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American Sign Language: "la la la"



A student writes:
Merry Christmas, Dr. Bill! :)

I was interpreting a Christmas movie for practice earlier today, and felt stumped on the song "Deck the Halls."

How would you interpret "fa la la la la, la la la la?"

With interpreting I know you figure out the meaning, not the surface of the actual words. But...what does "fa la la" mean?


Name on file



Dear ______,

Hello :)
Nonsensical aspects of voiced songs (such as "la la la" that delight the ears (but do nothing for the eyes) is one of the inherent challenges in interpreting music. 
One approach is to simply acknowledge that sometimes due to trying to please both the ear and the eye at the same time (as happens when we sign songs) we are bridging two languages and often what we are producing is not an ASL translation but rather a hybrid linguistic mutant product that has its own kind of beauty and utility.
To answer your question -- you can show "la la la" by fingerspelling "L-A--L-A--L-A" with both hands moving outward toward your sides dramatically.
I might ask you this:  What does "la la la" mean? Heh. If you want a truly ASL interpretation of that song, figure out what "la la la" means and then sign that!
Seems to me "la la la" is simply your tongue dancing around in your mouth and that the equivalent in an ASL rendition of the song would be to do a beautiful, flowing, rhythmic -- but basically meaningless bit of "dancing" with your hands and/or body. (Expect opinions to differ on this one.)
-- Dr. Bill





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