine suffers from marble-bone disease, which caused that her ear ossicles have cicatrised and she became deaf. Susan repeats to Adelaine what the lecturer says so that she can read her lips. “It’s wonderful to be part of a class again and to ‘hear’ what the lecturer is saying,” Adelaine said.
“I want to learn Sign Language to teach it to my family and friends in turn, as well as to become part of the deaf culture,” says this young bookkeeper who studies part-time.
For Dawie, who became deaf as a pre-school boy, it is very satisfying to lecture Sign Language. “People can use it in so many situations – to teach deaf people in school, in therapeutic situations as mediators, in court and in the visual media.”
Courtesy of Susan Cilliers / BEELD
Mr Dawie Melamu, a deaf lecturer in Sign Language on the Potchefstroom Campus of the North-West University, and Ms Francie Jorgensen speak in Sign Language.
Adelaine van Zyl (left), who is deaf, reads Ms Susan Conradie’s lips. Susan is an interpreter on the Potchefstroom Campus of the North-West University.