[sw-l] Re:

Stuart Thiessen sw at PASSITONSERVICES.ORG
Sat Jan 22 23:31:53 UTC 2005

I apologize if my email came across as saying you believed this.  I was
merely responding to the quote, not to you as a person.  My apologies.
I hear that so often, and yet, so few deaf people actually tell me they
have heard of SW, so I am very skeptical when people say that the deaf
community as a whole does not accept SignWriting.

I have one person here in Iowa who is an employee of the Deaf Services
Commission of Iowa (our Commission for the Deaf/HH) and she insists on
saying that ASL cannot be written and that ASL is a conceptual
language, etc. in her attempts to point out the unique nature of our
language and culture. Despite my showing evidence of written ASL, etc.,
she stubbornly refuses to change her perspective on this. She is
hearing but has deaf family. It is interesting to see how that kind of
resistance by "deaf-friendly" hearing people can cause others to not be
as receptive to something that can help.



On Jan 21, 2005, at 15:28, Ruth Kartchner wrote:

> I think we need to be careful with misquoting :) I say it the best
> possible way. "I" was quoting when I said
> "The Deaf Community as a whole has not accepted ..."
> and "I" was questioning that very thing :)
> I like your comments, Stuart, about the commonalities you see between
> the Deaf and other minorities. I just came back from Bolivia, and
> everything you said could be applied to their situation. Most of their
> indigenous languages do not have a written form, and they are working
> on this as best they can.
> Ruth Claros-Kartchner
> ----- Original Message -----
> From: "Stuart Thiessen"
> To: sw-l at majordomo.valenciacc.edu
> Subject: Re: [sw-l] Re:
> Date: Fri, 21 Jan 2005 11:39:58 -0600
>> 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.
>> Thanks,
>> Stuart
>> 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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