So today I went for my first proper Tanzanian Sign Language lesson at Tunaweza (We can).Tunaweza is one of the only organisations in Mwanza to support people with a disability. Young people with learning difficulties, physical disability, or Downs Syndrome for example can come to the centre, not only for respite but also to learn a craft: jewellery making; batik; tailoring; patchwork blankets, handbags, purses, laptop bags and aprons made from kanga material. The work that is produced is simply beautiful and whenever I go I’m so envious of how talented these young people are. What they sell provides financial support for the organisation but the skills that they learn also mean that when they are older they are able to have a business and provide for themselves.
Amongst the people that go are a number of Deaf kids so Tunaweza also run sign language classes for free for them, people working with them and whoever else is interested to learn.
The tuition is basic – we have a sign language dictionary and we are going through it from A-Z. But the entire thing is taught in kiSwahili so it’s great practise for me and if it improves my communication with the kids at school then that can only be a positive. TSL uses mouth pattern, non-manual features and other similar characteristics to BSL. The alphabet follows that of ASL and I can see, with what little I have learnt over the last few months, how English and American missionaries over history have influenced TSL to become what it is today.
The lesson was good fun and the kids really enjoyed helping me out with the kiSwahili I didn’t understand (which was often). Will be going every week so hopefully should see some progress. I also learnt about another project recently set up who may be able to share some space with me for mine. I’m due to meet them next week so keep your fingers crossed.