forum SignWriting List Forum
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From:  Valerie Sutton
Date:  Wed Jan 6, 1999  4:39 pm
Subject:  Re: Bilingualism & SignWriting

On Tue, 5 Jan 1999, Carlos Thompson wrote:
>What I think the original question that was sent to Valerie is about the
>and line of action that has been working many Deaf communities in USA, Sweden
>and other countries (not shure about Colombia):
> It begins when the Signed Language is recognized as the first language for
>Deaf people, and it is promoted for them to lear a language using the SL (ASL,
>BSL, STS, LSC, etc.)
> When the Deaf children can comunicate in SL, then they are tought to
>read and
>write in the spoken language they live in, and probably to mouthly speak in
>that language. Because English, Swedish and Spanish are different languages
>than ASL, BSL, STS and LSC, they become Bilingual.
> This way the SL will be the Deaf's first language while the spoken language
>would be the Deaf's second language.

January 6, 1999

Hi Carlos!
You are exactly right...I suspect that the question was asking if
SignWriting developed through a new educational approach here in the United
States (and the other countries you mention above) called the "Bi-Lingual,
Bi-Cultural Educational Approach", which in the USA is now called the

But, everyone's comments on "bilingualism and SignWriting" in general are
excellent and very interesting and correct too! Bilingual issues in
general, are not exactly the same as the issues that surround the
Bi-Bi-Approach, since the Bi-Bi-Approach is a specific teaching philosophy
that carries with it all the "bad and the good" associated with the
politics of school systems, and how they relate to the Deaf community.

I admire the people who are establishing the Bi-Bi-Approach, and I know
that SignWriting can be of great assistance in their work. And that is why
we established the SignWriting Literacy Project, which is free to schools
for the deaf, so that we can assist the Bi-Bi-Approach's attempts at
presenting English and ASL as two equal languages to be equally respected.

In regards specifically to the question that was asked, the answer is that
SignWriting developed long before the Bi-Bi-Approach was established.
SignWriting was not developed "through that particular educational
philosophy", but existed on its own, decades before. In some ways, our
pioneering efforts at writing signed languages in general, may have
contributed to the change in people's thinking towards signed languages, so
in that sense, we may have been a part of "the grand experiment", but
technically there is no connection between SignWriting and the Bi-Bi

So, even though SignWriting "fits with the Bi-Bi-Approach" and is a natural
adjunct to it, at this moment in time, the Bi-Bi-Approach is not using a
form of written ASL. They try to teach both languages equally, but only
have a written form for one language, English, and so ASL is, at present,
in my opinion, at the disadvantage.

But that is changing, because several schools using the Bi-Bi-Approach are
getting involved with SignWriting now, and more and more email is sent
daily on this very subject. I hope the schools that want to try SignWriting
in the Bi-Bi-Approach will be brave enough to experiment with us :-)

This message is getting too long...I have more to add, but it must wait for

I love reading everyone's messages :-)

Have a spendid day!

Valerie :-)

Valerie Sutton at the DAC
Deaf Action Committee for SW


Center For Sutton Movement Writing
an educational nonprofit organization
Box 517, La Jolla, CA, 92038-0517, USA

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