Deaf Studies: After the first day of classes

We’ve had two weeks of orientation, finding our way around the campus, being given an overview of the course material, being guided on how to use the library, and being taught how to use the computers to film ourselves (a lot of our homework will be video work). And today, things actually started.

We have two classes on a Monday: ISL 1 and Aspects of Written Language. ISL 1 is by far our main class, with nine hours scheduled per week, each block as a three-hour lecture followed by an hour in the lab. Our lecturer is Patrick Matthews, who is also the course coördinator. Today’s class was on two subjects: an introduction to glossing, and a basic overview of ISL grammar (placement, classifiers, etc.). He also used the opportunity of having an interpreter present to go over some technical vocabulary (such as the word vocabulary itself). Because, you see, we will no longer have an interpreter present for ISL. Henceforth, it’ll be immersive learning.

I would be worried about that, but what I’ve seen of Patrick Matthews so far suggests that he’s a good and patient teacher. And he’s been doing this for years, so presumably he knows how it works.


Aspects of Written language is twice a week, an hour apiece. A much smaller part of our curriculum. It’s our only subject not taught in the Centre for Deaf Studies itself (a new building just off campus). We’re in the Arts Building — a 1970s brutalist monstrosity — in a large class with a bunch of other students from different courses. This module was barely mentioned in our orientation week, so I went in with little idea of what to expect. Our lecturer basically did the orientation today, giving us a course overview. It looks fascinating, though its relationship with Deaf Studies is somewhat tenuous, and its reading list is formidable. We will be covering the history and development of writing systems, and the impact of writing on culture. There will be a plethora of guest lecturers, including Patrick Matthews, who will present on SignWriting (not otherwise covered in our curriculum, unfortunately: I have started learning it independently).

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