Hello, here is a more personal account of my experience as a Deaf woman and teacher of South African Sign Language.
Hello, it has been quite a busy year so far and I hope that you remain well!
I would like to share some articles that were written for the purpose of creating awareness about South African Sign Language and Deaf people. Have a good read!
All the years I have been teaching South African Sign Language, I always get a few people asking me many questions about what the Deaf can or cannot do. You will be amazed to hear some of these questions:
- Can Deaf people drive? We always get this question because somehow not hearing sounds means that we shouldn’t be able to drive. Read this fact: Deaf people tend to be safer drivers than hearing people because they pay more attention with their eyes.
- When you have a conversation, do you remember what was being said? Yup, a few people seem to think that because I cannot hear, I cannot remember words. I do.
- When Deaf people have a conversation, what do they talk about? We talk about normal things as any person would.
- Do Deaf people read braille? We can see…
- Can you read and write? While there extra efforts are made to learn to read and write without hearing sounds, the Deaf are able to read and write.
I want to share some of the amazing Deaf in the Western Cape, South Africa who have some beautiful skills in making life more sweeter!
Who doesn’t love cake? Especially the ones with beautiful icing that can be designed in any way you can imagine and the inside of the cake is soft and delicious! If you are in the Western Cape, you can be lucky to have a personalized cake made by Suzette Jordaan.
She has a big collection of cakes she has made and here are a few of her many masterpieces:
Her website: http://www.braamjordaan.com/suzie/ has many more cakes and all the details – be sure to order one for the next occasion you celebrate!
Feeling hungry? There’s more!!! Another Deaf person with excellent skills is Cedric Touzard who specializes in French Pastry. He is specially trained in making a range of French Pastry and is based in Camps Bay but caters for anyone in the Western Cape. His treats are mouth-watering – as you can see:
That’s not all! There is a Deaf carpenter that does beautiful pieces of woodwork, especially designed for each client’s needs and wants. Christopher Bothma grew up watching his father work in his workshop and learned all these skills from him.
Here are some examples of his beautiful handiwork – each one was designed and made from scratch for the clients. He is always up for the challenge – so anything you need, he can make!
You can contact him via email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Unfortunately, all these talented Deaf are based in the Western Cape.
I had received an interesting SMS from someone saying that the ship, Logos Hope was docked in Cape Town at the Victoria and Alfred Waterfront and the Deaf of Cape Town are welcome to visit since one young woman, Leah Swineford was willing to take the Deaf on personal tour around the ship and explain the purpose and experience of working on the Logos Hope as a volunteer – in Sign Language! On Sunday, 3rd July my family and I went to experience the Logos Hope and we had a good time!
Let me fill you in about the Logos Hope; it is a ship run entirely by volunteers (about 400) that goes around the world selling books (it is the biggest floating bookshop in the world) and spends two weeks at each place it stops to minister to the people in that place about Jesus. The Captain, the cooks, the engineers and cleaners are all volunteers that work on the ship for about two years getting an amazing experience. The profit from selling books goes to the fuel and food. Our guide, Leah is from the USA and her mother is an ASL interpreter (American Sign Language), hence Leah has the background of learning basic sign language. When we arrived, we asked one of the guides for Leah and she went to find her. We were in a long queue that went from the ship’s dock to the other two docks near it. When Leah arrived, she greeted us in American Sign Language and took us straight from our place in the queue to the entrance for the ship! Hee hee, we skipped the loooong queue!
We learned a lot about the ship that is really a big bookshop that floats and does missionary works around the world. We enjoyed the time we spent with Leah and we are thankful for her offer to personally take us around and explain things in Sign Language! The ship leaves for Namibia on the 11th July, so if you want to go visit – do so soon!
I visited the ship years ago but did not enjoy it as much because I did not understand anything but now I had the opportunity to learn about the Logos Hope because someone knew Sign Language.
Hello, this is a guest post by Jessica- I will share what it’s like to grow up in a family with the majority being Deaf. We often get people asking us many questions about our extraordinary family because it is not common to find a family where deafness spans more than two generations.
First, I will eat the humble pie and share this fact: an island off the coast of Massachusetts, called Martha’s Vineyard is a truly extraordinary place in the world – by the 19th century, almost 1 in every 155 people were DEAF!!! The entire island was bilingual with English and Sign Language being the languages that everyone use, whether they were deaf or not. How amazing is that? It’s almost like “Deaf Utopia” where communication or career barriers did not even exist.
(you can check out the online source http://catalog.chilmarklibrary.org/pdf/ for more amazing information on this history of deafness)
Having said that, my family with deafness spanning three generations (so far) is something of a genetic achievement (debatable on the topic of genes) but it’s nothing compared to the residents of Martha’s Vineyard who have families with deafness spanning as long as SEVEN generations. Now, that is a mighty feat of genetic inheritance – humbling to me 🙂
When I was born and my family found out I was deaf – there were no tears of sorrow or panic about my future because my grandparents, my aunties and uncles and my parents are Deaf. They knew how to communicate with me in Sign Language and used many visual aids to teach me my vocabulary. I didn’t even know I was any different from other children at school until I was about 8 years old and realised I had to attend a school specifically for the deaf. I had no sense of alienation or disconnection from my family. This experience has made me appreciate how privileged I am.
Growing up, I kept hearing apologies and “oh, shame” whenever I proudly tell people that I’m from a big Deaf family. Even today, I feel a slight sense of despair when the first thing people say is “shame” in response to my confident declaration of identity…
I suppose that when a person does not experience any form of disability, then they automatically assume that life is a long tragedy with many barriers that are almost impossible to overcome (sorry for being dramatic here). To be frank, it is not our disability that is an obstacle, it is SOCIETY’S structures and attitudes that make life difficult for us.
People have asked about family life – what’s different from a family that does not have hearing loss?
A) Lots of arms, hands waving, foot stomping and shoulder tapping when we need to get each others’ attention. (Shouting also happens but it’s time wasting 🙂 )
B) We are alerted of visitors or wake up times with flashing lights instead of alarm bells.
C) We can continue with the story at dinner time with mouths full of food (signing is a a big bonus when hands can talk instead of mouths)
A GIF here would be gross 😀
D) We HAVE to WAIT until the person is finished doing something before we can talk to them – eye contact is always part of Deaf life so we have to wait before we speak to someone.
E) Which movies we watch is determined by one thing only: subtitles or no subtitles… Very often we have to wait until the DVDs come out and then see if we are lucky to have subtitles – there are some movies we haven’t seen yet since 2000s…
F) When you need to urgently let your parents/partner/kids know about something but they are out – rapid Whatsapping/ SMSing happens and then hoping they will feel the vibrating message alert and respond on time. There is no quick phone calling for us.
In every other way, we are like a normal family. It’s just a few adjustments in terms of shifting audio methods to visual methods.
Hope you enjoyed the post – feel free to ask or comment 🙂
Here are some reviews from past students who attended my classes over the years – perhaps you are curious about how they found the Sign Language classes – read on!
Lindy van Niekerk
June’s sign language course for beginners ticks all the boxes a course should : interesting, fun, social, mind broadening and stimulating. The course is superbly presented and never boring. We were provided with a very clear manual and the course material is relevant to every day life. I felt a huge sense of achievement after every lesson. I would recommend doing the course with a friend or family member, because, as June likes to say, you need to practice, practice, practice! Learning the basics of sign language has helped me immensely, not only on a personal level as a hearing aid wearer, but has also helped me to appreciate that deaf, hard of hearing or hearing, we all just love to communicate!
I attended a SASL course with June Bothma from February through to May 2013.
It was an amazing experience! The course was professionally run and the work manuscript clearly and thoughtfully set out. The cost of the course was very reasonable as well. The lessons were fun and full of laughter.
The highlight of the course for me was an evening we spent with June, her family and friends conversing only in sign language. The humour and laughter that they all brought to the class was a wonderful gift. I would highly recommend this course to anyone who is interested in learning sign language.
The course is great value because it provides a practical introduction to South African Sign Language and Deaf culture and enables me to communicate with deaf people. The Deaf tutor was engaging, witty and experienced and the course well put together. There was a brilliant lesson where tutor introduced us to other people from the Deaf community so we could practice interacting and observe the different sign accents.
It was personally good for me because I was a deaf person just arrived in SA and it was great to have that haven of sign language when I’m settling in to a new country without the safety net of interpreters or other services. Nice to remind me of my network of deaf and signing friends back home. I enjoyed learning signing with June, it really helped me feel more at home in a new country.
Aziza Davids – A letter to June
I am sad that our beginner course in sign language ends tonight. These classes were awesome and for me it was like meeting with “family & friends” every Monday even though I had no contact with the students during the week.
Your style of teaching has also greatly influenced my participation. Classes were fun and interactive. You have given your best attention and for that I thank you.
Yesterday I was able to sign with a deaf person!!! It happened spontaneously as I entered our local bakery and deaf lady was trying to obtain her telephonic order which was not ready…..I could then finger-spell and lip-read to a small degree and convey to the shop assistant what this woman wanted. As I interacted with this woman making signs and finger-spelling the other shoppers and bakery staff stood by watching with keen interest.
I encouraged all who were listening to attend your sign classes. Thank you so so very much.
P.S: thank you to all the guests of last week, it was absolutely inspiring to have had the experience of “talking and communicating” with all your guests.
I am so glad that I heard about the sign language course run by June – it has been so much fun and so exciting to learn a new language and to be able to now communicate with the Deaf. Sign language is so expressive and is the most fun I’ve had learning a language. I was worried that the classes would be stressful and that I wouldn’t be able to keep up – it was the opposite! The classes were relaxed and the pace was perfect for a beginner. I would recommend the course for everyone who is interested in learning sign language!
Learning the basics of sign language was for me a step closer to ticking off an item on my “bucket list”. Now its gone beyond that. June has opened my eyes to the endless possibilities of interaction between the hearing and the deaf. She is an excellent teacher. Very patient, understanding, helpful and professional. I am so glad that I signed up and completed the course. I am looking forward to the advance class. I have also recommended the class to friends. A step further I have suggested that my sons class at Gaia Waldorf School take steps to learn the basics of sign language and I hope that I can have a demonstration for his class soon.
Thank you June for enriching my life with this much needed skill.
It was good and fruitful Mondays because I gained a lot by learning sign language. June, my facilitator created a very good and healthy learning environment and atmosphere for us to be able to be keen to learn sign language. We learned alphabets and how to communicate with the deaf person. We laughed and had interactive activities working in groups and taking turns to stand in front and do what you can from what she taught us. What I will also miss is June’s sense of humour when she is explaining something to us and makes us laugh while teaching us.
What I enjoyed also is the day when June invited deaf people to join us to have an opportunity to communicate and interact with them so that we can perfect our skills in sign language. As for me, I have gained a lot by attending this class because I am going to be able to implement it to my kids at school who have difficulty to communicate and also to the community. Looking forward to the advanced class in July.
Thank you June, you are a star
It was great getting to know June and to interact with the rest of my classmates.. I was so looking forward to doing this course as I wanted to do it since I can remember. I was weary at first but it wasn’t as bad as I anticipated – in fact, it was great fun. The key is to practice all the time as there are so many signs that you tend to get confused at times..PRACTICE, PRACTICE !!!!! Having been exposed to the deaf people of our community at one of our sessions, it really inspired me even more, that was a real eye-opener.. June was great fun, very helpful , extremely patient with us and an expert in her field of course ..I commend her for that.. Thanks again for the exposure to the deaf community and sharing so much of yourself with us.
I loved the course. It was very informative and fun. When you taught me at UCT, we unfortunately only had you teach us for 6 months, as we had a different lecturer for the first 6 months. She made me not enjoy SASL, but when you started lecturing us, it made me realise what an amazing language SASL is! When I saw you were doing this course, I immediately knew I wanted to learn more. The course was so much fun! You taught us how to use SASL in a practical and useful way which I appreciated. It took me out of my comfort zone and taught me a lot about myself and other people. I had a lot of fun and learned a lot. Thank you so much for the fantastic course!
Sheena and Claire Baissac
My daughter (15 years old) and I attended June Bothma’s beginners sign language course in 2014. We went because it sounded like a different and fun thing to do. I initially thought that maybe 15 weeks would be quite long, and that we would see how the course went and whether we would stay for the entire duration of the course.
Well was I mistaken…from the first week where we met Junes lovely family, and every week thereafter, June made the lessons so much fun. The hour and a half each week just flew by, and my daughter and I really looked forward to Tuesday evenings. We met such wonderful people on the course, and June opened our eyes to the world of the deaf.
We were so sad when the course came to an end, and are now considering doing the advanced course. June is the most amazing teacher, she is so encouraging and gets the best out of her students. I cannot recommend this course highly enough, I would say it is one of the best that I have attended and I would encourage everyone to do it.
Leanne and Esmien
I found that the SASL has opened my eyes to a whole new world that deaf people live in. It has given me the opportunity to communicate with the deaf and be a voice for them among the hearing people. I have really enjoyed learning SASL since it has been one of the things I have wanted to learn for a long time. I really appreciated that the course was affordable to me and the price is very reasonable for everyone. I loved having June as my sign language teacher, not only because she has experience but because her love and passion for ALL people is just so inspiring!
June gave me the opportunity to learn sign language through private lessons because of the fact that I am currently a first year student. I finished my beginners course during the holidays. What I loved about the private lessons were the fact that I had June’s full attention in order to help me master the signs. I learned to improve my signs faster by being able to communicate with her one on one. This gave me the opportunity to pick up extra signs along the way. I was able to understand and interpret what June was saying by just spending that time with her. I liked the fact that June was prepared with every lesson and had certain tasks for me to do every day. This helped me develop my sign language. June always went the extra mile in all aspects. She would make the lessons fun by playing games and even let us practice communicating with deaf people.
SASL has opened doors for me in many ways and I am truly grateful for June giving me the key to unlock those doors.
Being an introvert, I found that sign language forced me to stand up in front of the class and ‘say’ something. We all laughed at each others mistakes which helped me tremendously. The classes were great fun – we even celebrated birthdays with cake and tea/coffee/cool drink. We met June’s family who came to some of the classes to help us ‘sign’ with other people and we have kept in touch over the years. For fun and a good laugh I would recommend anyone to join these classes.
Thank you for being THE most amazing teacher ever (and I have had many wonderful teachers). You showed me the enormous value of words, and hearing, and thinking, and humour – and how some hearing people are sometimes very boring because we do not think when we speak! It has been a pleasure and a privilege to be with you – and your family and friends – during these past few months. I wish I’d met you earlier; I’m glad I’ve met you now.
I just wanted to share with you all my favourite cartoons by Matt and Kay Daigle – these two are making the best cartoons related to Deafness and Deaf Culture 🙂 Their website can be found at the end of this post – it is definitely worth having a look! While I take the liberty of posting the favourites, I also want to take the opportunity to offer a easy “Guide to the Deaf Experience Through Cartoons” – okay?
Deaf people use their eyes all the time, some things like flashing lights, bright colours or lots of movement are considered to be “visually loud” to the Deaf – hence distracting. That’s why Sign Language Interpreters wear plain, black clothes so that the Deaf can easily concentrate and see signs clearly.
Sometimes the Deaf is too far or very busy with something so stomping on a wooden floor is the quickest way to get their attention. The Deaf feel vibrations easily on most wooden or plastic things like tables, cups or the floor.
This is why we would rather not risk “talking” while eating or holding drinks – it is guaranteed to happen sooner or later!
The Deaf need the lights on in order to talk and conversations before bed will often include switching lights on and off 🙂
Yup… it would be great to have more Deaf people involved in the media business but more importantly that all online videos actually have good subtitles/ closed captions because it is our access to information but then we cannot understand what they are saying. If more doctors could communicate via Sign Language then it would be so much easier and quicker to communicate our symptoms instead of waiting for an interpreter or writing notes back and forth (Doctors’ handwriting are often terrible…) This cartoon sums up our wishes for accessibility and space in the world 🙂
When telling a story, the Deaf are quite expressive and can convey the characters so well, it’s almost like you were there! As I mentioned in my post about “Making Funny Faces is Normal”, expressions are absolutely essential in Sign Language.
Those who wear hearing aids attract attention when their hearing aids give feedback – it’s common when the ear molds are too small (and the ears grow bigger!) especially in children and some adults. Hearing aids can also give feedback when something gets too close to it, like a hand, arm or an object.
This is one of the most difficult interaction moments the Deaf experience – we either face the risk of not understanding the person or receiving a “nevermind” – both are equally challenging. If you are wanting to speak to a Deaf person, speak clearly and normally, be patient when they ask you to repeat. Under no circumstances is it nice to say “nevermind” when you wanted to talk to the Deaf in the first place.
A common misconception – that shouting or speaking very loudly will help the Deaf to understand you better – it doesn’t, so save your breathe and your throat and speak normally but clearly, or write it down.
In a world with so much amazing technology, the Deaf are still struggling to get decent subtitles/ close captions of TV shows, YouTube clips, news sites etc. Often we have to guess what the speaker is saying based on the incorrect captions given to us.
If you need to walk between two or more Deaf people having a conversation, just walk quickly by, they would prefer this than walking through strangely 🙂 Otherwise walk around them – if there is space.
This is true in many cases for Children of Deaf Adults (CODAs) – they know that a Deaf goodbye takes an hour at least, so like my kids, they carry on playing or doing things until their Deaf parents insist that they are really done saying goodbye. This is Deaf Culture – a new conversation often starts up while saying goodbye 🙂
Aaah.. the bliss of sleeping through any loud noises is a blessing! While some may have concerns for how we would wake up in emergencies – we may be “immune” to noises, we are not “immune” to light – light wakes us up very quickly.
Last but not least, terminology… just call us “Deaf”! We accept who we are and we would be happy if people also used the term “Deaf” instead of ‘hard of hearing’ or ‘hearing impaired’ or sufferer of hearing loss’ – these terms sound like we are somehow broken or in a bad state.
Hope you enjoyed this post, especially the talents of Matt and Kay Daigle, the creators of That Deaf Guy. Find more at their website: http://www.thatdeafguy.com
If you’re Deaf yourself, you may have had a good laugh – feel free to share and comment on this post 🙂
You can email me at email@example.com if you are interested in joining the South African Sign Language Classes in Newlands, Cape Town.