Deaf Residential Schools in the US...

K.J. Boal kjoanne403 at HOTMAIL.COM
Fri Jan 12 22:50:38 UTC 2007

>>True of most of the Deaf community here, too!  I do think that's  one of 
>>the biggest hurdles to get over . . . the fact that most  Deaf have never 
>>imagined reading and writing ASL as part of their  lives.  What could make 
>>things more difficult . . . most Deaf don't  like to read or write because 
>>they've only been exposed to written  English, which they find difficult 
>>to understand!  Most Deaf don't  read for pleasure . . . an attitude I 
>>can't even begin to imagine,  since I can't remember ever not being able 
>>to read (been doing it  since the age of 3) and have loved reading ever 
>>since.  I'm not  sure quite how to cross that chasm. . .
>Oh. I can imagine not reading at all. Strange to hear me say that,  isn't 
>it? I love living in a visual world...
>Have you ever lived in a foreign country with no clue as to what the  
>street-signs say in the written language of the country? Have you  ever 
>been with a group, where you are the only foreigner, and  everyone else 
>speaks another language? I have. And at first I hated  it, but then I grew 
>to respect the process of learning what was going  on visually, never truly 
>understanding anything that was said. The  world became visual for awhile, 
>since the sounds meant nothing, and I  observed body language to get by. At 
>the end, just smiling was the  only solution to a conversation totally past 
>my head...not knowing  anything of what just transpired and wondering if it 
>really mattered  anyway...If people went away thinking I understood them 
>they were  wrong...I think a lot of hearing people assume that 
>understanding is  happening between deaf and hearing when it is not...

I actually haven't really had that experience . . . I did go to Uruguay in 
2000, but I had already learned some Spanish and I could follow some 
conversations, especially toward the end of the week.  And I can read 
Spanish quite well - a lot better than I can speak or understand by hearing 

>Reading Danish for pleasure? Well...I am at around the third grade  reading 
>level in Danish...that means I can peruse a magazine in  relaxed Danish, 
>and with the combination of the pictures and the easy  language I get the 
>idea...but sitting down and reading a thick  complex Danish novel about a 
>subject matter I know nothing about,  without any illustrations...for a 
>third-grade level reader in  Danish...that is not a pleasure...that is 
>work! hoping I can  understand half of it is a struggle to be sure I got 
>all the nuances  of advanced reading...and newspapers...forget it...too 
>many large  words I did not know...

Again, I have had that experience in Spanish . . . I wanted to learn it 
since I was a kid but didn't have the opportunity until university . . . I 
took to it quickly but you're right, I have to admit I don't know my own 
reading level in Spanish but it must be at least grade 2 or 3.  I have a 
Spanish book that I started reading (I had actually read it in English first 
and then found the Spanish translation . . . I would love to have a Spanish 
book that's actually originally written in Spanish, instead of having to 
trust that the translators did a good job! but most Spanish books I can find 
around here don't look like the kind of books I'd be interested in reading 
even if they were in English); anyway, I started reading it but I stopped 
after a while because it was a lot of effort.  The grammar I've got down 
pretty well, but a lot of the vocabulary I don't know, and trying to figure 
out every 4th or 5th word from context is a lot of work!  So I guess I do 
understand that after all.  Newspaper and magazine articles I think I can 
read, though . . .
>Not true for my native language English...
>But my third grade reading level in my second language Danish is a  
>struggle and I make no is not an attitude - it is a  reality 
>of skill and understanding...

It is a reality, for sure!

>Deaf people are forced to read their second language, a spoken  language, 
>with no writing system for their first language...that is  totally unfair! 
>And not reading for pleasure is  based on how skilled you 
>are in the language you are reading...

That's for sure!  I was interpreting for a fourth grade Deaf student last 
year, which is why I looked into SignWriting in the first place.  His 
concept of reading was, "word I never use ... word I never use ... word ... 
word I don't know so look up at interpreter for sign ... word I never use 
..." (he had signs for things like "the", "by", "a", etc. but as you know, 
ASL does not use these words so he only encountered them in English texts.)  
And his only strategy for figuring out an unfamiliar word was to ask me what 
it meant.  And honestly, what could I do?  Tell him to sound it out?  :-)  
Figure it out from context?  That only works when you have a clue what 
"context" is, and some idea of how the language is put together.  That's why 
I thought we needed SignWriting so much, so I could actually tell him to 
think about it and figure it out himself.  And then of course there are all 
the idioms in English . . . three or four words in a row that don't make any 
sense if you don't know the phrase . . . and that's another thing, he didn't 
have any concept of a phrase.  Often he would start to read an idiom and 
there would be one word in it he didn't know, so I would bracket the phrase 
with my fingers and tell him that those three (or however many) words 
together meant (whatever sign).  I didn't know if he was learning anything 
until the other interpreter and I switched for a little while (she had some 
physical challenges so I was taking a field trip for her or something), and 
she watched him read; and he finger-bracketed a phrase and signed its 
translation to her!  (Any sign of learning was encouraging to us . . . the 
kids had such low language even in ASL, that we were never sure what was 
getting through and what wasn't.)  I had thought for some time that a way to 
write ASL would be a good idea . . . but working with this child really 
kick-started me into looking into it.

There's my little vent ... I'm not working with him this year because my 
evaluation didn't go well ... the other interpreter's didn't go well either 
and she has 30 years' experience (or more)!  So I don't know just what was 
going on ... but I'm not working with Deaf at all this year, which is kind 
of slowing down my SW advocating, though I am still in touch with his new 
interpreter and she is interested in SW.  Things are moving pretty slowly 
there, though.  Anyway.  I have some understanding of what Deaf go through 
because of trying to read Spanish, but even at that I know that I don't 
fully understand because I did have language arts education in English, and 
I had learned these higher-level skills and strategies that do transfer.  
(For example, I have learned to contextualize and I do it automatically, 
whether I'm reading English or Spanish; but many Deaf have trouble 
contextualizing because they've never learned to do it in ASL.)

It's kind of like trying to figure out what it's like being Deaf by watching 
TV with the sound off.  Sure, you have to try to figure out what's going on 
by watching peoples' actions, expressions and whatever lipreading you can 
do, but you start to notice that you still have the sounds around the house: 
  the refrigerator running, the hum of the TV, cars passing outside . . . 
it's a hint of what it's like, but it's not the complete experience.

>I have to get off my soap box...and must rest and prepare the  Handwriting 

Me too . . . rest well and looking forward to the Handwriting lessons coming 
up! :-)  Bye for now,
Kelly Jo

>Have a great evening everyone -
>Val ;-)

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