When you see a signer for the first time, can you tell if he or she is a ‘native’ signer, or someone who learned to sign as an adult? Very often, you can.
The easy ones: signers who try to sign and speak at the same time. Late signers! Signers who sign sign-by-sign, signing lists of dictionary signs instead of sentences: late signers!
Another easy clue: frozen faces. Signers with no or very little facial expression: late signers! Some hearing people are actually afraid to use facial expression. Not polite! Or just: too scary!
Ask them to look in the mirror while they sign, and they may not even want to look at their own faces! They freeze! The problem: hearing culture for some, personality for others. And for most of us: something new, something that we are not used to.
What might work:
- If real mirrors are too scary, try ‘mirror signing’: ask the learners to imitate your facial expressions. Eyebrows up, down, cheeks in, out.
- When you teach new signs, ALWAYS show the correct facial expression. Show us how facial expression can change the meaning of a sign. Make us aware of the facial expressions that you use; remind us to use facial expression, when we sign ourselves.