How can we improve the English reading and writing comprehension of deaf people?

I subscribed at Quora.com and am so fond of reading answers from question asked by readers. I am amazed at how people respond to questions in a more comprehensive, unbiased and sometimes personal way. And since I am into deaf and deaf education, I tried asking my title question. What I got was a very good response from Dr. Don Grushkin, a Deaf Professor! Talk about credibility!

One of the problems I experienced using Quora is that I cannot keep track of my questions. There is nowhere in my Quora dashboard where I can access my previous questions. It’s a good thing I shared it in my Facebook wall so I can remember the link. I also want to put it in my blog so that I can easily access it every time I need it. So here it is! Thank you very much Dr. Grushkin, my newfound idol! 😉

You want to know how we can improve the English reading and writing comprehension of Deaf people? I’ll tell you. It’s very simple.

From the minute you find out a child’s Deaf (and you can find out right in the hospital after they’re born), start speaking ASL (not signed English, cued speech, or any other pseudoscientific “methodology” — ASL: AMERICAN SIGN LANGUAGE with them. And no futzing around with oralism or cochlear implants or whatever to see if it “works” first, and no wailing and gnashing your teeth and rending your clothes at the fact the child is Deaf. Being Deaf is not the same as dead. We’re fine as we are, and we have perfectly good lives as Deaf people and can survive to a ripe old age as Deaf people. But the point here is that you tend to focus on “methodologies”, when you should be focusing on LANGUAGE. LANGUAGE is never an “option” for any child, and ASL is a language where signed English, cued speech, cochlear implants, oralism are emphatically not languages.

Great! You get it! You’ve started taking ASL courses, so you can communicate with your child in a true language. Now start talking to your child — in ASL. Talk about everything, just as you would with a Hearing child — the birds, the sky, what you see, what you are doing, what you want to do, what you don’t want your child doing — EVERYTHING.

Now that you’ve gotten started on the right track in giving your child a complete linguistic and cognitive foundation with a complete, accessible language (ASL), start reading to your child. Every day. In ASL. Use the reading strategies that Deaf adults have long used with their Deaf (and hearing) children that have consistently promoted literacy development in their children.

Also, don’t be afraid to fingerspell naturally — I’m not saying go all Rochester Method, but fingerspell titles (books, movies, names) and words that there may not be a sign for. Use lexicalized fingerspelling for common words like rice and bus. Fingerspelling is part of ASL’s bridging between English and ASL.

When your kid’s old enough, send your child to a school program that utilizes a true ASL-English bilingual philosophy. You have to be a bit careful here. There are plenty of programs that claim to be bilingual, but really are not. If the program uses signed English or cued speech, that’s a sign it’s not truly bilingual. If the program involves teachers simcomming, that’s a sign it’s not truly bilingual. If there are only a few (or none) Deaf teachers (and they should be TEACHERS, not aides), that’s a sign it’s not truly bilingual. A good bilingual program should have at least a 50/50 Deaf-Hearing ratio of faculty and staff. If the school uses auditory-based methodologies and systems like “visual phonics”, that’s a sign it’s not truly bilingual.

Now that your kid is school-age, encourage your child to read. Really, you should have been encouraging this long ago by providing books at the kid’s reading and interest level. Talk about what they and you are reading. Not only should you encourage your kid to read, be involved with your kid’s education. Help with homework. Ask and talk about their day.

In other words:

Yes, ASL IS the answer!

I couldn’t agree more!

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What’s your super power?

I saw a t-shirt with this one written on it. It’s kinda jolt me a bit as to what sign language is. That’s probably the way some people who are skilled in sign language think about their ability. I agree with them. So I made a similar one using our very own MCCID FSL Font.

I know sign language. What's your superpower?
What’s your superpower?

Cheers!!!!

Difference between ASL and FSL

Now that we are still under the topic of sign language, let me explain further to you the difference between American Sign Language and Filipino Sign Language.

I have already shown this image on my previous blog post. But this time, I would like to elaborate more on how each letter came about from the viewpoint of a Filipino.

Letter E

According to a first known study analyzing ethnic differences in the hand spans of pianists, Caucasian male spans are 0.3 inches larger than those of Asian males. Also in this survey,  Caucasian female spans are 0.2 inches greater than those of their Asian counterpart.

Based on this study, Asians genetically have smaller hands compared to the Americans. This also holds true as regards differences in height and build. So, since a Filipino hand is slightly smaller, touching all fingers on top of the thumb would not be clearly distinguished when viewed from at least ten feet away. The hand would be mistaken from letter “O” which also touches the thumb. The solution would be detaching all the fingers from the thumb in order to distinctly see the letter E.

 

e to o.png
Fingerspelled E to  almost O

Letter G

Again, this is also a genetic difference. Unless the reader sees the tip of the thumb protruding above the index finger, it’s difficult to distinguish letter “G” from a hand pointing to the right.

g
Letter G?
g1
Letter G as viewed from the top

So, to solve this “small” problem, Filipino deaf sticks out his thumb to show the letter “G”.

Letter T

Now this one involves culture. A thumb (male penis) sticking out between two fingers  (female vagina) symbolizes sexual intercourse. Everybody in my country understands this hand sign all too well. This was also a “secret” street sign in the old flourishing flesh trade when the American Naval and Air Force Bases are still occupying our land. A pimp would just discreetly motion this hand to the soldiers if they want to hire a hooker.

sexhandsign
Obscene sign

So, if you are a Filipino deaf, would you want to wave your hand using the ASL “T”? Unless you are referring to the “actual thing”, then go ahead! Hehehe

* – Some images posted here were copyright by their respective owners.  

Can we compare a hard-of-hearing from a deaf?

Or if I may rephrase my title, is it better to be a hard-of-hearing than to be a deaf person?

Erasmus, a famous Latin scholar during the Reformation once said,

in regione caecorum rex est luscus, or in English

in the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king

Is the proverb also applicable to the deaf and the hard-of-hearing people?

Hard of Hearing (HoH) refers to someone who doesn’t hear well. This may be because they were born with a hearing loss or they may have lost some or all of their hearing later in life. Many hard of hearing people don’t know that they have a hearing loss.

ndpr2
Deaf audience

A few weeks ago during our yearly National Disability Prevention and Rehabilitation Week (NDPR) celebration, our deaf students were invited to attend the “Persons With Disabilities Networking with Employers Talkshop” hosted by the Persons With Disabilities Affairs Office of Quezon City. Resource speakers from various sectors of disabilities gave their “from rags to riches” stories and how they overcame their barriers to attain their success. As always, a great majority of those who attended were deaf people.

ndprtarpaulin
NDPR Tarpaulin

I should say, it was truly a very inspiring activity. However, when it came to the “hearing impaired” sector, the organizers chose a “speaker”. I consciously quoted the word speaker because he really can speak! His story started when in childhood, he emphasized that he can hear. His sense of sound eventually diminished as he grows older due to a disease. He is what the deaf studies call, “post-lingual deaf”.  He then mentioned about how he was bullied and discriminated during his elementary up until his college days. But then, he succeeded and completed his education.

Again, he experienced discrimination while applying for a job. Luckily, his passion for photography earned him a work in an online news site. Eventually he became a regular government employee. His is truly an “against all odds” testimony. Oh by the way, he only communicates through lipreading and writing. He confessed that he knows little sign language and he chose not to learn it.

Some deaf from the audience cannot hide their feeling of a tinge of envy from this successful guy. They signed, “good for him” because he can talk! “Good for him” because he has work! “Good for him” because he passed the Career Civil Service Examination (CSC) that is why he is now a regular government employee! Upon comparing their current situation, the deaf attendees started questioning themselves. “What would become of us?”

Let me state it clearly here. I AM NOT PREJUDICIAL AGAINST THE HARD-OF-HEARING PEOPLE. God blessed them with this residual ability to hear. They are what we call in graphics animation, the in-betweeners in the deaf world. They are neither here nor there. And since they can hear a little, then they are at an advantage compared to those who are profoundly deaf because probably once in their lifetime, they were able to appreciate sounds and speech clearly.

When one of the deaf participant asked a direct question to him, “you can hear that is why you found a nice job, now what about us who cannot hear?” Still another one asked him, “you passed the CSC Exam because you know Tagalog, now how about us who have a language barrier since we don’t know the language?”

 

reverse interpret
Me reverse interpreting MCCID’s Sir Ervin as he questions the speaker.

For these questions, he simply replied, “you must be more patient and strive harder.” Now this is such a tall order, an advice that is too difficult to fulfill. But then again, saying this would make us sound so pitiful and hopeless.

So I am more inclined to side with him and agrees with his reply. Our Lord Jesus Christ said, “if someone wants you to go one mile, go with him two miles”. We must double our effort in achieving our goals. As another saying goes, “slow and steady wins the race.”

* – I deliberately did not mention the guy’s name because I don’t want to put him in a bad light. He is a good friend and I truly admire his tenacity and advocacy for his group. I may put his name here if he allows me to do so.

Ignorance about Filipino Sign Language

The issue about sign language and the deaf community has sparked renewed attention recently in the Philippines. This was after viewing the second State of the Nation Address of our very controversial and unorthodox (talk about all the badmouth words) yet very popular President Rodrigo Duterte last Monday, July 24.

#fslsaSoNA2017
Photo courtesy of Ms. Naty Natividad, current Vice President of Philippine National Association of Sign Language Interpreters (PNASLI)

I was assigned by PNASLI, the national association of sign language interpreters, to do interpreting together with Dean of College of St. Benilde and my “kumare” Nicky Templo-Perez at GMA-7, a regular or “suki”. Actually, it was in GMA7 where I first interpreted in SONA way back in 2010. This year, aside from the local private TV stations, it’s the first time the government TV Channel 4 aired the SONA with inset sign language interpreting. And they were very fortunate to have their interpreting right inside the halls of the House of Representatives itself where the actual action is happening.

However, they did not get their interpreters from the pool of PNASLI people. Instead they got the services of the Philippine Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf (PRID), the oldest existing organization which trains and deploys interpreters in the country. As an alumnus and a proud product of PRID, I was truly excited that they have participated in such a momentous event. Interpreting in one setting is what I really dreamed of. I have been aspiring that all TV stations will broadcast the President’s SONA using one interpreter.

bamaquino
Senator Bam Aquino (Photo linked from the Manila Bulletin)

But I won’t be dwelling much on that. I would like to emphasize on the recent news coming from Senator Bam Aquino pushing for the Filipino Sign Language Bill in the Senate. He said he was grateful for the sign language interpreters during the SONA because of their efforts to deliver the message of the President to our fellow Filipinos who are deaf. Aquino is the author of Senate Bill No. 966 or the Filipino Sign Language Act, which seeks to declare FSL as the national sign language of the Filipino Deaf and “the official language of the Philippine government in all transactions with the Deaf.” He also mentioned that many saluted or lauded the interpreters for making the sign language available to deaf persons during the two-hour SONA.

It was a really welcoming news item. But then, a handful of people who commented on the news in social media were so distasteful and exposing their ignorance about sign language and its use. Someone even suggested that the Senator should focus his efforts on how he can assist the deaf by putting more wheelchair ramps! Talk about mixed disabilities. Still another guy recommended that the Filipino deaf use the internationally accepted American Sign Language (ASL) so that he can compete globally. Really? Why would the Filipino deaf need that? Are they applying as Call Center Operators or work overseas? Yet another one opines that supporting FSL is for the sake of Filipino pride and acknowledgement of its existence. Well, what’s wrong with that? He even emphasized that sign language is universal so there’s no need to create a new one. Does he really think that it’s universal?

Did you know that Filipinos have different names describing rice, our staple food? We have palay for unmilled rice, bigas for milled rice, kanin for cooked rice, lugaw for rice porridge, tutong for burned rice, bahaw for left over rice and sinangag for fried rice. You might also be surprised that each of these words have distinct Filipino Sign Language.

Another distinct difference between ASL and FSL is through fingerspelling. Look at the illustration below.

difference between asl and fsl in fingerspelling.png

I have met people who brags by saying they are well versed in ASL. But when I observed their signs, I can easily distinguish it from Signed Exact English (SEE) or Pidgin Sign English (PSE). So it’s either they don’t know what they’re talking about or they are plain ignorant. (Is there a difference?)

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