Unboxing of a gadget the deaf way

You’ve seen many unboxing videos of the latest mobile phones and other gadgets. But have you seen one being explained by a deaf person and in sign language? Well, here it is!

For the first time, our school Manila Christian Computer Institute for the Deaf ventured into an Unboxing Video blog of a cellphone! Introducing the new player in town, Tecno Mobile. They started selling in the Philippines only this August 2020.

Check out our unboxing and first look of Tecno Mobile Spark 5 Pro as explained in SIGN LANGUAGE! This is especially dedicated to our Filipino Deaf community so that they can have access to the latest gadgets explained in their own language. However, an English voice interpreting is included for the general public. Our resident deaf Kennel Alonzo did the signing.

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Hope you all like it! Cheers!

Are deaf people deprived of their “mother language”?

Today, we celebrate “International Mother Language Day”. Held every 21st day of February as approved at the 1999 General Conference of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), it was born out of the initiative of Bangladesh and has been observed worldwide since 2000.

UNESCO commemorates this day to the belief that,

in the importance of cultural and linguistic diversity for sustainable societies. It is within its mandate for peace that it works to preserve the differences in cultures and languages that foster tolerance and respect for others. [link]

This recognition centers on the observation that native languages are increasingly threatened as more and more languages disappear. Dominant languages have been emphasized excessively that modern kids were discouraged in schools to use the language they use at home. Aside from that, books and other written materials using their mother language were scarce and readily unavailable. Nevertheless, progress is being made in mother tongue-based multilingual education with a growing understanding of its importance, particularly in early schooling, and more commitment to its development in public life.

But what about those who are deprived of language acquisition? What about those who were not able to access their “mother language” the moment they were born? How do we address those vulnerable sectors, most especially those who are deaf and hard-of-hearing?

What is Language Deprivation?

Language deprivation means, exactly, a language that is taken away from people. According to Therapy Travellers Website, Language deprivation is

 the term used for when a child does not have access to a naturally occurring language during their critical language-learning years. [link]

Deaf children are the most affected because they are not exposed to a language that would develop their cognitive growth. A deaf baby has not received any language exposure during the critical period between ages 0 to 2.

To illustrate,

stick figure of parent asking a hearing child what he wants and replies with milk, milk, milk
The hearing parent asks his hearing child what he wants. The hearing child replies by speaking what he needs which is milk.

 

The hearing parent can readily communicate with his baby what he needs because they both have access to sounds and speech. A baby with no hearing impairment would easily acquire speech and language. Studies show that the brain forms more than one million new neural connections every second from age 0 to 5. This means that they can accumulate emotional and physical health, social skills, and cognitive-linguistic capacities that emerge in the early years. [link]

 

 

stick figure of a deaf child asking milk but the parent doesn't understand
A deaf baby asking his father to give him milk. But the father asks “What do you want?” because he does not understand the baby.

Now compare that with a deaf baby interacting with his parents. Since a deaf baby does not hear her parents, he does not understand what they mean. He cannot associate any actions to the words or phrases that come out of their parents’ mouths because nothing enters his ears. No matter what the baby utters, the parent cannot seem to understand him. Does he need to pee? Is he hungry? Does he want to go out? Is he sick? Does he want to play? Situations like this often lead to frustrations, irritations, and tantrums. Eventually, this leads to ignoring the baby’s needs and thus stunt his overall emotional and intellectual growth.

That is language deprivation.

 

 

Worldwide, over 5% has disabling hearing loss, roughly 466 million people. 90% of deaf children are born with hearing parents. This means that their parents are not familiar with or even aware of how to deal with having a deaf child. So, their tendency is to just give the deaf kid what they perceived he wants without affirmation that it was really what he wants. Worse, the parents would just let them be and do their own thing. Problems in the delay in language development would appear when they are already in school, work, communicating with others, and even self-confidence.

Baby Sign Language

Research has shown that early exposure to a first language will predict future language outcomes. The earlier he can acquire a language, the better he can succeed. And since a deaf baby can learn a language using his eyes, he should be exposed to sign language at the earliest possible time.  Because signed languages are the only languages that are 100% accessible to a deaf child, we can be sure that the child’s brain is receiving language input.

Stick figure of a parent teaching his deaf child the sign for milk
A parent teaches his baby the sign language for milk while at the same time mouthing the words milk and holding the feeding bottle.

Deaf children who do not learn to sign until later in life are more likely to process signed languages not as linguistic input, but as visual input, contrasting with children exposed from birth, who process signed language in the same region of the brain in which hearing people process spoken language. Scientists suggest that the best guarantee of good language outcomes for Deaf children is to establish Sign Language as a secure first language before a cochlear implant program (CIP) is considered.[link]

I created an infographic about this today as part of our Deaf Sensitivity Series. It was posted on the official Facebook page of our school for the deaf. As of this writing, it has been shared nearly 50 times. Feel free to download the image below. 🙂

infographic

You may also view a very informative video below created by Nyle DiMarco Foundation of the hugely popular “America’s Next Top Model” deaf winner.

Happy International Mother Language Day! 🙂

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!!!!

Have you thanked your interpreters today?

One of my Facebook friends and now my “kumare” since I’m the Godson of her baby daughter Dean Nicky Templo – Perez of College of St. Benilde, tagged me in his post about sign language interpreter’s day.  I didn’t know there is one? It turns out that Mr. Joshua Jones, a deaf-blind from Seattle, created a Facebook Group Account called “Official Interpreter Appreciation Day 2013” honoring sign language interpreters.  I was approved as a member a few minutes ago. 🙂

This is what appears on their page which currently has more than 1,800 members:

We should show our appreciation to the interpreters. They work hard to help people to communicate via different languages. It is time for us to give the shout outs for their hard works. We did the polls here. We decided to do first Monday of May every year. May 1st will be our very first official Interpreter Appreciation Day.

The group declared that:

We celebrate our nurses on May 6, our Armed Forces on May 18, our teachers on May 7, and even our bosses on October 16. Today (Apr 24), it just so happens to be Administrative Professionals Day. But what about appreciation for the nimble-fingered professionals who break down communication barriers with the hearing world?

I have been a sign language interpreter in the Philippines since 1991. I love this work, although most of the time, I considered this as a thankless career. Living in a developing country such as the Philippines, sign language interpreters are “thought” to be just a helper or “Personal Assistant” of a deaf person and not a service provider. Interpreting, from the perspective of my countrymen, is not a profession but rather a mission or vocation and you must not expect any compensation from your work except, the “crown in heaven”.  View my entire post on another blog here.

That is why our Deaf citizens who are in need of interpreters are often being served by half-baked, unskilled and even unprofessional interpreters. Their reason for not rendering a better service is that they do this for free so don’t expect an excellent work.

My primary goal in blogging for the past five years is in order for people to become more aware and sensitive about the needs of the deaf while at the same time appreciate the work being done by service providers like us TERPS.

Deafview.com has a wonderful list of suggestions a deaf person might want to do in order to show his appreciation to his sign language interpreter. Come visit their page. Among those are educating your friends about what sign language interpreter does, small gifts or flowers and vlog them.

So it’s “official”. Sign Language Interpreter’s Day will be held every 1st Wednesday of May. Since the first Wednesday falls on May 1, which fittingly coincides with my country’s Labor Day, then, May 1, 2013 is SIGN LANGUAGE INTERPRETERS‘ DAY. Happy TERPS Day to all my colleagues in the sign language interpreting world. 🙂

Filipino Sign Language 101

This a re-post from an Inquirer.net article that appeared last December 1. It clearly explains what Filipino Sign Language is all about courtesy of our FSL Guru, Dr. Liza Martinez. Enjoy!!!

What are sign languages?

Common misconceptions:

Signing is universal.

Signing is gesture or only pantomime.

Sign languages are based on spoken languages.

Sign languages have been demonstrated to be true languages at par with spoken languages.  Spoken languages are based on classes of sound, while sign languages are built from visual units. There are over a hundred sign languages currently recognized around the world.

The fundamental unit of structure is the Handshape, along with the other parameters of Location, Movement, Palm Orientation and Nonmanual signal. These are further organized into units which carry meaning, and then, sentences and discourse.

Sign languages have no written systems and are governed by purely visually motivated grammatical devices found in the Nonmanual signals of the face and body.

How do sign languages differ from sign systems?

Sign languages arise and grow naturally across time, within communities of persons with hearing loss. A sign language is not intrinsic to children with hearing loss but is among the set of learned behaviors within the community that is shared, nurtured and passed on.

Sign languages possess their own structure distinct from spoken and written languages.

Sign systems, on the other hand, are considered artificial since they did not arise spontaneously but were purposively created as educational tools in the development of literacy.  Artificial sign systems follow the structure and grammar of spoken and written languages.

What is Filipino Sign Language (FSL)?

Common misconceptions about Filipino Sign Language:

It is based on Filipino.

It is based on English.

It is the “same” as American Sign Language.

Like other legitimate visual languages, FSL has a hierarchy of linguistic structure based on a manual signal supplemented by additional linguistic information from Nonmanual signals of the face and body. It is the ordered and rule-governed visual communication which has arisen naturally and embodies the cultural identity of the Filipino community of signers.

It shows internal structure distinct from spoken and written languages, and other visual languages, and possesses productive processes, enabling it to respond to numerous current and emerging communication needs.

It reflects rich regional diversity in its vocabulary and bears a historical imprint of language change over time since the early beginnings of manual communication in the 16th century in Leyte.

From the lexicostatistical analysis of field data by the Philippine Federation of the Deaf (PFD), possible varieties have so far been proposed: an Eastern Visayas group (Leyte variety) and a Southern Luzon group (Southern Tagalog, Bicol and Palawan varieties).

FSL bears the historical imprint of heavy language pressure from contact with American Sign Language since the start of the century, as well as with Manually Coded English since the 1970s.

In 2004, sign linguist Liza Martinez called attention to the massive and abrupt change of the core vocabulary of FSL, which has resulted from this linguistic pressure. The PFD historical analysis in 2007 used the lexicostatistical approach and verified vocabulary elements of indigenous as well as foreign origin.

Distinguished sign linguist James Woodward has been at the forefront of pioneering research to protect endangered indigenous sign languages (including FSL) and stem the strong tide of influence from foreign sign languages and sign systems.

Who are the Filipino deaf?

These are Filipinos who have hearing loss, including those who lost their hearing early or late in life (late-deafened adults, senior citizens), the hard of hearing, those with other impairments such as the deafblind, those who communicate orally, unschooled deaf, LGBT deaf, deaf indigenous peoples and so on.

Who are  the Filipino Deaf?

They are   deaf Filipinos who use, share, nurture and promote common values (including their visual language and cultural identity) as a claim for human rights and self-determination.

How are FSL and American Sign Language related?

FSL belongs to the branch of visual languages influenced by American Sign Language together with, for example, Thai Sign Language and Kenyan Sign Language. However, the structure of FSL has changed significantly enough for it to be considered a distinct language from American Sign Language.

There is substantial evidence of widespread FSL changes in the following:

Overall form, internal structure (particularly on the inventory of handshapes and accompanying phonological processes)

Sign formation or morphological processes (such as affixation, compounding, numeral incorporation, lexicalization of finger spelling, inflections and others)

Classifier predication, grammatical features and transformational rules, enabling it to generate infinite forms of surface structure from patterns of deep structure

What is the legal basis for House Bill No. 6079?

The bill is known as “An Act Declaring Filipino Sign Language as the National Sign Language of the Filipino Deaf and the Official Language of Government in All Transactions Involving the Deaf, and Mandating Its Use in Schools, Broadcast Media and Workplaces.”

The State is duty-bound internationally and domestically to legislate HB 6079 or other laws written in the same spirit.  International commitments include its ratification of UN core treaties, e.g. the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) and the Convention on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, as well as the signing by the Philippines of the 1994 Salamanca Statement on Special Needs Education.

Department of Education (DepEd) policies include the 1997 specific guidelines on the use of FSL  as the medium of instruction for students with hearing impairment. Recent or proposed DepEd policies, such as those for Mother Tongue-based Multilingual Education, the K-12 bill and the Early Years Act, already incorporate principles of full accessibility, inclusion and participation of children with disabilities.

Is this legal recognition of a national sign language taking place  only in the Philippines?

No. Forty-four countries are reported to have various levels of formal recognition for their sign languages, from constitutional status to specific legislation, polices or guidelines.

Sign language recognition continues to be an area of active lobbying with the government for Deaf communities worldwide, which invoke their right to language and communication in all aspects of their lives.

How much research has been done on FSL?

Rosalinda Macaraig Ricasa, the first Filipino hearing sign-language linguist who trained at the renowned Deaf institution, Gallaudet University (Washington), first presented in the late 1980s the observation of a possibly unique sign language in the Philippines, distinct from American Sign Language.

In 1990, Liza Martinez, the second Filipino hearing sign-language linguist who trained at the same Deaf university, conducted the first linguistic inquiry in the country. Since that time, over 80 studies on the structure and use of FSL have been undertaken and published or presented in local and international forums.

These span the fields of sign language linguistics, history, Philippine studies, literature and culture, lexicography and corpus, sign language interpreting, translation studies, language policy, education, early childhood development, human rights and machine intelligence/sign language recognition.

The Philippine Federation of the Deaf was the lead for the National Sign Language Committee, which produced the Status Report on the Use of Sign Language in the Philippines (with principal support from the Gallaudet University Alumni Association through the Laurent Clerc Cultural Fund) and the Practical Dictionaries Project, a four-country study with Vietnam, Cambodia and Hong Kong through the support of  Nippon Foundation.

Trainers for the latter project were Dr. James Woodward,

Dr. Yutaka Osugi (a Deaf sign linguist from Japan) and

Dr. Liza Martinez.

How are deaf children taught in public schools?

The National Sign Language Committee collected and evaluated videotape samples of over 150 hearing teachers in nine regions. The data show typically Sign Supported Speech or Simultaneous Communication (i.e., speaking and signing at the same time). The most frequent use of the spoken language is English, mixed with either Filipino or Cebuano.

Will HB 6079 hinder the development of literacy?

No. Section 4 (1) of the bill states that the reading and writing of Filipino, other Philippine languages and English shall still also be taught.  For a bilingual-bicultual goal in Deaf education, the first language (L1) is a fully accessible visual language (i.e., FSL), and the second language (L2) is a written language.

Shall the legal recognition of FSL as the national sign language conflict with individual autonomy?

No. A fundamental principle of the UNCRPD is individual autonomy, including the freedom to make one’s own choices (Article 3.a).

On education, Article 24.3 emphasizes that “States Parties shall enable persons with disabilities to learn life and social development skills to facilitate their full and equal participation in education and as members of the community. To this end, States Parties shall take appropriate measures, including:

(b) Facilitating the learning of sign language and the promotion of the linguistic identity of the deaf community;

(c) Ensuring that the education of persons, and in particular children, who are blind, deaf or deafblind, is delivered in the most appropriate languages and modes and means of communication for the individual, and in environments which maximize academic and social development.”

Part (b) is a clear directive to facilitate and promote the linguistic identity of the community (i.e., FSL).  Notable is the use of the word “including” in the first paragraph (meaning, it is not exclusive) for the directive to promote this linguistic identity.

Part (c) instructs the State to make sure that schools, in pursuit of their goals and mandates, offer education that is appropriate and maximizes academic and social development.  This appears to give schools latitude in the choice and delivery through the use of various languages,  modes and means.  However, these must satisfy the requirements for fully inclusive education and maximum development.

Article 21.b directs the State to guard the freedom of expression and access to information of persons with disabilities of all forms of communication “of their choice,” while also recognizing and promoting the use of sign languages (21.e).

The most critical point here is State responsibility.  The party to the convention is the Philippine state and not any stakeholder. The State must, therefore, clearly demonstrate that it is carrying out its duty to facilitate and promote the linguistic and cultural identity of the community (Articles 21.b, e; 24.3.b, 30.4) and provide full accessibility through sign language interpretation (Article 9.2.e). Articles 21.b and 24.3.c in no way diminish State commitment to clearly promote and protect sign language and deaf culture.

What will happen if HB 6079 does not become a law?

State responsibility remains clear and does not change. It shall still need to demonstrate how it is implementing Articles 21.b, e,  24.3.b,  30.4 and 9.2.e of the UNCRPD. It shall also be accountable for the nearly two decades of neglect of its commitment to the 1994 Salamanca Statement to ensure access through a national sign language.

Existing policies of the DepEd and the judiciary relating to sign language and accessibility must still be fully implemented according to the principles and obligations of the UNCRPD.

Will the mandatory use of FSL be a barrier to unschooled deaf Filipinos?

No.  Because of its fully visual nature, FSL is the next most efficient and effective interface in communication even with a deaf person who has been isolated and is unable to use the typical sign communication of the community.  Artificial sign systems, which are sound- and alphabet-/spelling-based, shall be incomprehensible to such deaf persons.

(Dr. Liza Martinez is founder and director of the Philippine Deaf Resource Center, a member of the Philippine Coalition on the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. She has been actively involved in structural and sociolinguistics research on FSL for the past 22 years.)

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