Sign language?

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  • Sign language?

    Is there a standard way to indicate that a character is using sign language? I'm writing a script with a major character who will be using sign language throughout and I'm not sure the best way to go about doing it.

    Also, some other characters will be speaking and signing at the same time, for the benefit of other characters in the scene who don't know sign language.

    The way I am doing it currently is with a brief description before the character's first line in the script, then a parenthetical before each line. Such as...

    INT. HOUSE-NIGHT

    David uses sign language.

    DAVID
    (signing)
    Help me.

    The woman gives David a blank stare, then turns away.

    WOMAN
    Leave me alone.

    DAVID
    (signing)
    Please.

    and so on...

    And during scenes with other characters...


    INT. HOUSE-NIGHT

    Zach and David sit at the dining room table. Frank mixes himself a drink in the kitchen.

    ZACH
    (signing and speaking)
    That's the decision we've made.

    DAVID
    (signing)
    I don't understand.

    etc...

    Does this seem reasonable? Is there a standard way to indicate sign language? Do I need a parenthetical before each line?

    Thanks for any advice.

  • #2
    If the character speaking is not the one who is using the sign language you could use:

    ..........JACK
    .....(interprets Jill's signing)
    This is what Jill is saying with sign language.


    or:

    Jack interprets for Jill as she responds with sign language.

    ...............JACK
    This is what Jill is saying with sign language.


    and if Jack signs and talks you can use:

    ..............JACK
    .....(signs)
    This is what jack says using sign language.


    or:

    Jack signs as he speaks.

    ...............JACK
    this is what Jack says using sign language.


    If the character is just signing without speaking or having it interpreted keep it in the action.

    Jack signs to Jill. Jill smiles and signs back.


    To answer your question, there is no "standard" for how to handle this. Go with what you feel is the clearest way of expressing your story.

    HTH

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    • #3
      Sign Language

      If you indicate that a character is primarily using ASL or another sign language with their introduction, you shouldn't need to indicate this in parentheticals each time that they have dialog. Treat it as you would if the character spoke a foreign language. Use parentheticals to indicate when interpreters use sign language in dialog with the signing character. And, as a note for writers who are tempted to use ASL in their screenplays, ASL is not a universal sign language. ASL is used in the United States and much of Canada, (LSQ in Quebec); and, there are numerous sign languages.

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      • #4
        Find a copy of the stage play or film script for "Children of a Lesser God." See how the author handles it there.

        Though I think Deus probably has suggested a good approach.

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