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From:  Ingvild Kristine Roald
Date:  Sat May 15, 1999  2:25 pm
Subject:  Re: A Question I Can't Answer...

Hi all,

I agree with Joe Martin that it is important to teach children that
Sign Languages are not just visual ways of showing the spoken
languages, but has their own grammar, syntax and history; and go with
their own cultures. On the other hand, while this is done, I find it
OK to teach children - and adults - 'a few signs', because that will
both wet their appetite of learning more, and help them in contact
with Signing people later on. Thus I would try to get all new
'movement songs' to use the aprporiate signs, and likewise in
children's plays. But always with the understanding that this is not
the language, but just some 'words' from it.


What Joe Martin wrote:

Thank you Deborah, for a great post that said a lot of what I wanted to
say; Likewise to Angus, for the same reason.
That seems contradictory, doesn't it!!

On the one hand, it is firmly established that learning of a second
language along with the first aids in both linguistic and cognitive
development. Studies proving this stem largely out of research into the
myth (as it proved to be) that learning ASL retards development of

On the other hand, Angus is correct is warning that "learning a few signs"
is counterproductive, and that the culture, along with the grammar and
vocabulary, must be incorporated. Otherwise the lesson will be that signs
are mere substitutes for English words.

The difference is that "learning a few words" of Tagalog or Navaho
doesn't activate this myth, as we all know that these languages have their
own communities and attendant cultures. A century ago this wasn't true;
the myth then was that these were "primitive" languages, not equal to
English, and their speakers were not as capable of clear thought.
The task for educators today is to present ASL along with Chinese,
Hopi and English as equal and respectable alternative languages. I'd say
this can best be done by bringing them into the classroom at any
opportunity, *but *only with an understanding of the cultural issues
involved so that they are presented in a manner that is not demeaning.
It's not what you teach, but how.

So with that caveat in mind, I am in favor of teaching signs to hearing


On Wed, 12 May 1999, Deborah Holden wrote:

> I read Valerie's email and wanted to respond. Wow! What a technological
> wonder. I was recently given a copy of a local newspaper article and to cut a
> long story short I was able to scan it and after 2 hours of word processing I
> got it to be readable. I hope it helps. Also I want to say that I personally
> loved Angus B. Grieve-Smith's response. I agreed with it too. I just thought
> that this article was another thing to consider. Deborah
> Here is a question that I just received - about research on using sign
> language with "hearing students". Does anyone on the SW List have
> suggestions as to how I should answer this question? I do not know where to
> send her, for the information she needs....
> A Good Sign: ASL Helps Readers
> By Liza N. Burby
> HEARING KIDS who learn American Sign Language can improve their reading
> skills, says Cindy Bowen principal of Berkshire Elementary School in Baltimore
> County, Md. She was instrumental in bringing sign to most of the primary
> schools in Baltimore, where word recognition improved by at least 10 percent,
> and in some cases, 50 percent, in one school year.
> "Sign helps kids remember the written word better," she explains. "In ASL, so
> many signs are like the word, so when kids see the word 'dog,' for example,
> they remember it. Also, our muscles help us retain memory. It doesn't take a
> lot of memory for the muscles to react when someone throws you a ball. When
> kids learn the ASL alphabet using their fingers and hands, you can see them
> spelling with their fingers during a spelling tests.
> m Children who learn ASL improve their vocabulary by 15 to 20 percent,
> according
> to Marilyn Daniels, professor of speech communication at Pennsylvania State
> University in Scranton. "Sign gives kids concepts for things they can't see in
> pictures, like the word 'allegiance,' for instance, which they use every day
> school when they sing the pledge. There is also less conflict in the
> because teachers who use sign give directions in ASL and kids seem eager to
> show they know the ++/- ecret code k
> m Parents can learn ASL with their kids, although Daniels recommends trying
> stay a step ahead because children pick it up faster than adults. She
> parents who use ASL can better help their young children learn to read and
> improve communication with their kids. Most communication between parent and
> child is not done face-to-face with eye contact, but when you use ASL, you
> to look at each other, m she says. "Kids like it better, too, and are more
> to respond. It's also a fun thing to do together."
> In addition, because ASL is considered a language, you will be helping your
> children learn a second language, and research shows that the earlier kids
> learn another language, the easier it is to learn more. Sign also helps teach
> acceptance of others and allows kids the ability to communication with
> hearing-impaired children and adults. "We teach kids that sign is someone's
> language and we need to respect it," Bowen says.
> For parents interested in learning ASL, Daniels recommends "The American
> Language Dictionary" (Random House, $22.50). There are many ASL books for kids
> in the library, and you might also want to try two award-winning sign videos
> from Aylmer Press for kids 2 and older, "Sign and ABC'S: A New Way to Play"
> "Sign Songs: Fun Songs to
> Sign and Sing." A third video, oC eginning Reading and Sign Language, m has
> gotten good
> reviews. Price is $14.98 each; call from Aylmer Press, 888-SIGN-IT-2.
> Young Columnist. Stephanie Ham-
Ingvild Kristine Roald
Institutt for Praktisk Pedagogikk
Universitetet i Bergen


tel: +47 55 58 47 98 +47 55 11 86 00 +47 55 28 34 34
fax: +47 55 58 48 80 +47 55 11 86 01

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