A teacher is hoping to encourage more kids to learn American Sign Language, with a little help from Taylor Swift.
Brittany Adams, who teaches ASL to hearing students at Romeo High School in Romeo, Michigan, has begun creating sign-language versions of popular music videos, including Swift’s “Shake It Off” and “Rather Be” by Clean Bandit.
She selects the signs that best reflect the lyrics, then stars in the YouTube clips, which her husband helps produce. Each has been a hit with her students.
“They absolutely loved it,” Adams told TODAY. “They were able to be engaged by it and essentially as teachers, we want our students to be engaged… we want them to be excited by what they’re learning.”
The process starts with song selection. Adams chooses popular music that would make her students want to listen and dance, she said. It also has to be school-appropriate, so a song like Meghan Trainor’s “All About That Bass,” with all the mentions of “booty” in the lyrics, wouldn’t work, she added.
The hardest part is translating each song into sign language. Every single person interprets a song differently, Adams said, so in Swift's song, the phrase "shake it off" could mean just letting go. Or it could mean brushing something off your shoulder, with each resulting in a different sign, she noted.
The videos take about two weeks to produce, said Adams, who became interested in ASL when she saw a camp counselor signing when she was a child.
“It was pretty beautiful,” she said. “You get to use your body, your face, your hands.”
Her students are the main target audience for the videos, but Adams is hoping the clips get more people interested in learning American Sign Language. The concept is already getting buzz: An ASL teacher in Texas has contacted Adams to see if they could do a duet together.
“Awareness for ASL and deafness is important because we all live hand in hand with one another and we need to be able to communicate,” she said.