The American Bilingual

A story told during a meeting:

“I told a student who reached level 5 that they are now Americanized (or possibly ‘you are English’), they got upset.”

I nearly shook my head but my jaw dropped and naturally, no one would see that. I feel for the student who was told that they were Americanized because of English. It offended the person’s Hispanic/Latino heritage and Spanish fluency.

Why would a white woman be offended by this statement?  I am a bilingual person, one whose language is as oppressed as the American Spanish speaker.

I use American Sign Language.  I also use English. Fluently.

Oh no! America is not bilingual! The monolinguals stomp around and rant.

Wait, I should rephrase my title to ‘The United States Bilingual’.  America is actually North America, which compromises Canada and Mexico, effectively making the entire North America continent multilingual.

Why is the United States still so defiantly blind to reality!?

The student could have been told ‘you can add English to your list of languages you know fluently’ without demeaning their own heritage. One will be richer having more than one language rattling around inside their brain.

bilingual

Advertisements

RAH RAH RAH!

Every time….

I devoted 8 and a half years to this sport and every time…

‘No it is not a sport.’

Seriously!?  Back in the days, we ran, we stretched, we suffered injuries, went through them and supported our schools and teams, competed and went to camp. Oh and yeah, we had practice!!!

And what?!  Not a sport. Let’s see, injuries that happened in our youth can affect us in our wise elder years. My knees hurt, sometimes I twinge my back and even my nose is affected from too many butts on them during seasons.

Hon’ folks… cheerleading is a sport.

Untitled

We were spirit leaders, we were equally expected to have excellent sportsmanship and to represent our schools well.

Not a sport?!?  I will drop a butt on your nose.

9/11

Today is like any other day. Days blur.

I write 11 September when students ask to go to the bathroom or I write in assignments for the day as if nothing has passed since 2001. Then it will hit me, just for a second the weight of the event.

So far removed from the events of the day, it is easy to just let the days blur on by and make a quick remembrance for those who have died.  To be frank, on that day, I walked by the televisions on campus. I did not know of the Twin Towers, Pennsylvania fields and the Pentagon until I arrived on campus.

While I sympathize, I cannot empathize because the experience would be vastly different if I were at ground zero at any of those sites. I still have that weight, but not enough to stop for a minute or two to remember.

Events since that day has demonstrated the path the world is taking and that is a much scarier path we celebrate.  We accuse all Muslims for the actions of the radical few who destroyed lives for their beliefs. We accuse all dark-skinned people for the burden that they place upon us in voice of privilege. We accuse all people with disabilities for the burden of breaking down barriers.  We accuse those who speak a different native American language instead of acknowledging the humanity of the same.

What journey have we taken since 9/11 and where are we going? Are we going to stop for a moment or two and look within and realize that the accusations are our own as well?

It may be cold of me that day when I walked by the televisions – “It’s about time.”

via Daily Prompt: Sympathy

Safe Space

What do you think of once you see the title ‘Safe Space’?

A safe space is safe as long as people within that space respects those who are within that space. Whether they agree to disagree, ask for better understanding or acknowledge that there is difference in who we are.

My classroom, I have noticed, is often a safe space for students. I tend to have different kinds of people; whether they be people of color, LGBT, a person with disability or bilingual. I attended a professional development presentation on campus where I realized that I tend to not send students of color outside of my classroom for the slightest thing.

While my classroom is a safe space for students, it is not one for me. How can a classroom not be a safe space for someone like me?

SafeSpaceIntersectionality

Created by me…

I teach American Sign Language and I am deaf. Naturally, I do struggle with students speaking in the classroom where I practice 90% or more use of target language with pictorial and written English supplemental information. One thing that has been constant, students thinking that I cannot tell if they are speaking (there are some exceptions…) or I am faking my own deafness (vibrations!).

I deal with a wide range of people who hear on a daily basis, approximately 80% of my time. It can get tiring and frustrating, at the same time excited, especially when someone tries to sign back or efficient communication.

I consider my classroom my own personal safe space where I can teach students about ASL, Deaf culture and the people who live within this community. Yet one thing that could make a personal difference within this space that can be transferred out to the real world…is the consistent use of spoken English.

This includes signing and speaking at the same time, which is deteremental to the ability to understand ASL, especially when it is signed. Like learning any language and I can share this from my personal experience learning French, it is not enough just knowing vocabulary and grammar, it is the ability to be able to converse in the language one is learning – at any level.

When a simple policy of not speaking English but signing or using other communication method is established, there is a reason for that – language wise; human wise or for real world application.  Is it a wonder that my safe space is also threatened?  How can I encourage consistent safe space for my students?

I wonder if it is the same for those who are like a fish out of water – marginalized and minority people teaching in majority population locations.

 

Life…Meaningless?

Life without technology or global communications would be as complicated as it is now.  Dying one day without knowing why allows us to revere the natural world and our part in it, as well as resepcting the inclusion of our species within its circle of life.

why am I being fatalistic today?  The ways of the world for a long time has weighed heavily on my mind and my soul.  I fear nothing but death. Death, why? I do not like missing out on anything, thanks to my experience and an aspect of myself – curiousity.

April’s National Geographic covered the topic of future of humans, climate change, degradation of natural resources (due to climate change, human practices and behaviors).

Changes have been coming and they still will be coming. Genetic change? Here. Bionic implants are already here. Superiority, thanks to Darwin, already been here for a thousand years thanks to European “civilization”. Thank you, Charles Darwin and the scientists whom have followed afterwards.

Most of the time I wish Darwin never got anywhere.  The survival of the fittest doesn’t mean humans should go willy nilly on making changes on a genetic level that will impact our species and the world in so few generations.  Well, that’s already happening despite what Congress or the climate change naysayers are telling us.

Being deaf is a way of life just as being a short lady with curly hair and blue eyes. Despite the gains that we bring to the world, we still will be eradicated.  Someone who is colorblind appreciates what life has to offer until an implant allows them to ‘see’ beyond.  The gap will continue widen between people as they have done today with wealth and intelligence.  The next gap is between those who choose the natural path and those who choose bionics.

Bionics are just tools that will take the human extreme of ‘survival of the fittest’ to a level where ethics will ignored, be damned the human species.

With what we are doing to the world, ourselves with technology and war, has not life become meaningless?  Am I raising my children to value life, only to have it turned back on me just because I happened to be different from them? Am I teaching children to value the world more than technology only to have them make the decision to support linguicide as well as genocide?

I will continue to live…when death comes at my door, I welcome it.  No longer shall I look to the future with such curiousity.

Love.Hate.G.March2017

Drawing by my soon to be 8 year old. 

via Daily Prompt: Meaningless

Jumbled Thoughts Now

screen-shot-2016-11-10-at-8-57-57-pm

Personal photo; Instagram

I voted. Yep, I did. I voted in both parties.

I am a moderate. Each party has its own values and perspectives. I can get and support fiscal responsibility and I also see the importance of hiring qualified people with disabilities.

This is an election that I have never thought to fear the outcome…either way.

Fear for myself, a white woman who is deaf and a bilingual speaker (American Sign Language and English). Fear for my husband, while a white male, is also a deaf person of second generation and a bilingual.

Fear for my bilingual children, who will take upon themselves the responsibility and burdens that we leave with them after our decisions. Our decisions as Americans through election of representatives.

I voted.

I shared my thoughts in person or on social media. I respected others’ thoughts and I tried to understand from their perspective. This is where we are stumped. We all have perspectives; however, our life’s journey are not the same way. We will share some same qualities that provide similar perspectives, yet be on polar opposites because of our personal experiences.

I woke up Wednesday morning as it was any other day, but creeping within my thoughts was the outcome of the election. Not only the Presidential race, also the Congress and my lovely State of Indiana. Turns out…America bleeds Red.

I spent the day distracted, checking Facebook and news often, to get the pulse of the nation, at least amongst friends and family. I look around my classroom and the hallways and wonder what they think of me now. Now that the country bleeds red, Republican red – not human red.

Now it is the second day after the election and news are not looking good. Trump finds out that the Congress may even block his actions. I said it before and I will say it again, it is not only the Presidential race we should have been watching, but the Congressional races. There are stories of parents who had to pick up their kids earlier in the day because white kids decided to tell the black kids that they should not be here or tell the Latinx that they will be going home.

So when would it be our turn? Yes I ask that because recently I presented atscreen-shot-2016-11-10-at-8-59-15-pm TEDxValparaisoUniversity about being a part of each other’s communities while retaining our own values, languages and cultures, mutual respect. More people have communicated with simple THANK-YOUs when we go elsewhere and it is appreciated. Now I have to look over my shoulder and wonder… guess what, it already came.

The posting you see to the right was posted by someone who I know and respect and was shared by a friend on Facebook. The irony in this is the person who was yelled at is a hearing person whose parents are deaf. An ally and a dear friend of our deaf community and this is what she gets.

It has arrived. I voted.

As a white woman who is deaf and bilingual, my life and those whose threads go through me connecting, the fear is real. My stomach still hurts and no, it is not ulcers…yet.

At least America agrees with this:

screen-shot-2016-11-10-at-8-58-53-pm

Resources: http://johnpavlovitz.com/2016/11/10/white-christians-who-voted-for-donald-trump-fix-this-now/

Good News: http://www.cracked.com/blog/dont-panic/

http://gothamist.com/2016/11/10/subway_therapy_messages.php#photo-1

Daily Post Connection Themes: Smoke, Banned, Transformed, Urgent, Trust, Test.

Disagree with #hearing privilege?

The last week in September is International Deaf Awareness Week and a new hashtag came up: #hearingprivilege. Naturally, people reacted. The way of the world today is to react as quick as you can and regret your thoughts later.

Most deaf people are not complaining, just showing a way of life that we cherish and at the same time can be negative by outsiders’ perspectives. People think we’re complaining because life is not fair. Hon’, we all know life ain’t fair most of the time. That is why it is a journey that we travel throughout our life.

That is why it is okay to agree to disagree; however, I digress. If one disagrees on basis of not understanding why they disagree, then we cannot agree to disagree. The purpose of #hearingprivilege is to enlighten people about the struggles we go through daily. Many people will have never realized this behavior because they did not have the opportunity to be aware of it.

Examples of the hashtag available on Facebook and Twitter:

#HearingPrivilege is never having my intelligence or work ability questioned based on my language modality. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/hearing-privilege_us_57ebd4c5e4b024a52d2bb142?section=women& This article has more hashtags.

or #hearingprivilege is never having to hear the words, “Never mind”, or “I will tell you later” during family dinners and conversations.

This is an opportunity to personally analyze the response we see and react to when we see words that challenge us on a daily or frequent basis. This opportunity I presented to my students with varied responses, average result would be opening of the minds, yet there are some responses where “Hearing Privilege” does NOT exist.  Hon’, this is the real world – not the ‘hearing’ world – the REAL world. Privilege exists and will always exist. How we respond to the privilege is what will gain the most in the path to enlightenment.

Sorry, if one does NOT believe in privilege, the ability to be open about the paths that the world turns on will be a narrow one. Even, I as a deaf person, took the time to analyze what #hearingprivilege means because my experience as a deaf person is not always the same as the other deaf person. I will be grateful for those opportunities because of parents who were opening their world to include their children’s worlds. That was why I try to add #deafgain, which is how deaf people contribute to the world through our differences to positively enhance the real world, benefitting others who are not deaf or sign language users.

Sometimes it is hard to accept that privilege and even harder to change, remember it is better to have tried than never tried. Imagine how many new relationships one will have with a diverse group, just because one began to understand and will be able to agree to disagree.

Below is a good video of an explanation regarding #hearingprivilege.

via Daily Prompt: Disagree

A Disposable Life

2016 – it is and always going to be a way to dispose human beings, just because they happen to be different from the mainstream or the majority.

Records for more than two or three thousand years talk about how babies and children would be abandoned because they happen to be different – the most obvious are the physical differences and the least obvious would be the sensory differences; nonetheless, de nada baby be gone!

There will be cultures who cherished their people who were different; giving them status equivalent to an elder or medicine man/woman. Those cultures understood what it means to be spiritually connected; a lesser chance for the disposal of such quality of being.

It is unfortunate that after such a long history, we – the different, the despised, the minority – are still disposable. The video below describes the impact of homelessness and how we regard it as individuals and as a global society.

HomelessDisposablehttps://www.facebook.com/plugins/video.php?href=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2FNowThisNews%2Fvideos%2F1098626593560797%2F&show_text=1&width=560

I have to be honest here – I was ready to disregard the video until ‘disposable human’ came into a conversation. It hit me.  I am a disposable deaf human being according to the medical profession. I am a disposable bilingual human being according to White America (and so it happens, I am white).  I am a disposable female human being despite outnumbering males and so on. I am entirely disposable.

A disposable human being that under all this – I bleed as red as anyone on this world just as the disposable homeless bleeds red on the street.

Language or Code?

Here is a picture created by Deaf Revolution and posted to Facebook by Deaf Pride.  1005412_651677811526452_563298360_n

This picture is in conflict.  (I couldn’t make the picture larger.)  The concept is clear.

How do we determine what is language and what is code?  Code meaning a system that is created off another language to facilitate information exchange. Essentially, a coded system.

Here we have is a stoplight: Red (LSL: Listening and Spoken Language), Yellow (SEE: Signing Exact English) and Green (ASL: American Sign Language).

The concept is clear for many who have gone through denial of access to a natural language or those who have struggled with two languages: American Sign Language and English, mainly the spoken form.  While each have their own benefits or pros and cons, the one the most struggle with is LSL and SEE. When deaf people begin to see and adopt ASL, they feel that they have come home.

So ok, the concept is clear. So why is the picture wrong?

LSL: Listening and Spoken Language is the new word for Auditory-Verbal Therapy and Oral Method.  This is where many deaf children will go through in the beginning of their lives, regardless if they use technology or not.  This approach is common because parents want their children to be like them when it comes to language and culture.  The language in use in America is English. The emphasis is to learn how to listen and speak English, without use of sign language.  In fact, ASL or sign language is banned from use because it is believed that the use inhibits the ability to speak.

SEE: Signed Exact English is signs  based on spoken English. The most common belief is that the use of SEE in the education system will help with English literacy.  It does help certain number of children but not a lot.  The word order is based on English word order and often will initialize the sign such as the handshape F used in the sign for FREE; whereas, a fist is used in ASL.  Emphasis is to use signs in English order to make hearing people (in general) happy.  Only a few are successful English literate people, the rest are still confused to what is used in English.  Honestly, deaf people make fun of this system by using it around people who can’t stand it. Hehe.

ASL: American Sign Language is a living language, over 200 years old and based in America. This is what deaf people who sign use daily. Even if they use SEE, they will automatically switch over to ASL because this is the natural form of language.  ASL is a language tied to linguistic rules, just like any other language whether spoken or signed and has its own culture.  This language has been a growing educational subject and only just recently in the last 20 years joined the linguistic research field.  This is the language many deaf people feel at home with.

Ok back to point, why is the picture contrary?

LSL is an approach or a method that uses teaching skills, resources and materials to encourage someone to listen to and speak a spoken language.  The language in use is a language, no argument about that.  Again, LSL is a teaching method, not a language or a coded system.  Examples may include covering of mouth to encourage listening and repetition of words for comprehension.

SEE is a coded system based off of another language, a spoken one. It has no true linguistic rules nor does it have a culture.  The main source of use is in the education system as previously explained.  There is only one creole system that bridges English and ASL but violates both of the languages and that is Pidgin Signed English, not SEE.  SEE also simultaneously uses spoken English which ‘bastardizes’ ASL and English.  This system comes out of the total communication approach of the 1940-50’s, when educators realized that oralism was failing students.

ASL is a true language. As mentioned, the involvement in linguistic research field is new; however, it has created some influence on other spoke languages such as the concept of ‘space’.  Without the use of an interpreter, no hearing person with little to none sign language knowledge will understand.  Both hearing and deaf people require alternate communication methods to bridge communications (not languages).  Most deaf people are bilinguals – they use ASL and are English literate, who can or may not be able to speak English.  ASL is also a culture – a highly visual/tactile culture.  Lights are required, vibrations are necessary and how we approach people are different from other cultures.

You have totally three different schools of thoughts on a stoplight. Again the concept is clear, to us who know what this is all about.  We do acknowledge that there are successful cases for the first two, most often the world is broadened when ASL is added and deaf people, including children of deaf parents and some hearing people have found home.