News from Quebec

Louis-Félix Bergeron hf091587 at ER.UQAM.CA
Thu May 20 23:33:22 UTC 2004

Hi everybody!

I wanted to share a few Quebec news with you. I'm amazed by what is
starting to happen here.

Two weeks ago, there was a french-speakin symposium in Montreal on some
deaf issues (sign language research, bilingualism and literacy,
psychosocial issues in deafness, etc.). I presented there some of my
research on the relevance to have a writing system for Quebec Sign
Language (LSQ). Of course, I presented briefly SignWriting (people was
quite intrigued by this system not created by a linguist but by a
dancer). The reaction of the assistance was very positive. Even if the
Deaf people in the assistance didn't show a great deal of interest into
writing LSQ, I felt a big "wow!" in the hearing people. For exemple,
hearing parents of deaf children said "This could help us to learn sign
language because when we had our sign language classes, we had some
problems with the signs notation to remember them. With that kind of
system, it will be easier to learn and remember signs." Some school
interpreters were also very interested by the idea of writing sign
language. I had a few disappointments with the half-heartedness of the
Deaf and with the question of the inclusion of SW in mainstreaming
schools. The Quebec Deaf community is rather small, but very spread over
a large territory. We have very few schools with Deaf classes and the
majority of deaf children are mainstreamed, sometimes with LSQ (or
pidgin) interpreter, sometimes with oral (or Sim Com, Cued Speech,
Signed French, etc.) interpreter, sometimes only with hearing aids. More
and more deaf children receive a cochlear implant. So in such a context,
I wonder how could SW work here. But I was quite happy with the
generally positive reactions when I talked about this writing system.

A few days later, a speech therapist that had worked with me on this
presentation for the symposium told me she is trying to include SW in
her therapies. The other therapists working with her seem interested as
well, but we are facing quite a big problem : we have lit a fire but we
have no written material to make it burn. The deaf people I have talked
to also told me "We agree to use SW in education, but everything is in
ASL and we don't have time to prepare LSQ school material ourselves, so
we can't "afford" to use SW because we don't have enough resources to
deal with it and we are doing quite well without it."

So I can see a need for SW in Quebec, but we also need written material
in LSQ. We are not yet ready to provide this material, but I'm glad to
see that I'm not the only one in Qc who thinks that it would be relevant
to use a writing system for LSQ. I am also a bit suprised because I
expected a lot of resistance against the idea to write in LSQ. But it
seems that the resistance problem isn't as bad as the material problem.
There is interest in SW but, first things first, we have to make school
books, stories, lessons in LSQ-SW. Once we will have some material, it
will be easier to spread the "Good News" about SW. Even if our "little
mainstreamed deaf population" context may not seem very welcoming for
SW, I realize that the interest for SW could be very suprising. However,
we have to support this interest with written material.

That's the Quebec news for today. A bientot!


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