Growing up in Sydney, Emma Watkins has always been fascinated by sign language.
Her best friend had two brothers, both of whom were deaf.
“I think I was just fascinated,” she said.
“I’ve seen them conversing with each other…and I wanted to know what they were talking about.
“I learned some of the signs from their sisters and then from them as well. And really, I wish I had learned more from them at the time, but they definitely piqued my interest.”
Watkins then studied Australian Sign Language, or Auslan, and is currently pursuing a PhD in Auslan Communication and Dance.
Watkins is most passionate about using Auslan in the form of song and dance to entertain and educate all children regardless of ability.
Expose The Wiggles to a New Audience
Watkins was with children’s music supergroup The Wiggles for ten years, during which time he began incorporating sign language into his songs and performances.
Wiggles has used an interpreter next to the stage during performances and added Auslan to recordings, but Watkins’ favorite project with the band was working with Deaf Connect in New South Wales in 2016. It was when I went to
“He helped translate about 20 Wiggles songs accurately…and gave me the translation,” she said.
“Then we worked with deaf children, or children of deaf parents … and filmed them playing all the songs and played them on the screen in the show. Did.
“Probably my favorite project as part of The Wiggles.”
new passion project
After leaving The Wiggles, Watkins began producing her own children’s entertainment show, Emma Memma: Sing. dance. sign.
The series is in development and is scheduled to shoot in 2023. At this stage, Watkins has released a number of short videos on her YouTube channel for Emma Menma. These videos show Auslan incorporated into dancing and singing.
Emma Menma, played by Watkins, is a character on the show who uses a combination of singing, dancing, and autographing to overcome her challenges.
Watkins has contracted a deaf consultant on the set of Emma Menma, and the video is co-delivered by Elvin Lam, a deaf ballet dancer who plays Elvin Melvin on the show.
“Perhaps we would like to be able to have such consultations from people who belong to the deaf community and speak the language as their mother tongue,” she said. .
Ram is an important part of the show, bringing the dancing and signing experience to the set.
“So I have experience with ballet and Auslan, so I often use movements that follow Emma’s lines,” he said.
“But we want the show to be accessible to everyone, so we take turns … For example, when there’s an announcement on the show, I use Auslan, Emma speaks, and then we dance together. .”
Watkins said Emma Menma focuses on a fully accessible viewing experience.
“We start with the signs: ‘What are the signs that are important to the child?’ And then decide, ‘What are the words that go with that sign,'” she explained.
“I feel like sign language drives the dance… like sign language started…
“A lot of kids use gestures before they speak…it makes sense. I’m a little confused why they didn’t gesture until now.”
The Importance of Sign Language in the Media
Many TV shows and recorded performances have closed captioning options to make the content accessible, but writing translations accounts for the fatigue of hearing-impaired people who are exhausted by constantly reading dialogue. I have not.
Olivia Beasley is a Deaf Woman and Engagement Manager for Expression Australia. Expression Australia is a non-profit organization founded by the deaf community to help people in their everyday lives.
Beasley said having an Australian interpreter translate news broadcasts and other media is more comprehensive than captioning.
“Including Auslan gives people the chance to immerse themselves in the media in their native language,” she said.
“For many Auslan users, English is a second language and media messages are often misinterpreted.”
Inclusion of good news and bad news
Stephen Nicholson is a deaf interpreter and former Australian teacher at Expression Australia.
Nicholson, who is also deaf, explained that interpreters are usually reserved for translating for crises, not for regular news, not inclusive to the community.
“Now when there is a critical flood, fire, the media usually includes an interpreter for Auslan,” he said.
“It is important that all media releases contain all information, positive or negative.”
Nicholson said at one point an interpreter was reserved for the COVID-19 announcement, but was then asked to leave before the next AFL announcement.
“The deaf community thought interpreters had to move on to other jobs and were upset with interpreters not being there to interpret information about the AFL’s bid,” he said. explained.
Ms Beasley said there is a lack of deaf representation in the media and the inclusion of the community can address this issue.
“Opportunities for media appearances are often lost due to the great effort put into arranging Australian interpreters and deaf consultants and making scenes accessible to viewers. This includes entertainment,” she said.
“Deaf people can do anything”
According to Lam, this is what makes Emma Menma so progressive.
“Emma Menma is the first show to sing and dance with Auslan, in Australia, probably in the world,” he said.
“In Australia, not everyone is deaf-aware, so deaf people cannot use Auslan to communicate with us.”
Lam said that deaf people can sometimes feel like they “live in two different worlds”, and that deaf people don’t always make up for communication barriers.
He hoped that Emma Memma would help normalize sign language more in the media.
“I hope people become more aware of the deaf, understand that deaf people are a part of life, and learn more about Auslan,” Lam said.
“I was disappointed that people thought deaf people couldn’t sing or dance.
“I used to be banned from going to ballet class, so that’s why I’m here today with Emma Menma to show people what deaf people can do in sign language, dance, even ballet.” I want to show you.”
“If I am a role model for deaf children, I want them to see that deaf people can do anything.
“I hope other hearing children will welcome their deaf classmates into their lives,” he said.
https://www.abc.net.au/news/2022-12-29/emma-watkins-new-show-emma-memma-for-deaf-children/101797566 Emma Watkins’ new show for deaf children, Emma Menma, caps off a lifetime of Auslan fascination