TED continues to spread ideas and help us all be better critical thinkers. Watching, listening and talking about TED Talks is a popular pastime for many in the CN&CO community. We visit TED.com regularly to clear our heads, have a laugh, learn or get inspired. TED Talks open our minds, spark new ways of thinking and can lead to some very interesting conversations and business opportunities. Each week we pick a favourite and publish it on a Tuesday, because we like how “TED Talk Tuesday” sounds. It’s also a way that the CN&CO team play their part in spreading ideas and helping to make the world a better place.

This week’s talk is not a talk 🙂 And this non-talk was selected by Carel who says: “The past week I got a mail from the TED Fellows. It reminded me of my Emperor Asset Management team mate Bonolo Modise who joined us in lockdown. At one of our first virtual Purple Group brand team meetings, Bonolo challenged the team to some sign language. I was terrible! But it reminded me how important this lanaguage is.”

Below is the email and then Bonolo’s superb blog on sign language. Enjoy.

“Hi Carel,

As a result of working on a TED Talk with one of our Fellows, Christine Sun Kim, I have been learning American Sign Language (ASL). I took a class at the Sign Language Center (SLC) in New York City a few years back, and loved it, but their location was tough to get to. When COVID hit and we all went into lockdown, SLC started offering ASL classes online. I have been attending class every single week, with few exceptions, for over a year now, and it has expanded every part of my moving and thinking.

Christine has influenced a lot of people and has been talking about the beauty of ASL for as long as I’ve known her (eight years now). Her point, as she makes it in this beautiful video, is that we all need to adjust to each other to get to a place of acceptance, equality and friendship. She says, “If ASL was considered equal we’d already be friends.” The act of learning ASL has opened new worlds for me.

There are so many examples of ways in which this community, or even one quick TED Talk, has changed my life, as I’m sure it has yours, as well. Inevitably, the idea that takes a hold of me leads to action, and that action moves my path in a new direction. That’s what we strive for with our cohorts of Fellows and the amplification of their ideas: action that changes you for the better, and that then changes the world for the better.”

Bonolo’s blog:

Officialization of SASL (South African Sign Language) – How do we get involved?

It all starts with our willingness to learn, making a difference, and adding value to overlooked communities around us – because we can.

I was not always this passionate about SASL, but I’ve never stopped being curious. In 2015, I got accepted into the University of the Witwatersrand, with no clear direction of how I was going to obtain the future I had envisioned for myself. I did not know a lot of things then, but I knew I had a love for language and I was willing to challenge myself. 

When the opportunity for me to enrol in the SASL course, I didn’t think twice. I remember my first lecture very vividly, I had to learn the alphabet as quickly as I could if I was going to make it through the semester and if I wanted to understand what my Deaf lecturer was teaching – I didn’t think I would make it. We were not allowed to communicate in spoken language, if you couldn’t sign an object, then you had to spell it out. 

My curiosity would often slip into moments of empathy and sadness. I finally understood how Deaf people existing in a society that uses spoken language to communicate felt. Even though the Deaf community has its own unique culture which gives Deaf people a sense of belonging, there is so much that the spoken community can do to support the Deaf community and to help win the fight of getting SASL as part of the official South African Languages. We need Sign Language to be more than just a recognized language, it needs to be made official. 

We do not all need to have an academic education to contribute to the Deaf community (although many may argue that you need to have some degree of hearing loss) I do not believe in this notion, simply because of the multiple experiences I’ve had with Deaf people who have appreciated the effort I made in communicating in sign language, even though I am hearing. 

There are simple and accessible resources that can help us learn the basics, like how to extend a greeting in sign and how to sign our names. Check out the SASL app ‘eDeaf’  which contains visual vocabulary to assist with communicating in SASL. 

Perhaps if we start learning and teaching ourselves, we can help amplify the voices of the people who dream of a South Africa that has 12 OFFICIAL languages, with SASL on the list. Learn how to sign your name, and perhaps tattoo it on your arm too, to remind you that there is a community on a journey to language officialization.