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

You, Me, Layers? Yes.

All of us have layers. You. Me. Yes.

The complicated layers, countless. The simple layers, countless. What about those layers in between? Still countless.

Neat types of layers? Nah. How we rip those layers off depends on how we perceive the sense of self. Journeys taken can build layers or take them off.

One could rip the layer off like one would rip a bandaid off – the quick the pain is the quicker it goes away. Peel the bandaid and suffer the pain – indefinitely or at least until the bandaid is off.

How we perceive our layers within self can be painful so you can either ignore or delve into yourself. We almost never do things halfway – most likely going to either extreme.

We can reframe our layers until the truth is hidden away or it becomes a glaring light, putting one to shame in this world we live in today – either way. We can move our layers around, whether it is intellectual, cultural, linguistically, racially or the like; throughout all that, do we take the time to really reflect on how we present ourselves or choose the layers to cover ourselves to people?

I wonder if most people use layers to place their own fears into shadows.  I know I do. I struggle with the sense of my self’s layers, what do they mean? How do they reflect the multi-chapter aspect of my own personal book? Does it reflect how much one does not understand about something and their reaction to the concept?

I had a family friend’s daughter announce that the family would be focusing 110% on their child getting an cochlear implant. This was like early 2000’s.  Now the idea of cochlear implants was not new nor the controversy with the idea of such; however, this was someone I knew most of my life and this straightforward news brought a shock to me and some friends of ours and our reaction was not too great.  Afterwards, this person just disappeared. At the same time, I had to turn inward to reflect on the reason why I reacted this way, after all we shared a common bond, the deaf community.

After reading the story above, if you wonder if my response was towards technology, my initial response was regarding technology.  This is where I had to peel a layer away, to ask myself if it was truly technology that I was reacting to, after all I wore hearing aids. It was a long retrospective reflection. Technology is a tool and rightfully so. Technology is manipulated by our own selves.

So then what? As a human, it was language, communication, social and community that me responding in a negative way. In a way, this person was telling me that the upbringing they went through their entire life was a farce or a negative aspect, a type of upbringing I had, despite having hearing parents myself. Technology was one layer, the rest came up when I reframed how I used technology as a deaf person.

Do we build our own layers or do we have others build those layers upon us?  When I think of this, I think of a black person wanting to rip their blackness off themselves so they can pose as a white person because society deems it acceptable. The problem with society is that the concept of layers are multiple and will follow the whims of society, suppressing so many layers that truly make us human.

Ummm…

 

Daily Prompt: Layers

Beyond the Ear: To Be or Not to Be

A paradox is it not? The famous words uttered by actor from Shakespeare’s own words – “to be or not to be”? The ultimate goal of Hamlet was to decide whether he would or not kill himself. In this he also analyzes whether or not there is life after death.

Take off the ‘deafness’ label and put your name on it. Own being deaf, let it immerse into your whole being.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/To_be,_or_not_to_be

This draft has been sitting in my box for three years.  Sometimes when one writes something, it will be difficult to express the thoughts. For me, it is an analysis process, requiring me to assess my thoughts, feelings and be able to express it in a manner that I sincerely hope is clear enough.

To Be or Not to Be…

As someone who is deaf all of her life and until she is with the wind, being deaf is not the whole of me. I own my deafness as a part of my personality, my biological make up and just simply a part of me. This small part is one of many primary parts that guide my journey throughout life.

I cannot imagine my life without deafness. I just cannot.

“Oh but what about sound? You must hear everything! How can you not stand not hearing anything?”

Sounds are just a small part of who we are as humans. Our senses are entwined with each other, that with a loss of one, we have gained more. I still can see, I still can feel (sounds are also vibrations, so essentially I am ‘hearing’ sounds) and I can taste and smell.

Helen Keller said once “Blindness separates people from things; deafness separates people from people.”  People love to repeat this, more so when they do not know, experience or understand either difference in life.

Society is the one that separates people. ‘Civilized’ people are the ones who separate people from one another. Nations are the ones that divide people within their own countries. Being blind will separate one from another person based on their experience. Helen misunderstood what communication really meant, again based on the times she grew up in. Languages mean more than just the words coming out of the mouths of people.

As a deaf person, being deaf does not separate me from people, it allows me to observe them, parody and provides an insight into how the world really works, throwing my rose-colored glasses to the ground and stomping on them until they are in absolute starry pieces.

I prefer my sepia sunglasses that I can hang on my glasses, thank you very much.

Coded Education

From Facebook/my post: Something interesting…after talking to a friend and providing feedback/suggestions on the issue of Cued Speech, I decided to look at my coded sign systems presentation to confirm something… All of the coded systems were created before 1988 (Deaf President Now), approximately 30 years after the linguistic recognition of ASL.  The only coded system created after DPN is Conceptually Accurate Signed English (CASE), which borrows heavily from ASL while maintaining the idea of English grammar structure.

The education system for deaf children needs to heed what is already true…successful citizens need full language access, meaning bilingualism is critical for deaf children.

Language is the ultimate tool, all others are simple tools to achieve the use of language in the real world.

Cued Speech uses what ASL already employs in its function as a true language, the basic function of how language is built. We call this parameters, which functions as phonology structure of language. Cued Speech uses handshapes, location and movement.

The purpose of Cued Speech is to provide English language into a visual mode. In English, 30 percent of the language can be read on the lips, all else requires knowledge of topic, familiarity with person’s lips and the expressive ability to ensure as much information is transmitted.

CS is limited to 13 handshapes and three locations/movements. Those bring out the ‘hidden’ aspects of English – the invisible letters/words that are difficult to see, such as ‘N’ or ‘map/bap/pap’. Contrary to beliefs, the use of spoken language is not required, easy to do yes, but not required.

I really do not want to harp on this specific tool.  I want to bring to light the significance in timeline in how signed systems came into place after the melding and evolution of American Sign Language began in early 1800’s.

The start of ASL’s melding from different sign languages (Old French Sign Language and indigenous village sign languages, such as Martha’s Vineyard SiL) at American School for the Deaf in 1817 has continued to evolve over years, naturally human influenced. In 1880; International Congress on the Education of the Deaf (ICED) met in Milan, Italy (also known as Milan Conference of 1880) to place a ban on sign languages being used to teach subjects in school – globally.

Language Impact on Deaf Community

For the PDF version, please click on LanguageImpact

 

A noticeable difference in the quality of education for deaf children was not recognized until 1920’s. In 1965, a report was released from the Department of Health, Education and Welfare (mind you, 1965) outlining how the method of teaching deaf students using the oral method was not a success. From this time and on until before 1988, a total of 8 signed systems were created, in order to help deaf children learn English.  At the same time of this Babbidge Report, research has already shown that ASL is a bona fide language that deaf people had a hard time accepting that their language was an authentic language, conditioned by English/spoken dominated society, since 1880. This was despite the fact that ASL continued to be used among native/natural ASL users (whether be Deaf, deaf, hard of hearing, CODAs or hearing) in the community.

 This rash of signed system inventions stopped in the late 1980’s, particularly I believe sometimes before Deaf President Now in 1988.  The only invented signed system after this period is Conceptually Accurate Signed English (CASE); which borrows heavily from ASL while strictly maintaining the English grammatical structure.

 What is the difference between ASL and the signed systems?

 ASL has been around for more than 200 years and has evolved from a myriad of existing languages and has been embraced by children of any age.  I can tell you this from my experience growing up in a deaf and hard of hearing program before going to my alma mater and my questioning of others who went through similar programs that children take a strong reprieve from the use of signed systems, naturally, such as recess, break times, side conversations and the like, using a form of language which is similar to ASL. That is why when those students graduate from mainstream schools with the ability to transition between signed systems and the peered ASL, they have the easiest time being accepted and adapt to full ASL because they have already developed their social language with their peers, which unfortunately is less true today as most deaf children are isolated in their schools.

 Signed systems are based on the spoken English language, it is not natural. Also these systems have been created mid 20th century. While they may have the nice goal of building literacy; however, are often taken the wrong way. The main goal is to produce speaking deaf people, not literate, functioning and contributing citizens of the world.

 With signed systems, children cannot play, be naturally creative or produce new signs that fit their generation (fads/slang). They can do this with ASL and English. Children makes the language go around, adults take their experience and make their language static, often struggling with dismay or amusement with their children when they ‘play’ with language.

 The brain knows what it is doing, deaf or hearing. That is why children struggle against something that does not make sense to them, they will find a way to make it simple, creative, and understandable. (http://oes.gallaudet.edu/bl2/; Dr. Laura Petitto)  That is the flexibility we leave behind as we become adults.

For further information about ASL and coded signed systems go to Language or Coded System? (Prezi)

The Importance of Apology

When working with a group of people, some days they can irritate you to a limit that can make or break you.  My breaking points have been reached too far too many times in the last month or so. Most teenagers do not realize that they cannot always get what they want, nor does complaining about it help their case.

This particular day, I conducted a quiz with success during one period; however, it was the next period that had me walking out of my classroom. Consistent whining, asking for repetition, consistent ‘DON’T-UNDERSTAND’ and out the door, I went. It was approximately 45 minutes before I came back into the classroom.  At the end of the bell… this is what I got from a group of students.

Apologize

Apologies are great, but they don’t really change anything. You know what does? Action. ~Stella Young

One thing that irritates me the most about students is their consistent ‘apologizing’ for what they have done, without understanding what it means. Apologies no longer have context, content and intent.  If accompanied with grins, mirth and laughter, the apology definitely has no meat behind it. It is a guarantee that the action will continue to be repeated. It has consistently been proven.

In this case, the main reason why many of the students were complaining, it had to do with the fact that their receptive comprehension skills no longer matter when using sign language.  They can sure sign but they cannot ‘listen’ with their eyes. They think it is okay to sign and speak at the same time at an advanced level of the program.

Pay attention to the person you are apologizing to, even if one says it is ‘fine’, look at the behavior of the recipient, it will be more likely you will find the person indifferent to such apology.  Then it is time for self-reflection.

Do not apologize if you do not mean it, period.

The Wholeness of Deaf Children

 

DeafchildrenentiledDeafcultureAs a parent and as a deaf child of hearing parents, I find myself frequently disappointed that parents do not take their deaf kids out to meet others who are like them, regardless of what language is used by individuals.

Why is this important?  I believe strongly that deaf children need to know that they are human beings, who happen to be deaf.  How in the world of creation (Nature or God) can a group of deaf people create a language and culture out of ‘deficiency’ or an absence of sense?  How?!

HearingparentDeafAdult

From ASL 4 Deaf Kids page on Facebook

The medical profession likes to believe that their answers are the accurate pathways for parents to take. This prevents parents from being able to be encouraged, learn and grow as human beings, in turn their kids to do the same as they grow up into their lifetime journey.

What this means for parents is that they need to take advantage of events that bring a wholeness to individuals and to families.  Whether it be a deaf/ASL Coffee Chat event, a community event such as Deaf Kids Fair (Cincinnati, OH), NWIDHHC Deaf Festival (Northwest Indiana), or American Society for Deaf Children (2015 Conference in Indianapolis, IN), a parent gathering with their kids (for socialization) or basically anything that gives parents and children a chance to be whole – TAKE ADVANTAGE OF THOSE EVENTS.

A child’s life should need not be dictated by medical opinions or the fanciness of technology. The child’s life needs to be encompassed by the WHOLE. Denial of the ‘whole’ is denying the opportunity for growth, adaptation, experience that builds into the mind, soul, body and spirit of self.  If this is not denied to most children who have their hearing, why should it be denied to deaf children?

Remember, we have defied and defined the concept of human culture and language by introducing our own signed languages and cultures. Why deny this natural occurrence for deaf children?

#deaffriendly

Many deaf and hard of hearing people often face challenges when trying to communicate with business owners and we will return to those who have made their business open and accessible to us…often. We can rely on each other to provide positive feedback about businesses that others frequent when we search for a local business to go to.

One example: Before my son was born, I asked a friend of mine which pediatrician she takes her children to. She gave me a name and I have been happy to have the pediatrician as a part of my children’s health because he prefers to have an interpreter in place during appointments, no matter how long we are there. Not only that, it is cute when he asks for signs such as MOM, DAD, or THANK-YOU. He knows that efficiency and effective communication is best between doctors and patients.

I already registered and will be providing positive reviews for a few places, especially those places who have worked with us for more than one year for events and such. Enjoy the beautiful video and John Maucere’s interviews.  #deaffriendly !

 

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.

Tough: Then and Now

Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire. ~William Butler Yeats

In the old days… yes the good golden days of education, we learned content of subjects taught.  We did not have the extensive testing process that the recent, current and probably future generations are going through now.

I had assigned my students a research paper based on Deaf History.  Perhaps I am being mean; however, what I do is also reflective of what I learned, yes from high school.  Those challenges set as a high school student is what prepares you for the future.

oldedeafed

Back to the point, single space, 12 size font, I think 3 to 5 pages, a works cited page is extra and they have 3 and a half weeks to work on that paper.  I did assign a measly low number for points but since then upgraded it. I immediately get complaints from some students, who were vocal than the rest.  I even had a student show me his information about AP English, which was double spaced.

Honestly, it did piss me off. 15 plus years ago, I was in Honors English and Literature (10th and 12th grades). I also had, advanced or honors Political Science and History (10th and 11th grades)not as highly regarded as English/Lit).  Not all of the papers written were double spaced, nor were they one page papers.  I took Physics and Advanced Science in my senior year.

Several reasons I am pissed:

  • 15+ years ago, we had ISTEP, but we were not extensively tested like today’s students.
  • all of the papers assigned since they started class with me were double spaced, this is the first paper (and only planned) to be single spaced and intensively written
  • expectations are radically different
  • deaf versus hearing education standards, whether at a professional or student level
  • the honors and advanced classes I took… where do you think I took those classes?

The very same place that the state decreed in 2011-2012 that the students were performing sub par to their hearing peers in the K-12 system.  The place where direct communication takes place on a daily basis without discrimination, degradation or destruction of self-esteem.  The school, when compared to mainstream schools, performs superbly based on language, education and communication.

I also had my start from one of the best Deaf & Hard of Hearing elementary school program* in any school across the state. I am not lying. My former teacher recently presented at the ASL Coffeehouse event and she confirmed what I said: “I treated the deaf students as children, not only that but the importance of language was emphasized.”  She does not need to boast, she along with the classroom teachers, aides, speech therapists created an environment of learning through sign language (not ASL, one of her wishes that she said she wished to learn back then), communication and application.  Many of the former students have gone out in the world successful; however, we still have to deal with the darker side of our society: high unemployment and discrimination.

classroomdeafed

This was one of the few reasons why my mother told me it would not be a good idea to go to my local public high school my senior year. The opportunities that I get at this school will supersede what I would get at the public high school.  Naturally, being a teenager, we can doubt, hem and haw and eventually acquiescent to our parents wishes, to be thankful some years down the road that our parents are wiser and stronger than we are at the time.

I believe that I am tough to a point because education is not limited to K-12 but a lifelong endeavor wherever we go.  It is also not limited to the academic profession.

Education is not preparation for life; education is life itself. ~John Dewey

*I also attended a well known and successful sign language D/HH program in Wisconsin. 20 something years later, it caters to the oral D/HH program.