USA Informing ASL Teachers About SignWriting

Barbara O'Dea odeab at UNM.EDU
Tue Jan 31 06:40:13 UTC 2006

Hmmmm, advice. I have none really. What I do know is that Deaf people 
have much to offer in their understanding of where a written signed 
language fits in their community. (I'm only familiar with the North 
American situation, and most familiar with the Canadian scene.)

Let me give you two examples of legitimate questions/concerns of members 
of the Deaf community I have discussed writing ASL with.

First, some (I suspect many) Deaf people are uncomfort with written 
English, but they are aware that they must continuously use it if they 
are to maintain proficiency in it. These Deaf people wonder what the 
advantage is to having a written signed language when most of their 
daily lives are filled with using written English for everything and, 
therefore, they must be as good at is as they can be.

A second concern is that ASL could go the way of manually coded English 
systems. Some Deaf people note that although Deaf children are forced to 
use signed English systems at school, they do not use them when they are 
outside school and they are generally not used in the Deaf community. 
So, it seems these systems are useful to hearing people, but in a 
self-serving way for those (often educators) who will not, have not, or 
cannot learn ASL. Additionally, it is probably educators, the majority 
of whom are hearing, who are making the final decision about writing ASL.

If we listen to the genuine concerns of the Deaf community, I think we 
will find both their questions and their insights invaluable.

As for me? I think I said this recently, but I will repeat it here - If 
Deaf children can bring literacy in their first language to English, I 
believe it would be a great advantage. BUT, my belief is not enough, we 
need research.

So, no advice. Just lots of hope. odeeodee

Valerie Sutton wrote:

> SignWriting List
> January 30, 2006
> Barbara - You are absolutely right about this...Excellent point. There 
> is a history behind these issues, related to oppression.
> What advice can you give all of us? How would you approach this? I am 
> very interested in your advice (or anyone else's advice)... smile...
> Val ;-)
> ---------------------
> On Jan 30, 2006, at 11:01 AM, Barbara O'Dea wrote:
>> If we think of the problem as one of ignorance, pride and politics 
>> that can be overcome with information, explanations and descriptions, 
>> we may be on the wrong road to change. I expect that a change in 
>> cultural views, that have evolved in a milieu of oppression and 
>> paternalism, will take a great deal more than providing information. 
>> I thing the task of getting Deaf communities to accept a written 
>> system for their signed langauges must include dealing with those 
>> deep-rooted cultural mores.
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