American Sign Language Christmas Stories
by Pat McDaniel
Certified Teacher of Deaf, Hard-of-Hearing and Multiply-Challenged Students;
Professional Sign Language Interpreter
American Sign Language Christmas Stories
Inter-Lingual Images and Forest Productions
P.O. Box 14989, Phoenix, AZ, 85063
VHS; ASL, Voice-over
Individual Story Reviews:
“The Night Before Christmas”, “A Christmas Carol”, and “The Birth of Christ” are great traditional tales worth sharing with your family and “The Great Walled City”, “The First Christmas Tree”, and “The Match Girl" are truly inspiring NEW stories to add to any family tradition. My only suggestion would be that if you plan to share the “Match Girl” story with a younger audience, a follow-up discussion regarding the inferred reference to death would be advised.
If young children are your chosen audience, whether they are hearing or deaf, some of these stories might be slightly over-long.
If your audience is an interpreting student practicing his/her voicing skills, in order to compare them with the scripted narration, the student might become confused, because the narrator for these stories oftentimes voices much more than is actually shown in on-screen signing.
Overall, the tape doesn’t have high production values. Although the stories are enjoyable, and most of the signing is interesting to watch, the signs presented are not carefully crafted to represent a true model of artistic American Sign Language. Some “English signing” pops up now and again. The male narrator signed in a more obvious ASL style, while the female narrator started out signing in a more PSE/English style (“The Night Before Xmas” and “The First Christmas Tree”) and began to transition towards a more ASL sign style, (“The Great Walled City” and “The Match Girl”) but often times swung back and forth between ASL/ PSE/ English styles throughout the narrations. Since a person new to American Sign Language needs a very clear and consistent model of this beautiful language, this tape would not be ideal for sign language students.
There are problems with the background lighting (ex. The beginning of “The Night Before Christmas”, “…mama in her kerchief and I in my cap…”), some signing beyond the usual sign-space boundaries (“to the top of the wall…down the chimney”), and certain imprecise sign choices (ex. The use of hamburger for “meat” in the Mistletoe narrative).
In “The Christmas Carol” the Sign-to-Voice interpretation lagged far behind the sign production at times. When compared to the actual signed production of the story, the voice interpretation provided excessive detail. At some points, there were voice interpretation omissions, as noted in “The First Christmas Tree” (when the wood cutter said goodbye to his wife and child) and in “The Great Walled City” (when the children were told that they shouldn’t have believed the old man because he was wrong).
If “The Night Before Christmas” story is viewed as a frozen text situation, and thus presented as close to English as possible, then the female narrator’s interpretation was fine. However, frozen-text works are not the best choice for a video collection meant to represent “stories in ASL.”
Note: "Frozen Text" is a type of format register in which the way the source information is presented is guided by the source material itself. There are specific types of texts which are generally accepted as best translated into their exact printed form in order to maintain the formality and respect deemed appropriate for such texts. Examples of Frozen Text include the Pledge of Allegiance, the Star Spangled Banner, the Gettysburg Address, the Lord's Prayer, the Alcoholic's Anonymous Pledge, the Hippocratic Oath, and various other cultural, religious, national texts. Frozen Text does not lend itself well as a videotaped example for the purpose of presenting a true American Sign Language Style to a sign language interpreter in training because its format is best accepted as being signed in its most original format.