11-13 - Deaf School Today, we get up a little early and, after another excellent Honorine breakfast, march for about thirty minutes, through Ho Chi Min square and on over to the school for the deaf. I have a microphone in hand and a flash disk with two pieces of software on it: a general waveform editing program and another program specifically designed to allow an instructor to record a word or phrase, so that a student can imitate it. Both show spectrograms of the recordings. Spectrograms can be very helpful in figuring out what you're doing wrong when you're trying to sound like someone else -- they move the acoustic signal into the visual realm. The speech instructor here is also named Rivo, though he should not be confused with SALFA's excellent computer tech of the same name. He's also the organist and the most skilled translator, here. Rivo speaks into the microphone and his vocalizations appear in the top window of the program in spectrogram form. He says "Salama toupako." That sounds to my American ears like [Sa-lam-a Toop-koo] but it's not. In Malagasy, word final vowels are reduced. A reduce vowel is one which almost isn't there -- note "almost". On the spectrogram in the bottom window, which represents my voice, I can see a glaring piece missing from my recording -- the reduced vowel. It is clearly there in his. In a minute, my "salama toupako" sounds much better. "Salama toupako", by the way, means "hello person of high station." You can say just "salama", but "salama toupako" is much nicer. The question is, will this help his students? Time will tell. The microphone is one I brought with me to Madagascar. I can buy another. The software I tried to license out of pocket, but the awful Internet connection here makes that hard. I'll do it as soon as I get home and then I'll email them the key. Until then, it's a ten-day free trial. Total: $95 -- I hope it's helpful. If so, it's money extremely well spent. We attended the service at the school, which was very interesting. It was long, but the linguist in me loved it. You see, they speak Malagasy slowly in the service, and they sign. ASL and MSL are different. Some signs are common to the two languages, some are not. Thank you, for instance, is actually signed with two signs, the pronoun you, and "toupa," the same word as in "salama toupako." So the sign seems to be literally, [YOU] [HIGH-PERSON]. I know I'm missing something about the [YOU] sign, because it's a flat hand pointing, not a finger. There's some content there I don't get, and won't get the chance to investigate (Drat!). But that phrase made me worry, and then the readings and songs redoubled my worry. Is MSL a sign language, or an almost word for word translation of Malagasy? That's what is done in Signed English in the States and it's a useless, painful bastard of a language, meant to teach the deaf to speak, not to provide them with a real language for communication. ASL is the counter-example. It's a real language, and it's not English. But my worry disappeared as soon as someone "spoke" who was not reading or singing from a text. MSL is for real. It uses space, expression, etc. and is not wedded to vocal Malagasy syntax. At the end I was asked to come up and say a few words. I spoke in English, and signed what I was saying in ASL. Rivo translated into both Malagasy and MSL. Some signs were in common, some were not. Some were iconic and obvious, and some were not. "College," for instance, is a modification of "truth," and I gleefully miss-used it for "University." "Hello. Your signs and my signs are different. I studied sign language at the University of Chicago long ago. I watch you and I study your signs. I flew here a while ago from the USA, and I will fly back there very soon. I like it here. Thank you. Thank you all." I know it's baby talk. I know so few signs. All the signs I picked up during the service were religious -- "Amen", "Heaven", "Jesus", "Sin", "Lord" ("Lord", by the way, is [HIGH-PERSON] as in "Thank you") -- and I didn't want to talk about that subject matter. I could have used the very few signs I'd learned in MSL before the service, like "Foreigner" and "Thank you", but I wanted them to see that a foreigner signed a lot like them; That they could learn another language in another country, and that it wasn't hard to understand; that people in other countries did use sign and that they could someday talk with them; so I kept it all ASL, pure. The reverend said some nice things about me, and I signed thank you, both in MSL and ASL, and Pat, who was quietly translating, laughed and said "someone behind us just said 'He's signing in English!'" It interesting how the deaf community's language gets so bound to the surrounding language. ASL speakers would say, for both reasonable and political reasons, that words like the old term for Korea, which used a "K" in the sign, were essentially borrowings from English, whereas these MSL speakers might more straightforwardly say "MSL is Malagasy. Only different." Neither is completely true. Lanto came by around noon with his family, and I treated them all to lunch at a Chinese restaurant near the American embassy. It was a pricey place, but lunch for seven was still only $18. Very good food. Not enough of it. Long wait for both the food and the dessert. Everyone but me ordered the Ice Cream Pinocchio. I realized why when it came. A cone for a hat, two raisins for eyes, ice cream head and a tube cookie for a nose. It's hilarious. I had banana flambe in caramel sauce. Not bad either. Exhausted, I continued on to my three o'clock. Cooking with Honorine. She showed me how to make a traditional Malagasy dish (see recipe elsewhere). We used the knife she has been using since she was six years old. She's been cooking with it for forty five years. It's small, the handle is broken, the blade is strange distorted shape from perhaps tens of thousands of passes over a whetstone, and it's sharp as a razor. After we cooked it, she actually sat down and ate with me! Yes! That's SO MUCH BETTER THAN BEING SERVED!!! And it was very good. The recipe is easy and includes pictures.