Deaf Culture #8

How do you reference a person who is not in the same room while you are signing? (Point to a specific location in front of you)?

If the person that you are referring to is not in the room, you can point to a specific location in front of you.  By doing so you “set them up” or assign them that spot.  This makes it easy to continue to refer to the person by simply pointing to the place where you set them up.  Wherever you put them is where they will stay until you change topics in the conversation, or you assign them somewhere else.  You can also set up more than one person at a time.  A cautionary word, the more people you set up, the harder it is to remember who was where!

All deaf people sign ASL?

All of those who live in America do not speak English, those who have lost a limb do not always have a prosthetic, and all deaf people do not use ASL.  Each person adapts to their environment differently, which is what makes us all unique individuals.  The decision to use ASL or any other form of communication is partially that of those who raised or are raising the deaf individual, as well as the individual’s personal preference.  Some may begin their lives lip reading, or communicating by writing, and then eventually decide that they would prefer to learn ASL.  The opposite is also true.  Some people may never master the art of ASL and find it easier to follow different avenues of communication.  There are also many different styles of ASL, as well as different skill levels.  So it is important to remember that just because someone is deaf, does not mean that they can sign.

Most deaf people attend a residential program?

Much to the Deaf Community’s dismay, this is not true.  The residential programs are by far the preferred method of learning in the Deaf Community, but due to tuition constraints, location, and parental preference, attending a residential school is often impossible.  Most students attend what is referred to as a “mainstream” program.  This usually consists of the student being enrolled in a special education program, (hopefully) supplied with an interpreter, and given other accommodations to aid in their education.  In areas with a larger Deaf population, the school may have an HI (Hearing Impaired) classroom.  This functions as a place for students to get extra classroom help, improve their signing skills, learn about the tips and tools that they may need to function in a hearing world (such as how to care for their hearing aids, or how to use an FM system), and to socialize with other deaf students.

Deaf schools tend to be the cultural hub of the Deaf Community?

Schools, in general, are a cultural hub, however Deaf schools are even more so.  While hearing children are exposed to different cultural norms throughout their everyday lives, many deaf children are surrounded by hearing people and know few, if any, other deaf.  This makes the attending a residential school even more important.  Not only are these children getting a quality education in their first language, they are learning to socialize with others, learning independence and self-advocacy, “how” to be deaf, and also have access to positive adult Deaf role models.  Like any school, many lasting friendships are formed as a young adult, and even more so at a residential school where you actually live with your classmates.  Although there may be some downfalls, attending a residential school has a huge positive impact on the rest of a deaf child’s life.

Cochlear Implants are not acceptable in the Deaf Community?

As discussed in the Deaf Culture Quiz #4, Cochlear Implants are not widely accepted among the Deaf community.  It is worth reiterating, however, that the person with the Cochlear Implant is not looked upon negatively, or treated as an outcast.  Instead, it is the idea of the implant in general, and the parent’s tendency to force their children to get the implant.  Aside from being an unaccepted practice, the surgery is extensive and painful, and it is documented that most people who receive an implant are plagued with headaches that do not ease until the implant is turned off.  It is also worth noting that this is a touchy subject within the community.  Much like discussing politics or religion, it is usually unwise to enter in to a discussion with a Deaf person about Cochlear Implants until you know that person quite well.

How Did All of This Get Started Anyway?

American Sign Language (ASL) would not exist if there were no need. Perhaps those of you outside the Deaf Community have sometimes wondered how people become deaf? Certainly there are a variety of conditions and situations that can lead to such things, but there are a few worth mentioning when answering that question. As you likely have guessed, genetics and heredity can play a complete or partial role in creating deafness in a person. The circumstances of birth can also be a factor, such as premature birth or birth defects. Some life experiences can result in deafness, whether accidents that involve trauma to the head, certain illnesses or disease (i.e. rubella, Scarlet Fever) or prolonged exposure to loud noises. Many are familiar with the natural loss of hearing over time, which can sometimes lead to deafness in old age. At times, as with anything, the root cause is simply unknown. Yet, whatever the reasons for its origins, it is more important to focus on the rich life of those in this special subculture… and one way you can do that? Learn American Sign Language of course (you knew that was coming)!

Give the Gift of Learning

Those of you who are learning to communicate with others who cannot hear are very special individuals.  And, during this Holiday Season, you may know of other friends and family members who would like to learn American Sign Language, also.

Because of this, ASLdeafined offers Gift Certificates year-round, for a variety of special occasions.  Gift certificates may be purchased for any period of time, from One Month to an unlimited number of months.

Simply email us at info@asldeafined.com to order your Gift Certificate today, OR, simply go to our website www.ASLdeafined.com, and click on “Gift Certificate”.  Once your order is completed, we will send you an Invoice through PayPal.  Then, we will e-mail you a Gift Certificate with a User Name and Password attached to it.  All you have to do is print out the Certificate and present it to your friend, or family member.

A sample of the Gift Certificate is attached below.   As you can see, the Gift of Learning makes wonderful Christmas gifts, as well as wonderful gifts for so many other special occasions.

Let us help you to help that Special Person to start learning American Sign Language today.

Myths About American Sign Language (ASL)

Myth #1:  American Sign Language is Universal.

American Sign Language is not universal.  This myth is often shared by the majority of the hearing community.  American Sign Language is learned by the majority of the Deaf community in North America.  In addition, there are other countries that have adopted American Sign Language as their form of a visual language.  Furthermore, American Sign Language is a derivative of French Sign Language (FSL).  People, who know American Sign Language, or French Sign Language, would be able to communicate pretty well with each other.  However, just because one country speaks English, does not mean their sign language system would be used in another country that also speaks English.  The more you know about American Sign Language, the more you will realize that it is not a universal language.

Myth #2:   American Sign Language is Shorthand.

Numerous people believe that American Sign Language is a form of shorthand.  And, these people would be incorrect.  American Sign Language is not a form of shorthand, but a complex language system with linguistic components.  Many people have this belief because American Sign Language does not have a written component to it.  Instead, American Sign Language is a manual way of communicating with those who can, and cannot hear.  The next time you hear someone say that American Sign Language is a form of shorthand, you can politely correct them.

Myth #3:  All Deaf People use American Sign Language.

This myth is definitely false.  There are many deaf people that do not know, or learn American Sign Language, for one reason or another.  Some deaf people grow up learning how to read lips and talk in order to communicate with those around them.  Other deaf people are raised in an environment where he or she learns American Sign Language as their primary language.  Regardless of which method one learns, now you know that all deaf people are raised differently, with different communication methods.

Myth #4:  American Sign Language is Easy to Learn.

American Sign Language is not easy to learn.  In fact, it takes many years to “Master” this language.  In order to learn American Sign Language, it is imperative to interact with the Deaf community.   People often think that by completing a couple of classes in American Sign Language, one would be able to interpret or sign at a proficient level.  However, this belief is definitely completely wrong.  To learn American Sign Language, it takes the same amount of time, or longer as a spoken language, to learn or master.  The more you practice your American Sign Language skills, the better you will become.

 Myth #5:  Parents of Deaf Children Learn American Sign Language.

Ninety percent of deaf children are born to hearing parents, of which, seventy-five percent do not know American Sign Language.  Many times, parents with deaf children do not learn how to sign.  Instead, they force their children to learn how to lip read and talk in order to communicate with them and other family members.  On average, lip reading is the least effective way to communicate with those who are deaf.

American Sign Language Fingerspelling Strategies and Techniques

Using American Sign Language for fingerspelling can be difficult to master. Most people who learn ASL seem to have a problem receptively and expressively with fingerspelling.  Also, many times when a person starts to fingerspell, he/she tenses up and becomes unable to use it properly, while others avoid using fingerspelling altogether, and instead, they invent their own signs (which is not an acceptable habit to develop).

Here are some tips on how to improve your fingerspelling, both expressively and receptively:

Tips for Expressive Fingerspelling:

1.   Make sure you form each letter clearly. Don’t be sloppy. If you are, the other person will not understand you.

2.   Make sure you don’t bounce your letters. The last thing you want is for the person you are conversing with to get dizzy and lightheaded from your hands moving all over the place, like watching a fly buzzing around.

3.   Make sure your hand is close to your cheek. For proper nouns, you want to mouth the word while you are fingerspelling it.

4.  Try not to “sound out” each letter while fingerspelling it. You don’t want to distract from your message.

5.  And relax.  You’ll be far more proficient at communicating that way.

Tips for Receptive Fingerspelling:

1.   Try and catch the first letter of the word. If you have any chance of understanding fingerspelling, you have to read that first letter.

2.  Now, since you have understood the first letter, you need to get some letters in the middle, and at the end. Fingerspelling is almost like Wheel of Fortune…guessing letters that you don’t see, or missed.

3.  Use context clues to figure out the fingerspelled word. What is it you’re talking about? What is a likely word that person is spelling? You will get the gist of the spelled word, unless your entire conversation is being fingerspelled. Then, you might have some problems.

4.  Ask the person fingerspelling, to slow down, or repeat it. Some deaf individuals have a tendency to “fly” with their fingers, and so their messages are being lost. They want to communicate, so they will not be offended if you ask them to slow down, and if you’re new at it, ask them to slow WAY down. Then, grab that first letter, and you’ll improve as you continue to read fingerspelling. It does require a great deal of both effort and practice.

On our website, ASLdeafined, we have plenty of fingerspelling activities that will help boost your ability to read fingerspelling. Watch, as Jonelle fingerspells a series of words and sentences, slowly at first, and then increases the speed, as the lessons advance.

As a way of introducing you to Jonelle, she was born deaf, and is a Fifth Generation of Deaf in her family. She brings so much talent and expression to our web site. Just recently, we added her fingerspelling lessons for you to learn from.  Your task is to recognize the word within a given sentence. Once that word is identified, you need to type it in the blank provided. And remember, Jonelle will start off very slowly in the beginning lessons, but then she gradually builds up speed as the lessons progress.  This will dramatically improve your ability to read fingerspelling.

Enjoy these new lessons, and please welcome Jonelle as one of your new instructors. ASLdeafined is making a huge impact on the lives of so many people around the United States, and the World, in their quest to learn American Sign Language. Thank you for being a part of our wonderful group of friends.