On teaching the deaf

Sir Jeff (left in brown shirt) and his deaf class

A school for the deaf is unlike any other regular school. You can compare them based on many aspects. Even schools for the deaf also have varying degrees of difference.

One basic distinction is its class size. Hearing schools in the Philippines normally have a population of 50 or more per class, depending on how depressed the surrounding community is. Schools for the deaf rarely reach a number greater than fifteen. Philippine School for the Deaf, the largest and oldest public residential school for the deaf in Asia has a total population of more than 700 students from pre-school to high school. However, their class size never reaches 20.

Another difference is the mode of communication. Regular schools obviously employ speech as a form of interaction. Some deaf oral schools also use it but generally, the teacher transfers learning through sign language. In our school, Filipino Sign Language is the medium of instruction although we often emphasize that English must be used in any written format. Our basic policy is that students can sign whatever method or approach they like. They can use Signing Exact English, Pidgin Sign English, Manually Coded English, etc. Although I haven’t seen anyone using cued speech that doesn’t mean it’s not being used. However, I doubt it will prosper unless someone invents a special hand code for every Tagalog phonology.

These two differences greatly affect how we handle our deaf class. At MCCID, we have seasoned deaf teachers like Sir Ervin Reyes who won numerous awards in computer contests both locally and internationally and Sir Oscar Purificacion who also works as a commercial billboard artist in another company. Since the subjects they teach were mainly skills building; computers, the Internet, multimedia projector and other teaching implements greatly help them in conveying information. We are truly blessed by their dedication and in constantly improving their craft. They serve as good role models to their students.

There are only two of us who are hearing teachers; Sir Jefferson Cortez and I. Even after being with the deaf for almost half my life, my sign language ability is nothing compared with what he has experienced. You see, Jeff is the eldest child of deaf parents. He practically lives in a deaf world. That’s why I salute him for embracing a wonderful culture that many skeptics still deny that it even exists.

According to his blog, Meet the Stranger, he always exhausts ways in order to connect with his deaf students. He said,

Isn’t it right that being a good teacher depends on his/her student’s mood? I guess that it’s true based on my experience. One thing I always keep in mind is how can I handle them or even encourage them to study their lessons very well even though they found the books tiresome, unexciting and boring to read.

He also noticed that deaf students get bored reading books. Printed there are just a bunch of words with worthless meanings. However, they began to appreciate reading them through their interpreter. He explained,

But hey, do you believe that they love reading books through their interpreter? Whenever I gave them an assignment or homework about some sort of stories. Most of them loves “copy-paste” from the book they are searching about. When it comes searching their assignment through internet, all they have to do is to highlight what they are looking for then copy then paste it on Microsoft Word then afterwards, here comes the printer. When it comes to understanding their assignment, most of them comprehend on that picture instead of the information.

As an instructor, he has to explain every detail of their assignments and homework through Sign Language. They found their stories very exciting and fascinating. Their attention was aroused based on the many questions they throw on him. He finds them all friendly, loving and always had their warm-hearted and that is what he really likes about them. So no matter what lessons you deliver, it’s how you deliver them that is important and the right attitude that you impart on them.

Mabuhay ka Sir Jeff! We are truly blessed having you onboard MCCID. To all the teachers for the deaf worldwide, this blogger salutes you. 🙂

You may find other stories about his experiences through his WordPress blog.

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Examples why English is hard to Interpret into Sign Language

Do you think interpreting for the deaf is like a walk in the park? Think again. Duplicate words within the same sentence have different meanings. Some sounds differently, but are spelled the same. An interpreter must sign the correct meaning, not just the word. Now how do we sign the following?

1. The bandage was wound around the wound.

2. The farm was used to produce produce.

3. The dump was so full that it had to refuse more refuse.

4. I had to subject the subject to a series of tests.

5. He could lead if he would get the lead out and find the electrical lead.

6. The soldier decided to desert his dessert in the desert.

7. Since there is no time like the present, he thought it was time to present the present.

8. A bass was painted on the head of the bass drum.

9. I did not object to the object.

10. The insurance was invalid for the invalid.

Do you think you are having a hard time interpreting? You need to think only of English and ASL. But what about us Filipino sign language interpreters? Our job is more mind-boggling. We are more brain multitaskers than you. We must first understand what the speaker meant. Then we translate his spoken Tagalog to English. Then we convert it to Filipino sign language. Sometimes this process interchanges whenever it fits. Tagalog or Filipino language too has same words with double meanings.

The Tagalog word order is opposed to the English word order. We generally follow the VERB-SUBJECT structure. Now how do we sign these sentences?

1. Ang bata pa nung bata na bata nya.
[The child who belongs to him is still very young.] (Translation mine but can still have other meaning.)

The first bata means young, the second bata means child while the third bata means someone belonging to someone or his ward or sweetheart.

2. Paso na ang paso na nabili niya sa Pasong Tamo kaya siya napaso.
[The pot that he bought at Pasong Tamo is already expired that’s why he got burned.]

The first paso means expired, the second paso means pot, the third Paso is a street name while the last one means got burned.

3. Ang baba naman ng baba mo kaya ka pala bababa sa baba.
[Your chin is so low that is why you want to go down below.]

The first baba means low, the second baba means chin, the third bababa means going down while the last baba means down below or downstairs.

4. Ang tanda mo na para di mo matandaan kung saan mo nilagay yung tanda.
[You are already too old to not remember where you placed the marker.]

The first tanda means old, the second tanda means remember while the last tanda means marker.

5. Bababa? Bababa. (Elevator conversation.)
[Going down? Yes.]

English is a crazy language. Tagalog is even crazier. Sign Language interpreters have a mentally challenging job to make the meaning clear. Otherwise you won’t get the right information you need!

So to the deaf people out there, go easy on us. Our job is not easy. 🙂

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When does a joke becomes a ridicule?

When does a deaf person perceive a given situation to be a joke? When does he think that he is already being discriminated or being mocked? How do they draw the line between someone throwing a harmless joke and one that is already harassing? Given the deaf’s inability to hear makes them vulnerable of being misunderstood.

One of the peculiarities in understanding the deaf is in terms of their perspective of their surroundings. Since most of the time nobody explains to them what is going on, they view situations based on what they see. This leads to misapprehensions and may even put them into humiliation. Now this is tragic.

Our small school for the deaf is currently renting the first two floors of a 4-story building in Cubao, Quezon City. We have employed a very faithful and trustworthy middle aged deaf utility named Eriberto. He is a Christian like most of our employees, conscientious in his work and has no vices. Although he appeared lean, he is strong and healthy.

When tenants from the ground floor complained that minute parts of their plastic rooftop were melting and gaping holes beginning to appear due to cigarette butts being thrown on it, they immediately called the attention of the building owner’s son. In order to protect his rights, I simply call him the “Harasser“. Probably due to his need to impress his father and his other tenants, he readily pointed a finger on our deaf Eriberto.

I don’t know why many people often accuse the deaf as one of their “usual suspects”. Is it because they are harmless and cannot readily defend themselves? This is sickening.

Even though Mr. Harasser made further investigations, he already had someone in mind to blame, our deaf. One evening, while I’m making some repairs on the computer lab, Mr. Harasser suddenly appeared and started asking questions to every deaf he met. Since they don’t understand his words, his facial fits made them feel that he’s angry. They immediately called me. So I talked to the him defending our staff. I emphasized that we have a school policy against smoking. We only have less than 100 students so we personally monitor their actions. I further clarified that we are not the only tenants in the building. There is another technical school, recruitment agency office and a call center training school for hearing at the second floor. They too have students/clients who smoke and stayed near the window above the contested rooftop. Still, my explanation meant nothing to him. During our conversation, he never left his eye off of our deaf. Mr. Harasser asked for his mobile phone number, verified if he uses a red cigarette and even took his photo from his cell phone. The situation is really getting off my nerves but I maintained calmness until he left.

A few days later, while our deaf was walking passed Mr. Harasser’s shop, he again called him. He gestured threatening him that he can be put to jail if he won’t stop throwing cigarette butts from the window. He motioned like a policeman putting handcuffs and slashing his finger off his neck saying “you’re dead”. All that time, he was laughing like a cursed devil to our deaf in front of his staff. Naturally, Eriberto got bloody scared. He can’t decipher if Mr. Harasser is just pulling his leg or already intimidating him. So he ran up and looked for me gasping while recounting his story.

Now, that really pissed me off. Together with my father, we went straight to Mr. Harasser. On top of my voice, I asked him, why does he keep on harassing and accusing our staff? Can’t he understand my explanation that he did not do it? It’s now my turn to threaten him. I said that if he’d do it again and our staff resigned, we will follow him and move the school to another location. I reminded him that we are their biggest tenant in terms of space area and rental fee. And if Mr. Harasser again bullied the deaf, we can file harassment case against him and slap disability laws (RA 9442) on his face. Mr. Harasser’s staff pacified the tense situation and apologized to me.

The next day, again, as Eriberto went passed his shop, he called him, texted words on his cell and showed it to him. He said he was just joking and doesn’t mean what he said the other day. Our deaf already developed phobia so he didn’t believe Mr. Harasser. Eriberto told me about the incident. I uttered, “What the..! That’s it? All the while, he was JUST JOKING?” I tell you, Mr. Harasser is definitely sick.

I appeased Eriberto and explained to him, the next time Mr. Harasser terrorized him again, we will report him directly to the barangay chairman for violating the Section 8, Chapter 2 of Amended Magna Carta for the Disabled Persons.

Republic Act 9442 has a special provision against verbal, non-verbal ridicule and vilification against persons with disability. Violators will be slapped with a fine of not less than Fifty thousand pesos (P50,000.00) but not exceeding One hundred thousand pesos (P100,000.00) or imprisonment of not less than six months but not more than two years. For subsequent violation, a fine of not less than One hundred thousand pesos (P100,000.00) but not exceeding Two hundred thousand pesos (P200,000.00) or imprisonment for not less than two years but not more than six years will be thrown on him. This law was only enacted last 2006 and very few people still don’t know that it exists.

My advice to the deaf, the next time heartless people mock or ridicule you, tell him point blank that they can be put to jail. Also be more discerning. Try to analyze if other people are simply joking around or already stepping on your shoes.

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When Uncle Sam sneezes, the whole world catches cold

Let’s deviate momentarily about the deaf issue and tackle a broader one. I recently got hold of this funny yet factual saying,

When the US economy sneezes, the world catches a cold.

The reason for this is that being the biggest economy in the world, the United States most likely have trade and investment relations with almost all countries. That doesn’t spare the Philippines. Ever since our country has been colonized in early 20th century, the Americans hold most of our economic activities.

America has been sneezing a lot lately, with its housing sector reflecting the virus most prominently. This translates to slower consumer spending, which in turn slows down performance in much of the rest of the US economy.

It’s the US that is being blamed for high energy and fuel costs. Their thirst for fossil fuels are unquenchable. Our country doesn’t rely much on oil for our energy needs except for transport sector which is solely dependent on it. So for every dollar increase in oil price on the world market, it translates to a higher transport cost. The domino effect continues.

Even the current US presidential elections touches us in more ways than one. I have not seen such huge interest Filipinos have about the Obama-Mccain contest than in recent years. Whoever the US decides, it’s his foreign policy, immigration and illegal aliens issues and care for war veterans that we should be wary about. The US remains the top destination for Filipino overseas workers.

With the recent mortgage crisis and Wall Street disaster, our country cannot escape from this debacle unscathed. Being a member of Association of South East Asian Nations (Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, Indonesia and the Philippines), the United States remains among the two biggest buyers of our exports. However, recent data shows that it is not the Philippines but Malaysia that now has the greatest export dependence on the United States, which buys one-fifth (19.5 percent) of that country’s merchandise exports.

It’s a good thing that the Philippines was able to reduce its trade dependence on the United States since the 1990s. Before, Uncle Sam took 38 percent of our merchandise exports, with Japan a far second at 19.8 percent. China was nowhere in our foreign trade radar then, taking less than one percent of our exports at the time. Now, it has dislodged the United States as our biggest export buyer, accounting for one-fifth (19.5 percent) of our own exports, against the United States’ 16 percent. So it is China’s sneeze that we need to be more cautious about.

Our school for the deaf will be celebrating its 15th year this October. Ever since we are founded in 1993, we have been moving from one rented building to another. We constantly pray for a place where we can call our own and really establish a more stable ground. This couple of years, God has blessed us with good financial standing and the desire to expand is within our reach. Sadly, we are affected by this sudden downturn of the world’s economy. A darker cloud looms above the horizon. Should we continue or should we wait for calmer seas? That has been the question most of the businessmen currently ask. But must we succumb to this threat? I pray not. 🙂

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Deaf girl rescued from prostitution house

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

SAN LEONARDO, Nueva Ecija – A deaf-mute and another companion were rescued by elements of the Nueva Ecija police following a series of lightning raids of 40 establishments along the national highway here suspected of being fronts of prostitution.

Senior Superintendent Ricardo Marquez, Philippine National Police provincial director, said that the deaf-mute, whose identity was withheld, was rescued along with a young woman from Laur, Nueva Ecija Maharlika who was reunited with her mother a week after she found her way here to work as one of the guest relations officer (GRO) in one of the beer joints.

The raiding team, led by deputy provincial director for operations, Superintendent Peter Guibong, swooped down on the establishments on Thursday. They were assisted by the municipal government in conducting the raids.

The crackdown against the beer joints was ordered by Marquez following reports that the flesh trade was running rampant along the Maharlika Highway in this town.

The stretch of fun houses lining the highway is long considered the “red light district of Nueva Ecija” which has been the subject of complaints for many years to no avail. Several robbery-holdup incidents were also recorded in the area during night time, victimizing travelers. – Manny Galvez

Copied from “Deaf-mute rescued in funhouse” – Philippine Star News Article

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