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American Sign Language:  Role Shift


In a message dated 3/6/2006 3:26:27 P.M. Pacific Standard Time, Terri White of Greenville, South Carolina writes:

"What is the best way to indicate "who's talking" when you're interpreting and a hearing student answers a question and then maybe several other students join in- I'm referring to the classroom setting, but other settings could be included as well. Do you point and sign the student's name -while looking in the direction of the "voice"????????? I know that would be breaking eye-contact-not a good thing. Just wondering what you've encountered."
--Terri White


Yes, you just glance in the direction, point at the person, and sign or spell his or her name (if you know it).

Breaking eye contact is absolutely required from time to time in ASL communication. For example ASL uses "role shifting" wherein the signer assumes the role of various characters in his story.

If a signer is telling of an interaction between a child and an adult, she will look up when portraying the child and will look down when portraying the adult.

Dr. Bill

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