Did you know that Ma’am Coryell already recognized Filipino Sign Language?

Disclaimer: I am not an official biographer of Rev. Aimee Ada Coryell. I don’t know if she has one. But I certainly am not for one simple reason, I have only been with her for a very few short days. However, here are the significant details that I personally learned from fellowshipping with her.

Ma'am Aimee (left) and her mother
Ma’am Aimee (left) and her mother

After publishing my recent post about Ma’am Coryell and shared it in Facebook, I received an upsurge in my blogsite visits. I even had inquiries about the book and where to get it. So I decided to make a follow up post about this strong-willed American missionary by listing down three most significant trivia I learned about her. Here they are:

Did you know that…

1. … Ma’am Coryell has already observed and recognized the existence of Filipino Sign Language?

Long before the interest about a unique language used by the Filipino Deaf started to gather support in the mid-90s, Ma’am Coryell has already been using them since the early 1970s. As an American missionary and teacher, Ma’am Coryell is a product of the Peace Corp Volunteer Group that was stationed in different parts of the Philippines. She was a native American Sign Language (ASL) user and has taught this to the Filipino deaf.  As a founder of DEAF School in Laguna in late 1960s, she has strictly implemented the use of ASL in classes due to limited sign vocabulary. However, she has noticed that her students have been using signs that are distinctive to them and which has been slightly diluted with the signs used by deaf community living in Manila.

But because the Laguna school is somewhat isolated from the rest of the community, they have developed their own peculiar signs. That is why during the nineties, teachers for the deaf as well as sign language interpreters have categorized the educated deaf according to the community where they belong. Labels like “Laguna Sign”, “Philippine School for the Deaf (PSD) Sign or Manila Sign” and “Bohol Sign” have been widely branded.

Ma’am Coryell has already identified the inherent weakness of the deaf in accessing the written language that is why she included mostly ASL signs in her book “The Basic Way To English for the Deaf”. However, if there are words that she has observed that have signs commonly used by the Filipino Deaf, she incorporated them in her book.

Back Cover Page of the book “The Basic Way of English for the Deaf”

At the back cover of her book, notice the use of “G” hand which is gun shaped and the “T” hand. Both are Filipino Sign Language fingerspell. There are other “FSL signs” that appeared in her book. Although she did not name them as such because Filipino Sign Language has only been coined in mid-90s, she often refers to them as Philippine Signs.

2. … Ma’am Coryell does not know how to speak Tagalog?

I already mentioned this in my previous post so I will just copy-paste it here. Did you know that despite of staying here for many decades, she still cannot speak clear Tagalog? She can only utter perfect “PARA” to tell the jeepney driver to stop. I politely asked her why she never became fluent in Filipino. She confessed that she too has a problem with her ears. She is having difficulty hearing Tagalog pronunciations and diphthongs (sound formed by the combination of two vowels in a single syllable). But what she lacked in learning the local language, she compensated it with her love to the visual language of the Filipino Deaf.

3. … Ma’am Coryell is a speed typist?

On a manual typewriter, the average person types between 38 and 40 words per minute (WPM), what translates into between 190 and 200 characters per minute (CPM). However, professional typists type a lot faster — on average between 50 and 60 WPM. The rate is quite different in a digital keyboard which is being used in laptops and Personal Computers. Ma’am Coryell “boasts” of typing an average of 85 words per minute! Believe me, I’ve seen her do it.

She explained to me that as part of their training as a Peace Corp Volunteer, they are required to acquire and master skills that they can teach to their assigned country. One of them is using the typewriter to create reports, documents and even correspondents. She wants to accomplish things fast and perfect. I believe Ma’am Coryell is the only one who typed the contents of all four of her books.

I added an image of a manual typewriter here for the benefit of new generation of technology users who have never experienced, much less seen what we have been so much accustomed of using. My Dad gifted us one similar to this when we were still in grade school. This is one of his special gifts that we cherished a lot aside from the Kolski piano. He gave us tools to harness our skills. That is why I can type at least 65 words per minute.

If I may be permitted to quote Sir Carl Aguila, a former professor of Dela Salle College (now university), he described her like this,

Rev. Coryell is the closest thing the Philippines has to a “Mother Teresa.”

I couldn’t agree more… 🙂

By the way, for those who want to have a copy of her book, I am sorry that ours are already library copies. I’m not sure that they are still printing these books. But you can try to contact them to inquire through this:

c/o: LAMOIYAN CORPORATION, Km. 15 West Service Road, South Luzon Expressway, Parañaque City, 1700

or the school’s official website at: http://deaffoundationinc.com/contact/

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