Some Thoughts on Sign Videos

By BitcoDavid

Stephen Torrence

Stephen Torrence made Sign Language versions of popular rock videos, and he’s not alone. He’s not the first, and he won’t be the last, but he’s the first to shut down his channel, and halt all future production. He has also taken down his revenue channel.

Torrence is Hearing, but has an interest in ASL, as well as acting and dance. He combined those talents – and with others, both Deaf and Hearing – helped to launch a burgeoning new artform. Sign Language Music Video. He states that an outcry from the Deaf Community, citing the damage these videos do to Deaf culture, as his reason for stopping the work.

I strongly disagree with Torrence on this, and with those members of the Deaf community who pushed him into that decision. Here’s why. Many of us who are struggling to learn Sign, can use these videos as a tool to aid in our mastery. We already know the songs, so there’s no distraction with subtitles or listening to an audio interpreter. That allows us to concentrate solely on the Signing, and to follow the translation directly.

Furthermore, many Deaf can hear music – at least to some degree – and this allows them to benefit from the songs, creating a further inclusion into mainstream culture.

What’s more, these translations tend to be more Signed Exact English, rather than strict ASL. That’s because songs aren’t written in ASL grammar, and because music lyrics tend to be metaphorical. Katy Perry wrote a song called, “Firework,” about bullying. The gist of the song is that victims of bullying need to look inside themselves for their own self-esteem, and shouldn’t let others dictate their self worth. But the lyrics never actually say any of that. The song is metaphorical, with the title line – you’re a firework – representing the inner beauty and power of the bullied individual. Watching ASL interpretations of this song, helps us to learn ASL idioms and advanced communication methods that we might not get from other ASL learning sources.

ASL is a language, and as such is no longer owned by the Deaf community. French people don’t get angry when others learn French. And French authors certainly don’t get angry when their books are translated into English, or any other language.

English: ASL sign I-LOVE-YOU (wikt:en:ILY@Side...
ASL sign I-LOVE-YOU (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Nations conquer other nations. People intermarry and conduct trade. Language – all language – is living, communal, subject to constant growth and change, and never owned by its originators.

I’m a music lover, a video professional and an ASL enthusiast. As such, I couldn’t be happier about the emergence and popularity of this exiting new artform. Long live ASL music videos. And Mr. Torrence – please reconsider.

BitcoDavid is a blogger and a blog site consultant. In former lives, he was an audio engineer, a videographer, a teacher – even a cab driver. He is an avid health and fitness enthusiast and a Pro/Am boxer. He has spent years working with diet and exercise to combat obesity and obesity related illness.

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