forum SignWriting List Forum
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From:  The Watsons
Date:  Thu Jan 7, 1999  1:56 am
Subject:  Re: Bilingualism & SignWriting

Hello again, Valerie and everyone,

I haven't posted anything for a while, but that doesn't mean I'm not still
"listening in", so to speak.

This discussion on bilingualism has been very interesting, and I was glad that
you, Valerie, posted on the "bi-bi" approach used in the schools for the deaf.
I just wanted to add that to my experience, the "bi-bi" approach offers English
and ASL BUT, only written English, not spoken English at our school. This is
one of the many reasons that I think SignWriting is so important for the kids,
so that they may get the idea that writing is part of the system of conveyance
of language. As it stands at the moment, their "living" language (ie. ASL) as
opposed to their "dead" on paper language (ie. English) do not connect in any
way. It astounds me how well the deaf kids can learn to read, when they have no
equivalent in their own language, and they not only have to learn the skill of
reading (without the benefit of phonetics) but they have to learn a foreign
language at the same time. ( When I was at school, we largely learnt foreign
languages through reading and writing, and most of us had great difficulty ever
trying to use them as spoken languages.)

I know from experience that many deaf people get fed up with reading and
writing because it gets too complicated (because of the level of the foreign
language), and yet if they were able to read and write in their own signed
language, how much more interest there would be. Think how much all of us enjoy
reading and writing (well, most people on the list appear to be students or
linguists so we jolly well should!) I can't imagine what it would be like, if
every time I wanted to read a newspaper, I had to read the French version.

My point is, (I think I have one), that the "bi-bi" approach would work a lot
better if the children had access to SignWriting before learning to read


>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
Ian and Shiona Watson
Acton, Ontario

  Replies Author Date
832 Re: SignWriting In Bi-Bi Education Valerie Sutton Thu  1/7/1999

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