I’ve been mainly focused on New Zealand Sign Language (NZSL) since my last update, but have included some minor Russian maintenance and a wee soupçon of German and Toki Pona on the side for good measure. My baby daughter, in the meantime, has learned to say “hello” (in her own garbled-but-cute-sounding way) and is starting to experiment with the magic of bilabial consonants (she even said “mama” yesterday but has yet to repeat it).
I’m really enjoying learning New Zealand Sign Language (NZSL) and am impressed with how much I can sign already. Most signs are easy to second-guess and have a habit of sticking in my memory after a single practice. In a sense, they serve as their own natural visual mnemonics. After my first week of study, I could sign at a basic conversational level and carry on continuous 20-30 minute monologues (albeit slowly at this stage). I’m also nearly two thirds of the way through my NZSL grammar primer (p. 204), which helps me appreciate more of the subtleties of sign language in general and get to grips with the unique syntax (e.g., non-manual markers, verbal aspect, scene setting). I even developed my own system of sign writing to accommodate missing images in the NZSL dictionary and to make a basic note of new signs on the fly (I probably spent way too much time on this, but I now have a much deeper appreciation of the morphology of signing).
Out of curiosity, I watched a 7 minute babycare video with no supporting audio or subtitles, first with my wife after a day of studying NZSL, and then a couple of weeks later by myself. On my first viewing, lip-reading quickly took a more central role, pushing manual signs to my peripheral vision where they could be glanced over to quickly for reference or confirmation. I understood probably 80% of the video and recognized many of the words I’d learned from a baby NZSL website earlier that day (e.g., change, cry, help, prefer, make, fun, baby, bath, red, powder, milk). This was in addition to several signs that were pretty clear from visual context and facial expression. On my second viewing, I relied less on lip-reading and focused more on the signer’s hands, whilst also stealing glances over to the main presentation (this takes practice and speedy eyeballs!) I understood more this time (probably about 90%) with several running phrases as opposed to single words. I also picked up many new words that I’d learned during my NZSL dictionary work in the preceding fortnight (e.g., daughter, work, nothing, succeed, what’s wrong, bad, morning, help, advice, need, wish, similar, practice, night, bottle, see, if, in the past, 3 weeks, 3am, exhausted, difficult). I’ve still got a long way to go, but I’m pleased with my progress so far, and can’t wait to learn more and expand my repertoire in this fun new language.
My Hawaiian is still grounded and waiting patiently in the airport lounge eating complementary peanuts. It’s not a priority for me right at this moment, as I’m more focused on improving my Russian and NZSL which I use on a daily basis with my family.
In the shadow of my sign language studies, I’ve been maintaining Russian to a lesser extent. This is largely due to me signing up with NZSL rather than Russian for the current 6 Week Challenge. Most of this has been speaking practice, although I also tested my reading level last week and discovered (much to my surprise) that “War and Peace” is easier to read than “Night Watch” (I really didn’t see that one coming!)