Could It Be An English Problem?

Do you ever sign an instruction or procedure to a Deaf person, see him nod in agreement, and then do the opposite of what you sign? The problem could be English.

Why is English hard for many Deaf people? Hearing people grow up listening to language — in USA, mostly English. They hear how to form sentences. They hear people talk about good and bad grammar. English becomes almost natural. Of course, listen’n to and seein bad grammaw can cawse bad habits also – aint that right? In their formative years, most Deaf people may not be aware of the grammar discussion. Oddly enough, it seems that Deaf children born to linguistically-caring Deaf parents may be able to learn English better because of learning language early. ASL and English are very different. Some educators have used English signing systems (MCE, SEE, etc), trying to teach English to Deaf children. This has mixed success.

Hearing signers often sign in an English format with a hearing person’s perspective, causing Deaf people to misunderstand. Think about what you sign from a Deaf person’s point of view. Make a video of yourself signing; then play it back after a few days. Mute the voice, so you must use only your eyes. Does the signing make sense visually? What would happen if you, as a hearing person, had not overheard the context of the conversation? Would it still make sense? Were there enough visual parts such as body shift, repetition, placement, slow and deliberate signing, and directional signing for the message to be clear? The point is, are you signing ASL signs, but using English sentence structure or a hearing perspective?

It is good for all signers to reconsider how they get information. They should relay ALL information visually using hands, body, eyes, mouth, head, and rate (speed).

Let’s take away the English and sign visually!