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Actress to sign the national anthem at Super Bowl XLVIII

While many viewers listen to Renee Fleming and the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra perform the national anthem at Super Bowl XLVIII at MetLife Stadium, not everyone will be able to hear it. Which is why each year the National Association of the Deaf and PepsiCo select someone to perform the anthem in American Sign Language. This year that honor goes to actress Amber Zion.

Amber recorded the national anthem with us in advance of her upcoming performance at one of the most-watched events of the year. We break down the signs to the lyrics with the idea that anyone can learn how to sign this song and enjoy this great tradition.

While Amber performs Sunday night, one player in particular will likely be paying attention from the sidelines. Seahawks fullback Derrick Coleman is the first legally deaf player to be part of an NFL offense.

See the video below for Amber's rendition:

Have you noticed that each time an artist sings the national anthem, certain notes are held out longer or shorter, and certain phrases are emphasized? On Sunday, Amber will add those nuances through specific emphasis or reduction in the movements of her hands, arms, face and body. See below for our Q&A and more interesting facts from the NAD:

AOL: How is inflection denoted in sign language? Each time an artist sings the national anthem, certain notes are held out longer or shorter, and certain phrases are emphasized. How do you add these nuances and emotions to signing?

NAD: Inflection and emotion is conveyed in American Sign Language through specific emphasis or reduction in the movements of the hand, arms, face and body as well as with facial expressions. With a song like the national anthem, the length of each note can be varied depending on the duration and tone of the sign used. Like vocal singers, each ASL artist has his or her own style and way of showing the meaning and concept of the song in ASL.

AOL: What's your favorite type of music or spoken word to sign?

Amber: Adele's "Rolling in the Deep," which I did a music video of some time ago. Available on YouTube. I also like "Believe in Dream."

AOL: What is the biggest challenge when signing?

NAD: It is one thing to be performing a song in American Sign Language as a single artist. It is another thing to perform the song in ASL while integrating a singer's version with the ASL rendition. This can pose a challenge because ASL has its own structure and grammar. Not only does the signer determine on how he or she wants to render the song in ASL, but the signer must also take into account the vocal singer's interpretation of the song.

AOL: Do you rehearse with a singer before signing a song?

NAD: Yes, whenever possible we ensure that the signer rehearses beforehand with the singer. As is true in any form of show business, anything can change quickly so we do all we can to go with the flow and be prepared. You can see some of Amber's prep for her Super Bowl performance in a video posted at our site.

AOL: Aside from the Super Bowl, is there another event you'd like to see incorporate sign language?

NAD: The National Association of the Deaf advocates for American Sign Language rendition of the national anthem at all sporting events. We would like to see it at the World Series, the NHL Stanley Cup finals, the NBA and WNBA basketball finals, and March Madness among others. We believe that these ASL renditions should be performed by deaf performers who are fluent in ASL.

AOL: It seems that the National Anthem is a common song to sign, but are there others that most sign interpreters know?

NAD: A deaf artist such as Amber Zion is a performer rather than a sign language interpreter (the terminology used is important for the sake of clarity). Artists like Amber are well versed in rendering many kinds of music through American Sign Language.

AOL: Do you have a pick for the Super Bowl?

NAD: Both football teams are excellent contenders for the Super Bowl title, but we want to share our excitement about a deaf football player who will be in the Super Bowl this year – Derrick Coleman of the Seattle Seahawks. By all accounts, he is the first deaf player to ever be in the Super Bowl. We wish him well and hope to see more deaf and hard of hearing football players in the NFL and in other major sports. We also want to tell everyone that they can watch Amber's entire performance of the National Anthem online at FOXSports.com/super-bowl or through your tablet (such as an iPad) with the FOX Sports GO app.

Join the discussion

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orlandocarclinic January 31 2014 at 1:01 PM


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jpenders29 orlandocarclinic January 31 2014 at 2:51 PM

Right you are, Orlando. Beautifully done !

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flamsnowmobile January 31 2014 at 10:24 PM

This is really cool. I wish I could learn sign language, because I know people who can't hear or can't talk and this is the way the talk through sign language.

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1 reply
horsestoy flamsnowmobile February 01 2014 at 2:17 AM

A lot of communities offer free classes and they also have books that teach you. The books show how to sign the words and the movements so that it is really easy to understand! Get a book first and see if you think you would enjoy it, because if you don't like it, it will be more difficult to learn because your heart is not in it! Good luck! I loved it, but I was inspired because of my Great

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bertagates January 31 2014 at 9:19 PM

Excellent.....glad to see this happen. It's been a long long struggle for the deaf to be recognized as part of the American Culture.

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1 reply
Sali Eisenberg bertagates January 31 2014 at 10:12 PM

I agree. There are many outlets and services for the blind, but nothing for the deaf and hearing impaired. I have been hearing impaired since birth, and can't afford a decent hearing aid. They are all too expensive, and I don't qualify for assistance.
I'm thrilled that, they are featuring someone to sign the anthem. I will definitely be watching!

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1 reply
horsestoy Sali Eisenberg February 01 2014 at 2:11 AM

I think anyone who is jearing impaired ought to qualify for a decent hearing aid. It should be automatic! You should not have to qualify! I am happy for you though that you get to see someone sign our National Anthem! Yeah!

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Ruth January 31 2014 at 6:53 PM

My parents were deaf, my first language was sign, and it thrilling to know that Amber will sign the national anthem. These musical signs were unknown to me as a child, this is not a word for word translation, but an interpretation of the emotional force of the song.

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punnster January 31 2014 at 6:53 PM

I learned ASL and finger spelling so I could communicate with people I worked with and friends with hearing and speaking disabilities. It enhanced both our lives. By the way, the British finger spelling is far different from that commonly used here in the states which uses only one hand.

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Jon January 31 2014 at 6:54 PM

Based on the countless times our national anthem is "butchered" by pop-stars, it suits me to have the symphony play it while Amber signs it.

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ron January 31 2014 at 6:54 PM

Great job Amber you go girl !!!

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horsestoy February 01 2014 at 1:58 AM

I think it's fantastic! I learned to sign for my great aunt when she went deaf and She would still sing around the house (not in front of people outside the family, she was self conscious) she used to sing in the church choir. She missed hearing music, but she remembered the tunes in her head. So if she were still alive, she would think this was really cool. So I am really thrilled they are doing this for the deaf people watching the game. I think they should do it for all of them! Why not?

And I had no idea Derrick Coleman was legally deaf. I don't mean it should be a big deal, but I would think it would be a little difficult playing any sport being deaf, you have to pay really close attention. I don't mean to sound ignorant, so please no one take offence!

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Love ya Baby February 01 2014 at 1:29 AM

I'm so glad they're having this sign language, I 'm one of those who need to see what theirs are singing in signing, keep up and there so many out there is watching.

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jaydjet January 31 2014 at 7:54 PM

It's good to hear that the deaf are having this time at the game. I think any kids that have problems like this, it is good that they can be honored and be a part of things like this game. What team am I rooting for? Well, I am having a very hard time on this one. I have ALWAYS been a Patriot fam. And, I would like to continue to be one. But, with this tame and Peyton Manning playing, WOW!!!!! I just love his playing, sooooo------WHATEVER!!!!!!

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