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Day 23: Matthew

The school that Dad teaches at has one missions, to prepare people for ministry and great commission living specifically in the continent of Africa. One of the ways that they do this is offering a sign language class for faculty and students. They offer it so that the pastors and missionaries who come out of the school can come out knowing how to communicate with the deaf. This is much needed because there are many unreached deaf in Zambia. They had expanded the class so that faculty could take it for free. Dad was wondering if it would also be free for faculty children. I had been studying the sign language interpreter at our church. He would translate the sermon into sign language so that the deaf members in church could understand the sermon as well. I picked up pieces of the language by studying the interpreter and listening to the sermon. So Dad was trying to see if I could enroll too. Luckily it worked out, and I joined the 3:30 pm sign-language class. Interesting note, it is actually called the 15:30 class because Zambia uses 24 hour time.

The class is about an hour and forty minutes long, on average. The teacher is pastor Daka. He is the pastor of a deaf church in Zambia. For the first couple of classes pastor Daka’s daughter interpreted the class, but after a while we were good enough to be able to understand with the help of a white bored. The language itself is very interesting. There is a lot of British and a whole lot of American sign language in it. But there are also some signs that you could tell were made from the Zambian point of view, such as the names for various nations in Africa and their presidents.

The class has several staff members of the school, and then a few students. Incidentally I am not the youngest in the class. There are two other kids of faculty in there as well (who probable know it a lot better than me). Pastor Daka teaches a lot of stuff in a single class. But he will slow down to make sure that everyone is doing the sign exactly right. Pastor Daka teaches what the students want to know. The content of classes can shift depending on what the students of the class ask.

I have learned so far: Finger spelling, numbers, a few Zambian and African places, colors, how to introduce myself, a few simple commands, and a lot more than I can remember right now. We started finger spelling because the way that Zambian sign works, you can communicate by spelling English words. From there we did numbers and then we could, in theory, work out a class by ourselves with no interpreter.

Sadly Zambia closed down all of the schools which includes Dad’s school because of coronavirus. But recently they have started sending sign-language videos so that we do not loose our skills. Hopefully Zambia will open up soon and the classes can resume.

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  1. I remember you told me about the sign language. I am sure it is pretty interesting. I was told that being deaf is very difficult in that it is a very isolating disability. Learning to communicate with the deaf population is really helpful I am sure.

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