forum SignWriting List Forum
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From:  Antony Daamen
Date:  Sun Nov 11, 2001  10:32 pm
Subject:  Re: Is SignWriting Necessary?

Hi List,

When I read the letter of Stuart my blood started to boil. For a start I
fully agree with Stuart's comments and definitely not the comments of those
"deaf leaders" and others

I studied Auslan for three years and read anything about the Deaf, I also
am an interpreter and married to a Deaf wife.

a) Add more confusion as it is one more thing for the deaf student
to learn.
b) Decrease the student's ability to learn English as they get
"sidetracked" by learning SignWriting.
c) Waste valuable time creating SignWriting materials when video
or written English materials would be much more valuable.

Well, well, well, here is again the thought that deaf are to stupid to
learn more then one thing at once. In Holland I (hearing) learned Dutch,
German, English and if I wanted I could also have learned French. I also
studied bookkeeping, Physical education, etc etc. the normal high school

Is learning to write Dutch "one more thing that I have to learn?" Or is it
a necessity so I can use the knowledge of written and spoken Dutch to
understand the other languages?

So do I "get sidetracked" from English, German, by learning how to write my
native tongue Dutch?
Likewise how can the Deaf be sidetracked by learning to write their native
Personally -knowing the oppression the deaf have been subjected to by the
hearing educators over the last 100-odd years- I feel this is another way
of denying them a basic right and that is their own language (written and

Was it "a waste of time" to create Dutch materials and are English, German
or French materials more valuable?

Further, because of the growing use of technology in the US, it is thought
that it makes the need for SignWriting obsolete. With DVD and other
options, American deaf people will be able to use video technology to store
books and other information rather than resorting to print. Why waste
resources trying to develop printed materials when we should be investing
those resources into developing better video technology, etc.

While ASL is supported as a real and viable language, the language that the
deaf must master is English because a good knowledge of ASL including the
ability to read and write ASL will not help in the real world.

My wife (Deaf) here in Australia went to normal High school and learned the
normal curriculum (oral, no signlanguage, just lipreading!). she didn't
get further then year ten, because the teachers were not very helpful for a
profoundly deaf woman. She could not lipread while they were writing on
the board, stood in form of a window or in the back of the class or have a
beard etc.

When we got married we both learned Auslan, and now her English (reading
and writing) has dramatically improved, and she has a much better grasp of
maths, and what is happening in the world, because I can explain it to her
inn Auslan . However, we are working on transliterating songs for our
church and this is difficult in to write English words for Auslan signs
(see further in this comment).

So Auslan does help in the real world, anyway what is the real world?.
There are 1000s of languages in the world, so which is the real one? Are
the Italians and Greeks living in predominantly English country like
Australia not in the real world, and what about the original people here,
the Aboriginals, with their beautiful language not in the real world?

Also Terry often writes faxes /letters to her Deaf friends who have poor
grasp of English. However, when she shows different examples from children
writing about 11th Sept. they all could work out the signs as written by
these children. Thus if these signs would have been Auslan, there would be
a better understanding then using written English to explain Auslan

So to be able to communicate with one another (like the Italians and
Greeks) in written form is very important for the Deaf in the real world.
Especially so, because the Deaf can not use the phone.

When computers where a new item, the prediction was made that we would have
a paperless society because now we have e-mail, monitors and thus there was
no need to write things down. guess what? We produce more paper messages
then ever! Why is that? Well people like things written on paper, rather
then sending/receiving messages through the electronic media.

We also now realise that the "personal touch" is very important. I can
produce a very professional document on the computer. I can add pictures,
special fonts double columns the works (It's my profession) However, when
I write a letter to my father and sisters in the Netherlands (Holland), my
family prefers it if I use pen and paper. They can see that it is Antony
Daamen that wrote it, even if it takes 5-10 days by snail mail.

Also think of the cost. Writing, editing, and sending a video takes time/
effort and money. Much more then a piece or pieces of paper.

Also think of the cost in time /and money on the receiver. Do all people
have a NTSC- VCR? In Australia PAL is the form used. Many people still
don't have a vcr. But we all can have a pencil and a piece of paper.

However, there is more. And that is Deaf Pride. The Deaf had to fight
long and hard to be accepted as a linguistic minority rather then poor
(dumb)handicapped people. So they (we, I have a deaf wife and am a proud
interpreter) are proud of our language, culture, history etc. so now we
don't have to use English to write our language on paper.

Also English writing for Auslan has often been confusing. When we write
the word "Thank You (xxx)" for the sign "appreciate", which is in Auslan a
"Thank you" sign but more pronounced and with both hands, than the lay-man
may conclude that Auslan is just simple English

If we would write "Appreciate" then the question is: "which sign is this?"
The above (thank you) or the sign for "understand"?

But with SignWriting there is no confusion and there is a clear way to show
the big divide between the spoken language in a country and the language of
the linguistic minority, the Deaf.

I hope that this information was interesting.


Antony Daamen

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