[sw-l] Re:

Stuart Thiessen sw at PASSITONSERVICES.ORG
Fri Jan 21 17:39:58 UTC 2005

Actually, for our community, we have found that the vast majority of
deaf people here have no clue that SW even exists.  At first, there is
the natural skepticism, but as they see how SW naturally conveys the
movements they use in signing, they become more interested.  Now, I
have also observed that those who are well-versed in English (or
perceive themselves that way) tend to be less interested in SW and
consider it a waste of time. Those who struggle with English tend to
see this as a valuable way to express themselves.  So their level of
bi-lingualism and whether they accept the American mono-lingual
imperative makes a big difference in how they respond to SW.

We have also used Sequoyah's story (to show the value of writing
systems for minority languages) and explained the history of SW and
compared it to other hearing imposed systems. Philip and I are
impressed with Valerie's commitment to respecting deaf culture and
process while still championing the value of her system. We have done
our best to communicate that difference.  When deaf people here learn
how written language has benefitted other minority language groups that
tend to be oppressed in majority language settings and when they see
how Valerie has done her best to respect our language and culture, they
tend to put aside the cultural issues and focus on the practical issues
of "Will this work for me?"

That is our experience.  Another email mentioned "The Deaf Community as
a whole has not accepted ..." I think that is a bunch of nonsense.  I
think the vast majority of deaf Americans don't even know about it or
if they did, it was only in passing and that initial glance often only
catches the "complicated" symbols rather than the system behind it.
Most of the people who complain that it is too complicated tend to take
that back after they take the time to let me explain how the system
works. Of course, if they never take the time to look at it, then they
continue this misperception that SW is too complicated to learn. So, it
is just the process of getting the word out and showing its benefits.

Personally, I think for some (not all), it is a matter of felt
superiority. Some get a feeling of superiority over other deaf people
by having a better command of English. These same people may or may not
be as fluent in ASL and theoretically could lose some of their
"position" in the culture if ASL had its own written form. If ASL
literacy really took off, then you could have some very literate ASL
people who may or may not be as literate in English. I also think SW
will benefit ESL programs for deaf people and I think that SW will give
an outlet for people who struggle with English to develop literacy
skills in ASL. Those skills may or may not help them with English, but
at least they will have an avenue for expressing their thoughts, ideas,
and dreams in written form. As I understand, this kind of situation is
somewhat common for minority languages which do not have a written
system yet.

Of course, we need hard data on this for SW, but based on writing
systems for other minority groups, I can't imagine that it would be any
different for our deaf communities.



On Jan 21, 2005, at 8:12, dparvaz at MAC.COM wrote:

>> Maybe my insight as a Deaf American will help. Deaf in the community
>> I am in at least don't want a written system from a hearing person
>> because hearing people have opressed deaf any times, and some still
>> do ...
> Granted. And so when a hearing person comes in with something to do
> with language, or education, or anything, there is initial skepticism:
> is this one more "cha-head hearing" thing? Were Deaf  people involved?
> What kind of deaf? REAL Deaf or "think-hearing" deaf? And so on. After
> all, what set the Abbé de l'Épée apart from others isn't that he
> didn't come up with some nutty pedagogical technique ("methodical"
> signs) so much as he was humble enough to ask the Deaf to teach him
> first.
>>  The way for SW to become generally accepted (at least here in the
>> US) will be for a few Deaf who see why SW would be good and to show
>> that to the rest of the Deaf.
> And in this environment is means devising easy methods of writing SW,
> both with a pencil and with a computer.

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