A New Writing System for ASL

Discussion in 'Sign Language & Deaf Education' started by natalie, Nov 22, 2004.

  1. sthiessen

    sthiessen New Member

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    ASL is a language ... see why ...

    Let's consider what the requirements for a language are:

    - it must have words that are made up of some kind of phoneme.
    - meaning must be attached to those words.
    - those words must be grouped in some kind of systematic way to indicate complete thoughts.
    - Those complete thoughts must be able to join together to express larger ideas such as letters, stories, poetry, etc.
    - There needs to be a community of people who actively use this to communicate.

    let's analyze ASL (or any sign language) in terms of this:

    ASL has phonemes. They are composed of handshapes, palm orientations, hand locations relative to the body, contact with the body, facial expressions, body shifting, etc. ASL combines all of these elements to compose signs and other phonemes. ASL is capable of combining these elements into new vocabulary to adapt to new concepts ... like any language.

    ASL has meaning attached to the signs, facial expressions, body movements, etc. Some are bound morphemes (i.e. it is not used alone) and some are unbound morphemes (i.e. it can be used alone). Where English simply uses different words, ASL will add standard movement modifications to a base concept to get variations of that base concept. This is similar to what spoken languages do to change the meanings of their words. ASL also incorporates the subject and object into certain verbs (called directional verbs). This is similar to what Spanish does for the subject. ASL also has rules for certain verbs that require a location such as the verb for "to have surgery". It requires a location for it to have meaning. That is similar to some spoken languages whose verbs require objects or other infixes or suffixes for the verb to be complete.

    ASL has sentence structures for expressing meaning. It has topic/comment sentences, Yes/No questions, WH questions, etc. Those are all standard types of sentences, but ASL has its particular structure.

    ASL groups its sentences into particular larger segments of meaning. ASL has stories, poetry, and other forms of narrative. These often incorporate mime and gesture in structured ways.

    All of these factors inarguably point to ASL as a genuine language in its own right. It is the sociolinguistic factors that make people doubt ASL. Every minority language must fight for its right to exist. You can look at minority indigenous languages all around the world whose validity have been questioned, but after objective linguistic analysis, they have been found to be authentic languages in their own right. It is a matter of cultural oppression by the majority language that tends to call into question the validity of its competitors.

    Having said all that, here is my point. Just like any other language community, deaf people have the right to be educated in their language. That does not preclude the learning of a second, third, fourth, or fifth language. ASL will not block a deaf person from learning another language. In fact, I firmly believe that if deaf people are properly educated in ASL with the view of teaching them LIFE (everything else ... science, math, history, culture, etc.) instead of ENGLISH, deaf people would be able to learn to the same degree as hearing people. Instead everyone focuses their efforts on making sure deaf learn ENGLISH and fail to teach them enough about LIFE such that deaf never learn ENGLISH well and also don't learn LIFE well because their time has been wasted on trying learn ENGLISH the hearing way.

    Well, that is my perspective on this ... and that from a native speaker and writer of English. ASL is my second language, but I value it equally with English. I am very sad when I see deaf or hearing demeaning ASL out of some perception that they must deny their ASL in order to get the benefits of English. It is not an EITHER/OR proposition. It can be BOTH/AND. And in my view, it starts with ASL as a language that deaf people will naturally and easily learn.

    <A note for readers from other countries ... in my post here, please substitute your sign language for ASL and your country's spoken language for English. Let me emphasize I am not saying all deaf should use ASL. I am saying all deaf should use the sign language of their community and be proud of it. At the same time, they can and should learn the national spoken language without discriminating against their own sign language>

    Stuart
     
  2. TiaraPrincess

    TiaraPrincess New Member

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    deafdyke,

    You're missing my point. I am not saying let's strive for perfection. I am not perfect myself, but all that helped me to focus on English to be able to go to go to college, write my papers without assistance besides editing.

    I agree with Tousi. If it creates confusing and not the best literacy for English, then we have a problem. I think all deaf children should learn to do the best they can writing English like everyone, so that they do not have restrictions where to work--be an author, work with an insurance company, be a scientist to write reports, etc. I was almost going to be working in a lab (that requires written reports), be psychologist, etc. Their dreams should be limitless. If a deaf child with really poor English wants to do that--that would just be a dream for them. You could be a lab assistant washing the the equipments if you're lucky to find that.

    Many of the people that writes well are those who used SEE, oralism, those who learned ASL later, etc. I am not seeing anyone whose primary use of ASL writes well. sthiessen is one of the late ASL learner who is sad that it is not used. My question is, would he have done okay writing what he is doing now? The way that I see it, you need to understand the English concept until you're old enough to understand that ASL is another concept. It's all in the brain stimulus. It's complex. I believe in starting out with SEE. Why do we have so much problem with ASL and English deaf schools literacy? I see theories, but none of that is reaching the schools already. It's only an experimentation, which seems that there hasn't been a true proven method still having ASL in their classrooms. All I see is that they don't want to let ASL go and teach it later. They are too afraid to let go of something so proudly used for years. My point is, people learn it later. They chat with friends, interpreters learn it later, and I think that's going to be fine.
     
  3. sthiessen

    sthiessen New Member

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    No offense, but I think you are missing the point. English is not a language that is easily accessed by deaf. It is sound based. Its spelling rules are archaic. It simply is not something that is the best language for a first language for deaf people.

    Most deaf people you meet who are good with English are good with English either because they were born hearing and acquired English early (like me) or who were born to a family where ASL was invested in them early and then they learned English second. There may be a few who learn English well through SEE, but you will find that SEE signers when they become adults don't continue SEE but change to ASL. Why? SEE breaks some universal linguistic rules about signed languages. In fact, as far as I have been able to determine, those who invented SEE did not even investigate the linguistic rules behind sign language but imposed spoken language on signed language. There are certain rules that govern all signed languages and SEE breaks those rules. I can explain this in detail later if you wish.

    It is far better for deaf to make ASL their first language and then based on a solid understanding of ASL, then learn English as their second language using ESL (English as a Second Language) strategies. As it is, deaf are taught English using English as a First Language strategies which fails. Why? English is not the deaf child's first language. They cannot acquire English through auditory means. This means that they will not do well in an English as a First Language class. Yet, that is what English classes in a mainstream classroom will follow. It is a recipe for disaster. That is the reason for some deaf people's failure to learn English well. It is not ASL's fault. It is the fault of the educational institution that failed to realize that deaf people are a linguistic minority that need ESL strategies not English as a First Language strategies. The educational institution focuses failed techniques for teaching English to deaf and makes them miss out on true education because it is a cultural imperative that they must learn English first.

    Let me also add that I have not researched all the ASL bi-bi programs out there. I suspect that an objective study of the failures that may occur in bi-bi programs may not be related to ASL itself but how the program is set up. Are the teachers truly fluent in ASL? Do they teach the students well? Are they teaching English from a ESL perspective? Those are questions I want to find out about. Unfortunately, I can't research everything ... :) But I hope to get to that at some point.

    Written ASL within the deaf community is a wonderful tool for our education. When we are relating outside the community, sure we can use English. But when I am writing to a fellow deaf person, why in creation should I be using English when our language is ASL? That is ridiculous. That is linguistic oppression. Classic sign of linguistic oppression. Only in the US are people afraid of a little linguistic diversity. Elsewhere in the world, linguistic diversity is expected and many linguistic minorities are realizing that they have a culture and language they can be proud of. Deaf can be proud of theirs. We have 114 different sign language communities. We have a rich history and many cultural developments that are unique to our language and cultures. Why must we be ashamed of ASL and say that we *have to* accept English as our *only* language .... "because that is just the way it is." That is settling for less than the best. Notice I am not saying perfection. But there is much more available to us than that we have right now.

    The debate now for those who want written ASL is what is the best way to write it. So far, the best I have seen is SignWriting. I am interested to see what other options people think could be available, but I am skeptical that a logographic system could work. I'd like to see a discussion on that.

    But I will say this. I have met many a deaf person whose ASL fluency was equal to my English fluency. They could express everything I can express, but in ASL. Should they be penalized simply because they do not conform to some misplaced cultural imperative that English is somehow the only language that a person can use in the US? I think that is rather illogical. I can see that logic applied to other hearing minorities because they moved here (though respect for their language must be maintained). But spoken language is not our language so why force the idea that the only good language is English? Strange!!! Nice for you hearing people, but grossly unreasonable for us deaf!
     
  4. TiaraPrincess

    TiaraPrincess New Member

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    SEE is an aid visually to help with auditory English. Lipreading is visual to aid in auditory English. There are other visual aids.

    Exactly, you begin early using English. My point for not starting out with ASL.

    SEE is not used that much in a fair amount. I don’t think it’s given a fair chance. It’s not a great argument because we don’t know how many have really tried and truly failed using SEE in the first place. They may not continue to use it because everyone around them suddenly are communicating using speech. They face people who are hearing, so unless they find someone who use it such as their family or friends, then no doubt they’ll use it. If you work in a deaf organization and will do so forever, great. It's not realistic because there aren't so many.

    So they stop just because it isn’t a language? It’s only an aid to help you understand spoken English. There's no need for SEE to be a language. Cued Speech isn’t a language, but it can help. It isn’t used fair enough. I am sure there are fears that revolves around using SEE and Cued Speech that needs to be resolved.

    Who says it is their first language? Is it written in stone? Are we genetically made not to learn vocabularies and words? I have a hard time believing that just because you can’t hear ASL is the correct path to take.

    They may not aquire English perfectly through auditory means as everyone varies, but there are other options Cued Speech and SEE to aid in what they cannot hear only closer to the English language which ASL is not even related.

    There is a young guy I talked to who was born deaf. He was immediately placed in the mainstream. He didn’t wear hearing aids after first grade. His writing skills are good. He uses signs at home with family and talks. I don’t think his speech is perfect, but he can write well. In fact, he is thankful for being placed right away with an interpreter in mainstream. It doesn't sound like a recipe for disaster.

    I thought deaf institutes start out with ASL and use ASL most of the time. I am sure they use ASL in an excess amount while not being fair to English because they fail to persevere because it’s too hard. I had 2 tutors who wanted to do my homework because it’s too hard for them to explain to me concepts I may have needed to understand a little better. I must tell you, it’s not impossible for deaf to understand. All they need are patient teachers, parents and so on. My mom had to go through that, but she stayed and did not gave up. One of my tutor was showing me a paper of a girl who wrote in ASL, and she was frustrated. She had her paper with her. Obviously, I am sure she didn't take the time to explain to the girl why it is written that way. I needed that all these times, and each year was an improvement.

    Well, I have to find out the other way too. Are they giving SEE a fair chance? Let's not forget Cued Speech. I want a study done starting out with SEE and Cued Speech I have read other many successes with SEE in their classrooms and home, so I see no doubt in this area as a great start. There is no doubt that there will be some deaf students going ahead some others, but that is not a failure. Hearing students show those same problems in math, English and other subjects. It's not a failure either. I am certain bi-bi method has been given a fair trial. Teachers need to be fluent in ASL to teach in deaf schools. It’s visual. It’s not going to teach English. I think it’s mixing words organizations.

    You can do that, but I can’t do that. Do you expect workplaces and people to adapt to this for a minority group? In fact, a few times I have a hard time understanding those who write like ASL. Many in here write in English. Why should we who use English stick to ASL? Because they are deaf? Deaf people will have to go live separate lives. There will not be a Deaf Town like China Town. Deaf people are human who are born to hearing parents. They grow up, get married and live wherever they want to live. The deaf population is such a small minority that it’s not going to amount to a fair use of ASL among hearies so that they can work or whatever the situation is. It is nothing to be ashamed. Nobody is saying that, but we can be capable of learning English. If you say you can’t, then that’s a problem. I don’t believe in excuses because deaf are disabled auditorily, they can’t learn English. It takes a lot of work, but patience, my friend, is true virtue.

    You are mistaken in my interpretation about expressing yourself. ASL and English fluency has nothing to do with what you are mentally capable of conveying. Illiteracy can cause true restrictions not only for deaf people, but for hearing people as well. It is the same for an immigrant who can only work being a housecleaner or fast food or housekeeping because they are not fluent in English. Why do you say that English is not deaf people's language? That's bad generalization. My ears don't say what I need to learn differently. English is not strange. It simply can be difficult because it was not taught properly at home or at school. Some deaf people have had to work hard to bring their writing up to par to get through college. Some drop out because of English. It's much harder, so why not start out in childhood? They don't need to go around wasting money on taking English classes when it's free in schools and at home. Deafness is not an excuse not to learn English.
     
    Last edited: Nov 26, 2004
  5. sthiessen

    sthiessen New Member

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    It is only an aid if hearing people use it to communicate. At the same time, SEE is more tiring to use than ASL. That has been empirically verified. In fact, I know one SEE intepreter who had to have 4 carpal tunnel surgeries because SEE caused so much wear and tear on her. It is really very difficult to sign true SEE and keep up with an English conversation.

    Actually, in all reality, they can start with Chinese for all it matters. The key issue is that literacy depends on achieving reasonable fluency in the language such that you can understand the language enough to read it. Most deaf children begin to learn about English in elementary school unless they were hearing first and already acquired English or their parents were motivated enough to teach them ASL or English first. A great deal depends on parental involvement rather than student ability.

    Au contraire! SEE is used far more than you realize. In Iowa, there is probably only 2 ASL programs and the rest are all SEE. And I have yet to see a successful SEE program.

    And no, they are not stopping SEE because people use speech around them. I am talking about their signing. SEE children (even without ASL users around them) when left to themselves will sign more like ASL to each other. They will not keep the SEE style of signing. When they encounter ASL, they will tend to follow more ASL than keep the SEE style. The reason has been linguistically verified that SEE is inefficient in how it is set up. ASL and
    natural sign languages
    have developed efficient methods of using 3D space, facial expressions, movements, etc. to create meaning that is just as sophisticated and meaningful as spoken languages.


    It doesn't have anything to do with fears. It has everything to do with linguistic realities. SEE violates linguistic rules of how sign languages operate. It simply does not conform to linguistic realities. Therefore, it will not accomplish what is effective for deaf students. Cued Spech is more of a visual aid for English, but it is also sound based. Cued Speech will only be effective if hearing people are willing to use it. Otherwise, it will never be effective.


    ASL has vocabulary and words. Just differently than English. And, no, it is not written in stone. Like I said before, they could learn Chinese if they wanted to. But the point is very simple. What language will deaf learn easily and without a great deal of stress ... an auditory language or a visual language? The obvious answer is: a visual language. I don't know if you have been to an ASL poetry reading or a person who tells a story in ASL or a person who sings in ASL. There is beauty there that touches deaf people like spoken languages just don't do.



    Right. But let me turn your question back on you. Where is it written in stone that deaf people MUST learn English to be "normal" or "acceptable"? Why can't deaf people make English their second language ... after they have acquired ASL and have had basic education in a language they can easily acquire? Why must deaf people be monolingual in English? The only person who benefits from an English-only approach is the hearing ... not the deaf.


    Active parental involvement can take the sting out of any situation. Some people are bright enough to find work arounds. But your friend is rare. The challenge with mainstreaming is that it isolates the deaf children. And that is part of what makes it not an ideal situation.

    ... see rest of post in my next post.
     
  6. sthiessen

    sthiessen New Member

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    Again, au contraire! Many deaf institutes are not using ASL like they could. They actually use English and some are oral (i.e. St. Louis, etc.). I think only a few are actualy using bi-bi curriculum. Many deaf institutes work hard on the English question, but again there are assumptions that deaf children should be taught English like a first language instead of teaching English as a second language. That is where the problem comes in.

    Actually, SEE has had more of a fair chance than ASL bi-bi programs. With the English-only attitudes in this country, it is very hard for people to get bi-bi programs accepted in the schools. I will say this. Success in the classroom does not equate to success in the real world. I learned that the hard way. So do many graduates of deaf programs. Cued Speech may be nice, but unless hearing people will learn to use it, I can't see it being more than a fringe group.

    For bi-bi programs to be successful, the teachers must be fluent in ASL, and the teachers must know how to teach English using ASL. ASL can be used to teach English just like Spanish can be used to teach English. There is no difference. Remember ASL is a language in its own right just like any spoken language.

    Let me be very clear. By written ASL, I do not mean English words written in ASL word order or some such thing. I mean ASL written with a writing system that is designed for writing sign languages. Personally, I feel SignWriting comes the closest to being a viable everyday writing system for sign languages. I believe written ASL is a tool inside the deaf community. I do not expect hearing people to learn it (except those who are interested in using ASL). I also believe written ASL will give us a tool to compare ASL and English and use that to help deaf people improve their English by comparing it to a language they can acquire easily.

    Again, let me also say that you are making the assumption that my position is monolingual. On the contrary, I believe that deaf people should be and must be bilingual. Where possible, they should be fluent and literate in the national spoken language and their own sign language. I am vehemently opposed to the concept of monolingualism and forcing deaf people to be English only. I think that is the height of hearing arrogance and oppression.

    English is a spoken language. As such, it will always be a struggle to acquire. Some will succeed but more will struggle. It is logically unreasonable to expect and require a community that is auditorally impaired to be monolingual in an auditory language. It is far more reasonable to expect a visual community to embrace a visual language as their heart language, but still develop fluency and literacy in the national spoken language.

    I never said deafness is an excuse not to learn English. I said ASL is the bridge by which English literacy is more possible. You continue to put your monolingual assumptions on me, which are inaccurate. I always argue for bi-literacy. But I object to English-first approaches. I believe ASL-first approaches are simply common sense.

    Thanks,

    Stuart
     
  7. TiaraPrincess

    TiaraPrincess New Member

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    I don't think it is rare. I have seen very many that way. I have talked to many who use ASL fluently and the opposite who use SEE and Oralism or both. I see a clear difference in their writing skills. It's so obvious that I haven't seen bi-bi work at all. I don't think that ASL should be a requirement for every deaf children. It's not written in stone that they it takes away who they are if they don't know the Deaf Community or sign language. I don't identify myself as an ASL user or robbed of that language or the Deaf Community, I just happen to learn about it from reading, but I never was mad that I wasn't exposed to them from the beginning. I have been mature and handle things that I realize things happen for a reason. Being mad at my mother isn't going to help fix anything. Boo-hooing that I didn't learn sign language isn't going to help either. I am not going to boo-hoo that parents aren't really teaching children ASL because I don't believe it's helping to use bi-bi education. It hasn't been proven that it works. I don't even feel surprised because that's what I have seen the clear difference between SEE/oral or ASList. There hasn't been any gray area about this from my experience.
     
  8. deafdyke

    deafdyke Well-Known Member

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    I remember reading that the majority of Deaf ed programs ARE SEE-based. Very few Deaf ed programs are bi-bi, since it's still relatively new.
    Well that's YOUR experiance. As you said, you were in the grey area between being prelingally deaf and postlingally deaf. It does seem (from my observations) that many kids who went deaf during that time of development, tend to identify as more Hearing then Deaf. Perhaps if you'd been a prelingal deaf (or even hohie!) your experiance would have been drasticly different. Many of us who were born or became early deafened or became hoh and were raised oral, wish that we'd had access to ASL/Sign at an early age!
    What about the fact that DODAs do better educationally then do Deaf of hearing parents? DODA's first language 99.9% of the time is ASL, and they approach English as a second language...Yet they do WELL in reading....Yes, some people have expressive concerns in English but so do many speakers of other languages. Have you not heard about the fractured English which is rampant in other countries? (eg my parents found some stationary from China that said " Are You Feel Better?" ) I would bet that the achievment rate for ESLers is probaly VERY simalir to ASLers! Let me guess...you support initivives that would get rid of ESL programs and that would immerse kids in English without the supports of their native language right?
     
  9. TiaraPrincess

    TiaraPrincess New Member

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    I know some deaf people who changed their views because they mingle with the deaf community, so suddenly they change and act mad. Some do, believe me. They are brainwashed, so I wouldn't apply that to everyone.

    I doubt that for my life it would have been different based on my LIFESTYLE, not what is out there.

    I don't know what is DODA. I can't comment on that.
     
  10. johnesco

    johnesco New Member

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  11. Reba

    Reba Retired Terp Premium Member

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    What about morphemes?
     
  12. Reba

    Reba Retired Terp Premium Member

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    Deaf child of Deaf adults (parents).
     
  13. posts from hell

    posts from hell New Member

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    Being a member of a Mensa group, I have to ask...

    ...Are you serious?

    First of all: American Sign Language is a VISUAL language.(PERIOD)

    Second of all: Although it does not apply to some, we have enough problems learning English as is. How do you propose that we learn another written language?

    There are so many other complications related to having ASL as a written language as stated in previous posts.

    If you have any questions that you would like to ask me, feel free to PM me. (Note: You are special to get the permission :D :D )
     
  14. johnesco

    johnesco New Member

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    Mexican food inspired idea

    The waitress asked me if I wanted flour tortillas...

    what if she was really asking if I wanted flower tortillas?

    Would a written version of sign have two signs that are SIGNED the same but have two different meanings?

    -John
     
  15. Steve

    Steve New Member

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    [​IMG]
    http://www.signwriting.org/

    Take an hour of your time and check out some of the signs and directions on this website. I'm really impressed how easily it is to pick it up.

    This would be a great tool to help a close friend of mine who occasionally has to look up a sign in an ASL dictionary to pick a written English word. Since he already knows ASL, he should be able to "draw" his thoughts up.

    Phonemes in ASL would be the smallest contrastive unit in signs. This gives similar signs completely different meanings using subtle differences in handshape orientation and location.
    FATHER, DEER
    APPLE, ONION

    Also, you would not sign flour the same as flower. You should finger-spell flour.

    Steve
     
  16. AvengedSevenfol

    AvengedSevenfol New Member

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    the idea would be to use ASL in written form as a compliment to signed ASL....poetry, books, stories, newspapers...anything else printed....and even as an educational tool.

    like someone else said earlier, its more important that people learn knowledge about everything, than to learn more about the english language, if a written form of ASL is able to make deaf/hoh people generally smarter and more educated, without having to suffer with the pitfalls english has for dead/hoh students, then why shouldn't it be used?


    lots of people come from other countries and are able to learn english as a second language, theres no reason deaf people can't as well....they won't have to rely on a language that is unsuited to them to navigate life.
     
  17. natalie

    natalie New Member

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    The magic word is 'chereme'

    Nit-pick away. William Stokoe called them 'cheremes'.

    'Morphemes' doesn't work because this refers to a slightly larger unit than does a 'cher-/phoneme'. It refers to the smallest unit that carries independent meaning. Like 'er' in 'teacher' means somebody who does x.
     
  18. natalie

    natalie New Member

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    No, I would give them different symbols. I am trying to emphasize the representation of the meaning of the signs, not the signs themselves. As Steve was saying, this has already been accomplished by SignWriting. With whom, by the way, I completely agree when he says that it is absolutely invaluable for writing dictionaries. I just don't see it as being very practical for everday applications.
     
  19. natalie

    natalie New Member

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    I am compelled to ask you the same.

    I find this the least convincing of all the arguments that I have seen thus far. Where is the distinction between your statement and 'English is an ORAL/AURAL language. (PERIOD)'? All oral/sign languages are symbol systems. All writing systems of oral/sign languages are symbol systems of symbol systems. I fail to see how the modality of the first system could/should prevent the second.

    I propose that you learn it naturally. Or at least as naturally as would any native speaker of a language learn the writing system for that language. The problems that are experienced when learning to read and write English are the direct result of not knowing English. Also, once you have learned one writing system, it is infinitely easier to learn another.

    Just because something is hard to do doesn't mean that it shouldn't be done.

    Thank you. I am honoured. Truly.
     
  20. posts from hell

    posts from hell New Member

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    Natalie,

    After answering you PM, I read this thread.
    I jumped the gun a bit too soon and was harsh on the first statement, my mistake.

    About my second statement, I still stand on it. I didn't go in detail about my thoughts on it. Here they are:

    The majority of the people in the North America will be reading the written English. It's everywhere. The problem I personally have is that a LOT of Deaf people are already poor in English. I think the priority of emphasis should be the English language.

    I am wondering what language did most of these people know before knowing English?

    This is all new to me. Sorry if I don’t make sense.
     

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