Without Words

Music without Instruments and Vocals. Magnifying Glass, Flashlight or Watch as Helpers in Sign Language

Kleine Helfer learning software

Some music does not need instruments or lyrics. Some music does not need sound. It can only be seen. It is brought to life through the movement of hands. Fingers dance up and down, hands turn circles and arms swing from side to side. Anyone wanting to sing along does not necessarily need a voice, according to Stefanie Trzecinski’s thinking. For her, music is above all emotion, which can be expressed by gestures just as well as by words. Music and emotion is what Stefanie Trzecinski would like to convey and she wants deaf and hearing-disabled children to have access to music. With the help of the Kleine Helfer [little helpers] software, this will become more possible in the future. Elementary school children do not just learn to sing songs in sign language. They also learn metaphors and their significance. “Spoken language is full of metaphors, which don’t exist in sign language however”, explains Ms. Trzecinski.

She is sitting on a sofa with a laptop on her knees, and smiles. “That has become wonderful”, says this lady with the short, dark hair. With this, she meant the learning software that had been running on the laptop, and which can be purchased for a protective fee of fifteen euros. The learning software was developed by students of Humboldt Universität. Together with Genia Börner-Hoffman, Ms. Trzecinski taught the new media seminar at the Institut für Rehabilitationswissenschaften [Rehabilitative Sciences] this last winter semester.

The little helpers are a magnifying glass, a flashlight or a watch, for example. There are five of them, each an icon for a game. The starting point for each game is a children’s song, such as Rolf Zuckowski’s song “Jahresuhr” [Year’s Watch]. As soon as someone clicks the song, a music video starts. The video was made available by the German children’s broadcaster, Ki.Ka. The lyrics are displayed in an additional window, sung in sign language. Afterwards, the game starts. As part of the game, the children have to answer questions, such as, what drops from the trees in the Fall? All questions are topically oriented on the song with three answers for selection. “Combining pictures, words and sign language in the games was important for us”, explains Ms. Trzecinski.

The project has been realized by Brightside Games. Johannes Giering and Thomas Bedenk were portrayed last year as „Clever Minds in City West“. “This is how I became aware of these two”, says Ms. Trzecinski. When she talks about the collaboration with the game developers, she starts to rave: “They are very quick, communicate very clearly and extremely professional.“ For Bedenk and Giering in turn, the project was a special challenge. “Developing educational software was something excitingly new for us”, says Johannes Giering. Ms. Trzecinski and Brightside Games both agree. There will be sequels.

Stefanie Paul
Kluge Köpfe 2012