I am off schedule. So my normal morning routine is 2 hours later and I can’t seem to focus. I have handbell music to color code and lesson plans to organize and here I am thinking about MISUNDERSTANDINGs about Deaf people.
Deaf Awareness Week is the end of September so I am gearing up for that. It’s part of my lesson planning. I want to make videos about these misunderstandings…
1. I will be signing in LANGUAGE called American Sign Language and someone will ask me, are you signing in English or Spanish? NO. I am signing in a visually represented language that incorporates space and spatially established references and all kinds of linguistic parameters that are unique to visual languages. NO it’s not Spanish, or PuertoRican Spanish or English or American English that I am signing. Though sometimes, when trying to communicate with PuertoRican Spanish speakers, I will adjust my signs to their language understanding because they don’t get it. Same with American English speakers, I will adjust my signs to their language understanding because they don’t relate to the visual-ness of a signed language.
2. Then there are the people who want to compare ASL or SPR (American Sign Language or Signs de Puerto Rico) to Chinese or Japanese written characters for example. While printed Chinese characters may be a little more like a sign language, it’s still not the same because each of those Chinese print characters relates to a spoken Chinese word.
When I sign THIS THING, my non-English non-Spanish non-auditory students will draw a picture of THIS THING. They are NOT thinking a word. They are thinking the thing. They have this SIGN and this PICTURE (or experience or feeling) in their memory banks and there is no written or spoken word to accompany THIS THING until I as the teacher impose a written word onto it.
Last school year, I imposed TIME CONCEPTS on my students. This is playing out in interesting ways. One will sign A LONG TIME AGO to mean last month. Another will sign YESTERDAY to mean anytime before today including 7 years ago. They are grappling with how to communicate the ABSTRACT of time in a way that your common peer or adult signer will comprehend. But not to be put off, we will continue those lessons related to WHEN?
Hearing children in any culture grow up with their adult caregivers referencing NEXT WEEK, LAST YEAR, etc. Deaf children NEVER hear those words. Maybe they will see a calendar at home but who explains TODAY, TOMORROW, THIS MONTH, etc. in a visual way so the child without hearing can visually understand? Well, that’s my job.
Those are TWO of my FAQs from visitors. #3 is “Braille?” Where do we keep the Braillers? When will the students learn Braille so they can read? Why are we not teaching them Braille? If you need me to answer this, well, ask Google.
Now, I must get back to my routine routines… thanks for listening… and if you have ideas how to make those two answers more understood, let me know. Because I want to make or post a youtube.com video to everyone’s e-mail to help them get it! in ASL no spoken language needed. Maybe?