Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Kosovo Sign Language

After work today I did an indoor workout. I normally don't like running on the treadmill, but it was slushy out and the roads and trails were starting to ice over. It also gets dark so early. By the time I'd be halfway through my run, it would be dark. Even though I don't really like running on the treadmill, it's better than turning an ankle or slipping on ice.

I hadn't run in the last week because of a muscle pull in my calf. I did a mix of running and walking today. When I felt a pull in the calf muscle after running slowly for about 22 minutes, I walked for the rest of my time (total run/walk time was 30 minutes). I have a feeling that I'll have to go back to a beginner's program because my calf muscle hurts again. I'll have to take it easy and figure out how much I can run before the muscle acts up. At least racing season is over for this year, so it's not like I'm losing training time. I'll also ski so I can get some exercise.

The gym on base has TVs that people can watch while using the aerobic machines. I usually watch the TV that's in front of my treadmill without sound while listening to music on my iPod. The TVs on base receive channels from all over Eastern and Western Europe, the former Soviet Union, the Middle East, and Africa in additional to the US Armed Forces Network and German channels. This afternoon the TV was on a channel called RTK, which is the main TV station in Kosovo. It was showing the program "Friends" with subtitles in a language that I thought was either Turkish or Albanian (it turned out to be Albanian; RTK broadcasts in Albanian, Serbian, and Turkish). After "Friends" there was a newscast. The news show had a Sign Language interpreter. The interpreter was shown on about half of the screen, with the newscast on the other half. Suddenly my workout got a lot more interesting. Before coming to Germany, I was an American Sign Language (ASL) interpreter, so I was instantly hooked. I focused on the interpreter and tried to see if any of the Kosovar signs were similar to American ones. I was also curious about Kosovar Sign Language--is it really Albanian, Turkish, or Serbian Sign Language or a mix of all three? All of those languages are spoken in Kosovo, with Albanian being the most common because most Kosovars are ethnic Albanians. At first it appeared that there was no fingerspelling in that particular sign language. Then I realized that that language probably used a two-handed alphabet after watching how the interpreter made the same signs where it seemed that a name should be spelled. Even though my ASL is rusty from not using it, I could pick out some signs that appeared to be the same as ASL signs: Europe, president, show, accept, night/tonight, grow/develop, together/union (one of the stories had the European Union flag in the background), say, now, and talk with each other/discuss. There were other signs that were different from ASL signs, but I could still figure them out: Albania, money, hear/listen, change, our. My workout ended in the middle of the news show. It was the first time in a long time that I was sorry that a treadmill workout ended. If I didn't have to stretch, shower, then go home, I would have stayed around to see the full newscast just to watch the interpreter.

Over the next couple of weeks, when I'm working the early shift and having to run after work, I'll be sure to put the TV in front of my treadmill on RTK so that I can watch the interpreter. It will make running on the treadmill a lot less boring.

A word about ASL...Contrary to popular belief, it is not a universal language. There are some signs which are universal: eat, drink, sleep, time. But each country has its own sign language. ASL has the most similarity to French Sign Language. It is a mix of French Sign Language and signs that were used in the States in the 1800s in American schools for the deaf. It is quite different from British Sign Language, even though those languages originated in English speaking countries.

Postscript...After doing a Google search, I learned that deaf people in Kosovo use the same sign language as deaf people in the other countries that were part of Yugoslavia, though there are regional dialectical differences.

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