Sign Language Question
September 14, 2010 10:08 PM   Subscribe

What is being signed at the end of this video?

The part I'm referring to starts at about 2:05.
posted by whiskeyspider to Writing & Language (10 answers total)
Assuming the video is using American signs--I caught a gesture that could be intended as the sign for 'America,' and a couple of others, like 'night' but in all honesty, it made no sense. I caught another point earlier on where it seemed the dancers were using what they thought were 'real signs,' didn't tease apart clearly there either.

The signs could be borrowed from non-ASL languages, plus I'm sure there are many people with better eyes for reading expressionless, space-poor, signed words than me, as I rely extremely heavily on everything that is not 'the sign' to understand visual language. But I will tell you, all I could really see was...choreography, like the hand motions in the rest of the song, not something being said or even 'sung.' I can pick out other signed languages pretty well--BSL and ASL don't cross the Atlantic, but I can tell when someone is using BSL or a pidgin version.

Translating the video is like trying to translate this into 'English.' (Actually, it's...not even as good as that--Prisencolinensinainciusol is more like listening to someone with Wernicke's aphasia. Perfectly cromulent!)

Write it off as 'interesting choreography.'
posted by Uniformitarianism Now! at 11:07 PM on September 14, 2010

Uniformitarianism Now!, I don't think that whiskeyspider, meant the whole song, just at the very end.
Probably (I don't know sign) - "We don't speak American". The reason I say that is, at I can watch signing for the words 'America', 'we' and 'speak' and recognise the actions at the end of the video. Neat video BTW, I hadn't seen it.
posted by unliteral at 11:49 PM on September 14, 2010

Note: The title is "We no speak Americano." Their two-person Irish Dance show is called "Up and Over It."

That's probably what they were signing. Badly. (Though they're probably aware of that.)
posted by Sys Rq at 12:57 AM on September 15, 2010

I just rewatched the last few seconds like twelve times. My brain does not move as fast as that video.

The first thing they say is definitely "we don't speak American". I'm not sure what they're doing when it looks like they're making a cross. It kind of looks like their last two signs are "good night" (might be 'night', might be 'over'?) and "out"/"leaving". If the second bit is them trying to sign "Up and Over It," then yes...they're doing it badly.
posted by lullaby at 1:04 AM on September 15, 2010

unliteral I understand what whiskeyspider was asking. I actually hazarded 'We don't speak American,' because that's the only thing I could read that put the signs together. But it doesn't mean that, really.

What I am trying to explain is that visual languages don't work that way. They tried a neat gimmick and it failed, because they didn't understand what they were using. What I think they tried to do was incorporate SEE, but what they got--especially because of the blank faces--was 'interesting hand gestures that are sort of similar to signs borrowed from ASL and incorporated into SEE.' I can't just go to the English dictionary, read out random words in no particular order, with random pronunciations that I make up on the spot, and claim it's intelligible English that can be translated because it came from a dictionary. Not even if I say 'well, YEAH, it's SUPPOSED to be poor English, because poor English works better for our song format.'

I'm trying to provide a teaching moment here for whiskeyspider, because I knew there would be respondents who would provide the 'oh the translation is THIS.' But it isn't. I'm linking back to an old comment of mine on sign in music videos. This sign was not anywhere near Stephen Torrence's level of performance, and even he doesn't have a strong grasp of the language. This video here contained hand gestures, even when they thought they were 'signing.' That they intended to sign something meaningful doesn't mean they did.

And yes, lullaby, if they're signing anything, it's 'good night.' 'out.' I was like 'out? who's out? WTF?'
posted by Uniformitarianism Now! at 5:44 AM on September 15, 2010 [1 favorite]

I'm not expert but as they are Irish they might be using Irish or British Sign Language which is significantly different from ASL.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 6:16 AM on September 15, 2010

Oh and I did a post on them on the blue the other day.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 6:19 AM on September 15, 2010

"We Speak No Americano" isn't exactly properly formed english. Saying it in properly formed ASL would kind of miss the point.
posted by empath at 6:21 AM on September 15, 2010

The languages are different--the use of space and facial expression is not all that different. (Example of BSL or--more likely--pidgin signed British English.) I can't read BSL fingerspelling, because it's a 2-hand system, and I can pick out many signs that differ from ASL.

I'd be willing to bet it's ISL, which is more similar to ASL, due to their shared heritage/development out of FSL.

When you hear the sung phrase 'We Speak No Americano' there are a lot of other cues telling you that what you're hearing is language and that makes it pretty easy to understand, even though the phrase itself is not perfectly structured. Most of those cues are missing from the signs used in this clip. They're gone, because Irish step dancing is performed straight-faced, and the performers didn't understand that signed languages rely on facial expressions and broad use of space for a good part of their intelligibility, and they took it out--or they felt that they were optional. This is a big mistake people make: assuming that signs represent words. Or that the gesture in a sign is the most meaningful part. They're wrong.

It looks cool, but as I said before, even in another signed language, what they're doing isn't saying or singing anything. They're very talented dancers. It doesn't detract from their talent.

People may come in and say 'Oh it means this [word for word transliteration].' But they won't be telling you that even the transliteration is f-ed up because the essential components of visual language and signed concepts have been stripped out by the constraints of Irish step dancing. You get one or the other.
posted by Uniformitarianism Now! at 7:02 AM on September 15, 2010 [2 favorites]

I was like 'out? who's out? WTF?'

Heh, yeah, I was thinking more like "out" as in done. Like, "hey, we're out!" Since it's the last thing before the video is over. But my whole life I have been bad at keeping my English separate from my ASL.
posted by lullaby at 11:17 AM on September 15, 2010

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