I Want to Learn Sign Language
by Kathleen Kelly MacMillan
[reprinted with author's permission from:
School Library Journal, July 2001]
I Want to Learn Sign Language, Vol. I & II
American Production Services
2 videos, 60 min each, 2001.
ISBN 1-888147-62-8, $40 set, $22.95 each.
Recommended for Kindergarten - Grade 6.
Sisters Stephanie and Brianna are looking forward to their deaf cousin Andy's visit and, along with their friend Nikki, set out to learn sign language in order to communicate with him. Their teacher is the girls' mother, played by Gallaudet University graduate Karen Green. The first video focuses on the girls' preparation as they learn about finger spelling and numbers, along with signs for foods, hobbies, and basic expressions. Segments featuring the history of American Sign Language (ASL) and other aspects of Deaf culture are interspersed with the presentation of signs. Andy arrives near the end of the first video, and his vacation with his cousins and their friend continues in Volume 2 as the girls learn hot to sign colors, fruits, money, holidays, sports, animals, and family members. Most signs are shown at least three times, and an English gloss often appears on the screen (but this feature is far from consistent). This, along with the fact that the entire video is voiced as well as signed, may give viewers the false impression that ASL is merely a signed form of English. Some mention is made of ASL versus other sign language forms, but the differentiation is not made entirely clear. Many of the situations seem contrived and the acting is unnatural, but the information is clearly communicated nonetheless. While this is not the ideal introduction to ASL, it is a palatable overview of basic signs and the more salient aspects of Deaf culture.