Trinity College Dublin, Centre for Deaf Studies (IRELAND)
About this paper:
Appears in: EDULEARN11 Proceedings
Publication year: 2011
Pages: 4708-4715
ISBN: 978-84-615-0441-1
ISSN: 2340-1117
Conference name: 3rd International Conference on Education and New Learning Technologies
Dates: 4-6 July, 2011
Location: Barcelona, Spain
This paper introduces the methodical challenges associated with the teaching of non-manual features (NMF’s) to second language learners of Irish Sign Language (ISL). The theories and methodologies used as empirical evidence for this paper have evolved through my teaching experience of over 25 years and are based on research and observations as a lecturer in the Centre for Deaf Studies Trinity College Dublin over the last eight years, but also accumulated through my teaching in Bristol University, University City Cork and in private institutions throughout Ireland. It is important to note that the students’ personal experiences were obtained during, and after their education in the language and thus incorporated into syllabus therefore combining the perspective of both learner and educator.

Students of sign language normally enter the course under the misconception that sign language is focused on the hands. However, it must be quickly instilled into the students the impossibility of separating the phonological and grammatical meaning displayed on the face, from the hands. The learner soon struggles with the use of facial expressions (NMFs) - trying to combine the cheeks, brows, eyelids and eyegaze. In so doing the students often loses the grammatical functions of their NMFs, thus looking plain faced and sometimes conveying confusion in their expressions.

The paper will describe extensively the theories and methodology of teaching non-manual features to second language learners and how these non-manual features are in turn linked to linguistic re-expression and communication of opinions or ideas.

There are numerous non-manual features documented to date and can be closely associated with the linguistic element of grammar and have a variety of different uses. It is good to keep in mind that these elements are utilized by means of productive and receptive signing and demonstrates the difficulties and eased experienced and how the method of teaching can be put in to use for gradual progression in learning. This paper will discuss all of the above and show how the curriculum was mapped in with The Common European Framework for Languages.

∗ Non-Manual Features (NMF’s) are the effectual markers in the formation of signs which are not articulated by the hands but rather include articulations by some or all of the following; facial expression, tilting of the head, use of eyebrows and mouth patterns. These non-manual features fulfill several functions and may alter the meaning of the manual sign and can be used as the main articulators. Non-manual features support a variety of linguistic functions such as, emotion and are used as intensifiers, which include different modulations to express the manner or way in which something is done or felt.
Non-manual features, methodology, teaching, language, challenges, self assessment, resources, second language learners.