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From:  Amy Ruberl
Date:  Thu Oct 19, 2000  12:16 am
Subject:  Re: Article on early-childhood language acquisition Newsweek

>The error here is in equating "failure to develop LANGUAGE" with "failure
>to develop ENGLISH"--the deaf child mentioned previously, now, at age six,
>can speak some English words but does not form sentences in English;
>indeed, "she may never have an intuitive feel for syntax."
>But she could have developed a feel for the syntax of a SIGNED language,
>had she had exposure to it during the critical period.

I agree with you that the lack of reference to signed languages is
frustrating. Although, 90% of deaf children are born to hearing parents.
It takes 5-7 years of rigorous study and interaction with native speakers
to become fluent in any second language, including sign language.
Therefore, when a hearing parents finds out their child is deaf they are
essentially learning a language at the same time they are trying to teach
it to their child. They are not good language/linguistic models for their
child. Therefore, even deaf children exposed to sign at an early age by
hearing parents may not acquire "an intuitive feel for syntax" within sign
language. I believe that is why the average reading levels for deaf
individuals remains at the 20 year constant of 4th grade.

I hope that sign writing can help alleviate some of these problems by
allowing hearing parents to have access to signed language syntax through
print. I believe SignWriting can help in the process of developing
literacy in a signed language for hearing parents and their deaf children,
but it won't necessarily help in developing fluency in less than 5 years.

Amy Ruberl
Teacher of Deaf and Hard of Hearing student in Montgomery County,
Maryland, USA and also supporter of hearing parents learning Cued Speech
to convey their native spoken language visually (in which they should be
good language models) to their deaf child

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