May 19, 2011
05-19-2011
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00:00:09Hearing people may assume that a universal standards sign language is used by all deaf
00:00:13people, but nothing could be further from the truth.
00:00:17It may be surprising to learn that there are no less than 271 identified sign languages,
00:00:23dialects and other sign systems used in the world.
00:00:27Even in the United States there exists regional variation and dialectical
00:00:31differences among users of American Sign Language.
00:00:35There also exist a number of methods of signing that approximate the grammar and
00:00:39structure of English and have typically been used in the educational setting.
00:00:44In this section we will look at some of the more commonly encountered methods of
00:00:49communication used by deaf people in the United States, including speech reading and the
00:00:53use of speech, artificial sign systems used to represent English, note writing and
00:00:59American Sign Language.
00:01:02
00:01:09In order to read lips effectively you must already know English.
00:01:12You must have a concept of sound and know that sound is connected to the movement of the
00:01:16mouth and the intricate inner workings of the vocal mechanisms.
00:01:22Most of the sounds that make up English words are not represented on the lips but are
00:01:26made in the throat and back of the mouth.
00:01:29Many words look exactly alike on the lips.
00:01:32In fact, it has been said that only 30% of the words in English are distinguishable on
00:01:36the lips.
00:01:38Let's try a little test.
00:01:40Watch the following segment.
00:01:41
00:01:43(no sound)
00:01:52
00:01:53Speech reading or lipreading, as it is commonly called, is an art not a
00:01:58science, and - critically - it depends on a pre-existing fluency in English.
00:02:04If one became deaf after, say, 5 years of age, this child will already have a
00:02:09relationship with English and be in a better position to speak and to read lips.
00:02:14On the other hand, if deafness ensued at birth, the understanding of the English
00:02:18language will be absolutely limited.
00:02:21
00:03:11The reason why I went to an oral school was because of my grandmother.
00:03:16My grandmother felt very strongly about oralism, thought it was a requirement, so they
00:03:23told my parents, who were deaf, that you must have lipreading ability.
00:03:28So, we met a nice hearing lady; we went to church with this nice lady, who spoke very
00:03:34well, lip-read very well and said that signing would ruin speech development.
00:03:40So, for many years at home, we didn't sign; we just used lip reading.
00:03:46We tried to follow my grandmother's wishes.
00:03:50Later when I was older, we began to sign more when at home
00:03:54and friends would sign in secret.
00:03:58When in class or other public environments, we would only use lipreading and I didn't
00:04:05really learn sign language very well until I went to college at Gallaudet University,
00:04:09where I picked up language much better.
00:04:12
00:04:14Lipreading is also more or less effective depending on who is speaking and what they
00:04:18are doing.
00:04:19However, for most deaf people, lipreading and speech reading have
00:04:23been completely unsuccessful.
00:04:26What is important for courts to know is that deaf children educated under oral methods
00:04:31may have missed the prime age for learning sign language fluently.
00:04:35
00:04:38The deaf school told my parents that they weren't allowed to learn sign language.
00:04:42So, I relied on speech reading at home.
00:04:46I never had a problem understanding my parents' speech.
00:04:48It was very clear that I was able to understand them.
00:04:52However, I didn't really start chatting with my father and communicating with him until I
00:04:55was about 15 years old because that's when I was able to understand him as clearly as I
00:05:00was able to understand my mother.
00:05:03After I had graduated from college, it had been a couple years and one day my mother
00:05:07asked me if I was sorry she and my father had never learned sign language.
00:05:14Honestly I couldn't respond, I didn't know what to say, because I didn't know.
00:05:19I never had a problem communicating with them.
00:05:22But later on as I was doing some research on deaf culture, I realized how much I actually
00:05:26missed out on.
00:05:28I know my mother tried to fill me in on what was going on in my environment, on what my
00:05:32cousins and my aunts and my uncles and what everyone was saying, but I wasn't able to
00:05:36communicate with them and so that's when I realized how much I actually did miss out on.
00:05:40
00:05:42A Deaf child exposed to signing at a later age will most likely have difficulty
00:05:45attaining native-like fluency in sign language.
00:05:49For the interpreter the challenge lies in the ability to recognize the most effective
00:05:53form of communication.
00:05:55The interpreter will have to watch for the fluency of standardized sign language that the
00:05:59deaf person may possess if that person was primarily exposed to oral education in their
00:06:05early development.
00:06:06
00:06:15Since oral methods failed for most, and because ASL was not recognized as a language
00:06:19until the 70s, educators attempted to create visual systems of signing
00:06:24that approximated English.
00:06:26
00:06:28American Sign Language is its own naturally developed language, it has its own grammar
00:06:33and structure and rules for interaction-all of that.
00:06:39But there is also the ability for people who know English and know some signed vocabulary
00:06:49to use that vocabulary to represent portions of English.
00:06:54The reason I say portions of English, there are things in English-tone of voice, pausing,
00:06:59those features that will be inadequately represented and one of the features of signs is
00:07:09that they take longer to produce, so American Sign Language being a natural language
00:07:13naturally accommodates that by using internal modifications of signs, by including facial
00:07:23expression and body movements which add to the meaning of a sign and can occur
00:07:28simultaneously, so it's very much a layered language, where with English,
00:07:33it's much more linear.
00:07:36So, because it takes longer to do a certain sign, if you get rid of those ASL features,
00:07:42as happens when you sign in English word order, some of that message gets lost.
00:07:50
00:07:52Signing English is a way of using just one sign for the same definition of one word
00:08:04and you don't really use it...well, let me give you an example.
00:08:10Suppose that you want to say that the car engine is running.
00:08:18You want to be able to express the iconic meaning of the running engine and not express
00:08:26it in terms as if it's running on two legs, if you know what I mean.
00:08:31So, that's what's happening with signing exact English.
00:08:36The reader of those signs has to translate for themselves in their mind that the car is
00:08:43not actually running on two legs, but that the pistons are firing.
00:08:50But with American Sign Language it's more conceptually accurate.
00:08:55And with American Sign Language we have many signs for the different meanings
00:08:59of a single word in English.
00:09:02So, I don't use signing in English in my own house.
00:09:05What I do is I borrow a lot from English, but I use American Sign Language in English
00:09:12word order...that's what I mean by contact language.
00:09:18
00:09:20It should be clear that a deaf person who lacks proficiency with English vocabulary,
00:09:24grammar, and syntax will not be helped by the fact that it is presented to him in signs
00:09:29rather than in spoken words.
00:09:31It would be like seeing someone sign in French: If you do not know French, it doesn't
00:09:36matter that it is visual instead of auditory.
00:09:39Interpreters must have experience with and exposure to a wide range of deaf signers to
00:09:44be able to communicate effectively with the person.
00:09:48This is one reason, most ASL interpreters want to meet the deaf person and have a short
00:09:51conversation with them prior to interpreting.
00:09:54
00:10:03As the previous discussion should have made clear, English is typically not the first
00:10:07language for deaf children who face great obstacles to learning it early
00:10:11enough to become fluent.
00:10:13It should come as no surprise then that writing is typically ineffective as a means for
00:10:17communicating with deaf people.
00:10:19
00:10:28The structure of English verses the structure of ASL...I don't want to get too
00:10:32technical about that, so we'll just say, in general, the structure of English is a
00:10:38subject/verb/object language and it's pretty rigid.
00:10:42You can't move that around too much.
00:10:45In ASL, there are some subject/verb/object structures, but there are also
00:10:53object/subject/verb structures, so there is much greater flexibility there.
00:10:58Another essential difference is that English is linear so the sounds come in a particular
00:11:05order, the words come in a particular order, they can't occur at the same time.
00:11:10In ASL, that's not the case, things can happen at the same time.
00:11:15So, to ask a question like "Where was the gun found?", I need to know, in some ways, what
00:11:22kind of a gun it is, so I can indicate its size, in a particular location.
00:11:29Pronouns function differently.
00:11:32In English they're very clear, we know gender, male/female, we know
00:11:37whether it's he or she.
00:11:39In ASL, there's a single pronoun.
00:11:41It's the index finger and it doesn't necessarily tell us what the gender is.
00:11:45So, as an interpreter, that's one of the challenges that we face.
00:11:49The deaf person is referencing an individual, we may not know whether that individual is
00:11:54male or female and yet the deaf person, in fact, does know that.
00:11:58
00:12:00Writing is nothing more than a set of symbols to preserve a spoken
00:12:04method of the same language.
00:12:05One must already have a working knowledge of the language.
00:12:08The words, when read, must be decoded to fit the English words they represent.
00:12:13If one does not know English, they will not be able to fit the words they see on paper
00:12:18to the words of the language.
00:12:20There is a double translation process that must occur with reading.
00:12:24First the printed characters must be turned into sounds or speech which must then be
00:12:29turned into meaning.
00:12:31Let's try an example, take a look at the following sentence and tell me who is upset?
00:12:37
00:12:43You probably thought that Mary was upset, right?
00:12:47Well because of the structure of American Sign Language, a deaf person reading this
00:12:51sentence could easily believe that John was upset, and Mary was at fault.
00:12:56Because ASL is visual, its structure tends to follow a cause and
00:13:01effect grammatical order.
00:13:04It makes visual sense to, for example, sign 'house' before signing the
00:13:06color of the house.
00:13:09
00:13:26This presents serious implications for the courts when considering the number of
00:13:30English forms that must be filled out and understood.
00:13:34This also has implications for the use of transcribing systems, such as real time
00:13:38captioning, as an accommodation for deaf people in court.
00:13:43It has implications for interpreters since, if the interpreter can only sign in
00:13:46English word order, the deaf person will likely not understand.
00:13:50All of these methods must be looked at skeptically when discussing the majority of deaf
00:13:55people who lost their hearing before acquiring English.
00:13:59
00:14:07Linguistic research in the 1970s confirmed that ASL is a full and complete language
00:14:12distinct from English.
00:14:14ASL is used by approximately 75% of deaf adults in the U.S.
00:14:18and Canada.
00:14:20ASL has a complex rule based structure which uses far more intricate visual methods than
00:14:25simply signs formed by the hands.
00:14:29For example
00:14:33:complex rule based structure which uses far more intricate visual methods than simply
00:14:36signs formed by the hands.] * complex spatial relations around the body to convey units
00:14:39of meaning; * standardized facial grammatical rules for sentence structure; * for
00:14:42modifiers such as adverbs and adjectives, eye gaze for, among other things, directing the
00:14:48listener to the who is being referred to in a sentence; and, * a myriad of other
00:14:51standard linguistic devices which are shared by and understood by the
00:14:53community of ASL users.
00:14:57Let's take a look at a sentence in American Sign Language and the same sentence in one
00:15:00of the artificial sign systems.
00:15:03Consider the following
00:15:04
00:15:20:While you may have recognized the English signing because you
00:15:22could read the signer's lips, the ASL rendition was probably more difficult for you to
00:15:26figure out.
00:15:28ASL's structure makes visual sense, for example, you can't talk about the boy's reaction
00:15:34to the blood on the floor until after you sign the blood on the floor.
00:15:39ASL's grammatical structure makes use of the cause and effect or
00:15:43topic-comment structure.
00:15:46English's heavy dependence upon passive constructions make the ASL interpreter's job
00:15:51more complicated since passive constructions do not make sense in ASL.
00:15:57Many of the ways that ASL is used are misunderstood by non-signers as being gestural,
00:16:02primitive, or overly emotive.
00:16:06At the same time, English users, particularly attorneys, suggest that ASL cannot convey
00:16:11nuance and tone.
00:16:13They worry that deaf jurors will not be able to read the demeanor of a witness through
00:16:18an interpreter.
00:16:20Without question, any concept that can be discussed in English can be discussed in ASL
00:16:26depending on the fluency of the signer.
00:16:29Likewise, ASL can convey any mood, emotion or nuance presented by English.
00:16:36ASL has been able to create complex standardized grammatical rules given its origins
00:16:41as an "underground" language.
00:16:44ASL is typically not taught to deaf students either in schools for the deaf or in
00:16:49mainstream programs including deaf students, so it is amazing that the language has
00:16:54thrived and continues to thrive.
00:16:57
00:17:06Most deaf kids today have been placed into the mainstream of regular public schools.
00:17:11They may have one or two deaf classmates or they may be alone with only an interpreter.
00:17:18Sadly, the interpreters often are not very good as educational interpreting has
00:17:23traditionally been the least professionalized.
00:17:27The deaf child may then end up learning sign from an interpreter whose fluency in the
00:17:32language may be subpar.
00:17:35This has a profound effect on the deaf person's language development and the development
00:17:40of their real world knowledge.
00:17:43Language variation due a lack of ASL instruction and due to a lack of exposure to
00:17:47adult native language learners is extremely common.
00:17:52It has been said that a dozen deaf American college students may possess a dozen
00:17:56levels of proficiency in English, ASL, and the contact variety.
00:18:02There is even a significant population who are a-lingual who for whatever reason
00:18:07missed out on learning any language.
00:18:10It is this population that poses the greatest challenge to the court in finding
00:18:16effective communication means.
00:18:18When faced with semi-lingual litigants, special interpreting services which use a native
00:18:23deaf interpreter and a non-deaf interpreter working in tandem are the most effective
00:18:28accommodation in court.
00:18:31In the next section, we will look at the role of a Certified Deaf Interpreter and
00:18:35how this person, who is deaf, is able to decipher nonstandard sign language used by
00:18:40a-lingual deaf individuals.
00:18:42
Note : Transcripts are compiled from uncorrected captions