|SignWriting List Forum|
Antony Daamen |
Date: Mon Nov 19, 2001 12:28 am
Subject: Re: Questions About SignWriting
>Dear Valerie Sutton,
> My name is Kelli Ashe and I attend Greenbrier High School in
>Georgia. I am working on my senior research paper. It involves the
>education of the hearing impaired and their native language. I would like
>to ask you some questions concerning sign language and the hearing
>impaired. I think it would be great if I could interview you. I love
>website SignWriting and DanceWriting. I would greatly appreciate it if
>could answer a few questions. Some of the questions may not relate to
>feel free to skip those questions.
Hi, my name in Antony Daamen. I am from Townsville, Queensland, Australia.
And I have strong views about the questions raised.
So I hope that you might find my answers to your questions useful.
>1. What is your occupation and where do you work?
I am an interpreter and tutor at the local TAFE (Tertiary And Further
>2. Do you know any form of sign language? If so, what and how long have
you known it.
I know Australian Sign Language (Auslan) and I know it for 7 years
>3. Do you interact daily with the hearing impaired? If so, where and what
do you do?
I am married to a Deaf woman, and I interpret for the Deaf. I also go
regularly to Deaf functions
>4. Do you believe that deafness is a culture? Explain why or why not.
Definitely YES!! Lets first define culture. In this context, it is a
certain behaviour that binds a group of people and make others excluded.
It involves history, customs and language. Do the Deaf have a common
history? YES!! We realise the history is not bound by geography or family
trees. The struggle of the Deaf, their oppression etc is beautifully
written in the book "When the Mind Hears" by Harlan Lane.
Do they have customs? YES!! For instance it is considered rude just to say
bye and leave. The loooong good-byes of the Deaf are their custom and an
annoyance to punctual people like me (the Dutch culture!). If a Deaf
person meets another person that signs (hearing or Deaf), they will ask end
expect to ask very personal questions: Are you Deaf? You born Deaf? Which
(Deaf) school you go to? You have other family members that are Deaf? Why
you learn signlanguage? You have children? Are they Deaf?
To they have their own language? YES YES YES!!! The language is the
identifying mark if the person feels Deaf or hearing impaired. Hearing
impaired people - as the name suggest - identify themselves with the
hearing. They don't feel proud to be deaf, they feel handicapped and for
these hearing aids, cochlear implants loops in meeting rooms etc are seen
as vitally important. Those that use Sign Language are proud to be Deaf,
they fight for TTYs, the news being interpreted rather then subtitles, they
have their own clubs, sport teams (visit the Deaf games and see if they
have a culture!), you name it. It is definitely a different world
>5. Are you involved in the Deaf community?
See the above
>6. Is there any controversy within the Deaf community concerning their
education or native language?
Here in Australia sadly Yes. The hearing in their wisdom have attempted to
create a language that would supposedly help them understanding English
better. They took their native language Auslan and put the signs in
English grammar. Any English words that there are no signs for (to, the,
are, was, were, passed tense of verbs) they invented signs for. Any sign
that had more then one meaning, they created a sign with the first
(American!!) letter of the word (respect = the honour sign with the
handshape of the American R). also the powers to be had the one word - one
sign / one sign one word rule. Thus the verb "can" and the noun "can" has
the same sign (used in Auslan as the verb "can"). The direction of the
sign (very important in Sign language eg "I give to you - You give to them
- they gave to me - you gave to me - he gave to me etc etc.) is abandoned.
They call this bastardised language Signed English. Sad to say, this
reduced the understanding by the Deaf of the English language even more
then the original oral/aural approach.
So now within the Deaf community are different groups. Some (older ones) do
mainly fingerspelling, then another group is mainly signed English, and
another is proud to use Auslan. (poor me as the interpreter!!!) They all
happily sign with one another, sometimes they don't understand, but overall
it goes alright. From my observations, the ones using Auslan, are the
better 'world wise' group. they understand the news items better, are more
Most Deaf have resigned (how would you sign this word in Sign English?) to
the fact that they can't change the school systems, so they try to educate
those Deaf that they meet. They do this by inviting these to the Deaf
club, Deaf gatherings etc
>7. Are you aware of any problems within Deaf residential schools? If so,
Sadly, we have no Deaf residential schools. They were very good in
promoting the Deaf culture and identity. The Deaf often forged life -long
relationships with their fellow students and teachers. That is why the Deaf
still ask in the introduction of new people that sign: "which school you
come from?". This identify which friends they might have in common. The
main-streaming system has been detrimental for the Deaf community and
culture as the Deaf children had very little contact with other Deaf until
later in life.
>8. How can Deaf residential schools improve, so that the hearing impaired
exceed on English test scores and function easier in the "hearing" world?
First we have to realise that there is a difference with the two groups
'hearing impaired'(HI) and 'Deaf'.
1. Hearing impaired are generally those that have some residual hearing,
could have become deaf later in life. They are oral (use speech and don't
know or wont use Sign Language)
2. Deaf are those that identify with the Deaf community, use Sign Language
of whatever description and don't feel impaired in any way.
Both these groups have different needs.
The HI need speech therapy, hearing aids, loops in classes, Lip-reading
The Deaf need their NATIVE Sign Language used by the teachers. And through
this sign Language being taught the other language(s) focussing on their
reading/ writing skills, and whatever subjects the school teaches.. If
they have a good grasp of the grammar, beauty of their own language then
they will be able to grasp other languages. As in previous letters I have
explained that I am from Holland, where Dutch is my mayor language. Then at
high school I got taught English and German. However, this was done using
Dutch as the language to explain the English/German grammar. Also we had
something to compare the other language with. Also other subjects can be
easier explained if the child has a good grasp of a language. (try to
explain algebra to a hearing impaired that relies on lipreading!!) I
rather (and I do!) explain it to the Deaf in Auslan.
>9. Which do you think should be the native language of the hearing
impaired, American Sign Language or English? Why?
This question has been explained in Question 8.
However, I feel that all the different deaf do benefit from learning the
local sign language. As I also feel that all hearing children benefit from
developing their language skills.
A section of the brain is totally devoted just to language. This part of
the brain is like a sponge the first 5 years of a child's life. However,
after five years the ability to absorb (acquire) language, becomes less.
Hence people like me that learn languages after this time have an accent.
However, it can always be developed IF IT HAS SOME LANGUAGE IN THE FIRST
FIVE YEARS OF ITS LIFE. So deaf children, born by hearing parents could
have a disadvantage, because there is time when the child learns NO
LANGUAGE, until the parents discover that the child is deaf. Then - I feel
the child should then be immediately exposed to sign language, to keep this
part of the brain stimulated, otherwise it atrophies. Later the parents
can decide its education (sign Language teachers or the oral/aural approach
>10. What are the advantages/disadvantages of lip reading and cued speech?
In English only about 30% or the words can be directly read from the lips.
Spanish is a little better, and I am sure Dutch is worse as e have many
throat sounds. The rest is educated guess work (read the book: "what is
that pig out doors?"). Accents (ask my wife!!) beards, moustaches,
mumbling, screaming, light all make the lip-reading difficult. If you have
SOME hearing then this hearing combined with the lipreading may make for
reasonable understanding. For communication with the hearing it depends on
the person. My wife had some hearing when she was younger and she is used
to my lips ;-)) so she understand me reasonable well. (It is so bad that
she teaches me how to pronounce words, as I say things slightly different
with my Dutch accent, hence she mis-understands Yes to be taught how to
speak English by a totally Deaf woman!!)
Cued speech is a made up code (not a language) an attempt to visualise
sounds. For any language to be useful it must be understood by somebody
else. Cued speech is useless as it is not understood by many people and
not very useful in explaining something that is useless to know. What use
is it for communication to understand what it sounds like for a deaf
>11. What is your personal view of Total Communication?
Total Communication (TC) was a good idea at the time as at least the
thought of using sign language was promoted. However, have you ever
watched a movie with subtitles?
Now imagine a Deaf person to watch a persons hands and his/her lips at the
same time! Also -as has been explained above- Sign Language has a
different grammar structure then the spoken language. On top of this, the
brain can only do one thing at the time. To make your hands move and your
100 orso throat / mouth/ tongue muscle to speak at the same time is
impossible, especially if you do it in different language:
English - Are you Deaf ?
Auslan - You Deaf You?
Some teachers of the Deaf might dis-agree. However, the brain does do the
same as a computer (or is the computer copy the way the brain works?) it
time-shares. A fraction of a second it makes a hand movement then a tongue
movement, then back to the hand etc.
Also (long) words that need to be fingerspelled does halt the speech or
becomes long-winded. Eg: "A-c-c-u-m-u-l-a-t-e means ....."
I know form experience that either the sign language suffers or the speech
In my Auslan class we had three fellow students that were teachers of the
Deaf that used TC. They gave a talk about this and they explained that this
was very slow and tiring too. Another thing, if a long (fingerspelled)
word was used often then this fingerspelling generally de-generated to the
first letter, with exaggerated mouth movement. Try to explain the subject
geography this way!
>12. What is your personal view of Bilingual-Bicultural?
Well, as can be seen from the above this is the best solution. I would
like to explain my understanding of the expression Bilingual-Bicultural
(B-B), to make sure we talk about the same.
The Deaf -as opposed to HI- need to be educated through their native
language (ASL, Auslan, BSL, ArSL, whatever). With this they will also
acquire the Deaf culture. However, they need to live in a majority world of
hearing people, so they need to know also the hearing language (reading
/writing) and the hearing culture. Eg it is rude to ask (in am English
culture) for a drink when visiting hearing people, or to ask personal
questions (Do you have children? Why not?)
>13. What advancements can be made that will cause maximum communication
for the hearing impaired with the "hearing" world?
That has been explained above. Again you need to realise there is a
difference between HI and Deaf.
Some things for the Deaf might be, that all government departments have at
least 1 person that knows Sign Language.
>14. Do you think a Sign Cable Network and/or SignWriting will improve the
communication of the deaf with the hearing? Why?
Well, when the Deaf know SignWriting, then (government department)
brochures and tracts could be printed in this writing, Bus/train timetables
could be explained in this writing. Law related papers could be explained
in this writing.
A Sign Cable Network, that shows interpreted movies, does do the news in
Sign Language will enrich the knowledge of the Deaf to a great expend.
However, I would like to rephrase the question: Do you think a Italian
Cable Network and/or Italian writing will improve the communication of the
Italian with the English? Why?
You try to answer this
>15. Is there any personal experiences or knowledge concerning the hearing
impaired and/or sign language that you would like to share?
I think I have shared enough. However, ask me and I will answer....
Well, Kelli and the others, I hope this was useful.
Antony & Terry Daamen
"The God of heaven will set up a kingdom that will......
crush and put an end to all these kingdoms,
and it itself will stand to times indefinite."
From: Valerie Sutton [SMTP:]
Sent: Thursday, November 15, 2001 12:30 PM
To: SignWriting List
Subject: Questions About SignWriting
November 14, 2001
Dear SW List members and Kelli -
As you all know, I have e-mail that has not been answered for weeks,
because of a project I have been working on (SignBank 2.0 ;-)....
So now, trying to catch up is rather amazing...I look at all the
lists of messages, realizing full well that every author of every
message deserves my full attention and appreciation, for their
interest in SignWriting....
There was a time, after all, when no one was interested....so I am
grateful for your interest...and most of all, I hope, as a team, we
can accomplish our goals...
So let's share a few of these messages... I received one yesterday
from Kelli. Kelli has asked a long list of questions. I hope some of
you might want to answer some of them for Kelli?...go right ahead...I
am sure your information will be valuable to her project.
Here is Kelli's message: