Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Signing Systems

There are several different kinds of sign languages used in the United States (in the world, too, for that matter). Let’s now go over the different systems so that you have a better idea of what they are.

AMERICAN SIGN LANGUAGE (ASL, also termed AMESLAN by the late Lou Fant) uses signs, gestures, specific facial expressions, non-manual movements, and the like to express feelings, ideas, and concepts visually. It uses no voice, but does have facial grammar (non-manual markers, mouth morphemes).  It uses a completely different grammar system and sentence structure as that of spoken English. The rules of grammar, which will be discussed in a different section of this site, are clear and developed.

SEEING ESSENTIAL ENGLISH (SEE 1) and SIGNED EXACT ENGLISH (SEE II) -- The ideas behind these systems is that Deaf children will learn English better if they are exposed, visually through signs, to the grammatical features of English. The base signs are borrowed from ASL, but the various inflections are not used. A lot of initialization is used. Additionally, a lot of “grammatical markers” for numbers, person, tense, etc., are added, and strict English word order is used. Every prefix, suffix, article, conjunction, auxiliary verb, etc., is signed. Also, English homophones are represented by identical signs (i.e. the same sign is used for the noun fish and the verb fish, which have different ASL signs). The difference between the two is minor--the principle one being that in SEE II, ASL signs for compound words (like butterfly) are used, where the two signs representing the separate English words are used in SEE I (To sign “butterfly,” you would sign BUTTER and FLY, which gives a bizarre visual to the deaf child!).

LINGUISTICS OF VISUAL ENGLISH -- (L.O.V.E.)  Developed by Dennis Wampler. It has similarities to SEE II and Signed English. It is a signing system rather than language on its own. Therefore some people claim that exposure to L.O.V.E. does not provide children with the complete linguistic access that is needed to internalize whole language.

SIGNED ENGLISH -  Developed by Harry Bornstein. Similar to SEE I and SEE II, but a little simpler. It uses English word order, but fewer grammatical markers than the SEE systems--it has fourteen, based on Brown’s fourteen grammatical morphemes (e.g., plural /s/, possessive /s/, /ed/, /ly/, /er/, and so on).

The problem with the English-based systems above are that they are very slow. They are easier to learn for hearing people than ASL, but they are slower to use, because, on average, signs take twice as long as words to produce.  So the average proposition takes twice as long to express. Also, you have to be grammatically very self-aware to use them. The research shows that most parents and many teachers who are trying to use these systems, end up leaving out many of the grammatical markers and that many children exposed to them end up modifying them to more ASL-like forms.

CONTACT SIGN (Formerly called PIDGIN SIGN ENGLISH or PSE) - Ranges on a continuum, from being more “Englishy” to being more like ASL. It is what happens when adults try to learn ASL, in many situations. It is ASL and some of its grammar (how much English versus how much ASL varies from signer to signer) in English word order. Children exposed to CSL will often produce grammatically perfect ASL.

AMELISH -- Term coined by Bernard Bragg. Uses lots of ASL and fingerspelling in English word order.

CONCEPTUALLY ACCURATE SIGNED ENGLISH --  (C.A.S.E.) A signing system rather than a language on its own.  Similar to “Englishy” PSE / Contact Sign.

MANUALLY CODED ENGLISH -- (M.C.E.) Not a particular method, but a general description of all the systems that attempt to reflect English grammar, etc., on the hands.

ROCHESTER METHOD -- Every word is fingerspelled except "AND."

Monday, August 11, 2014

New Restaurant in Toronto Caters to the Deaf and Signing Community
Did you hear? Well, maybe not hear, but did you know that there is a new restaurant called
Signs" that caters to the Deaf and Signing Community? Check out the above link or read a little about this new wonderful thing!
Also visit their page on Facebook:
The dining scene in Toronto is turning the tables on hearing clientele with Signs, a deaf restaurant and bar that encourages communication solely by sign language. The first of its kind in Canada, customers are asked to order their meals by signing and the restaurant will be mostly staffed by deaf servers.
Not fluent in sign language? No problem. Customers will be given a cheat book of sorts that will contain the most popular phrases used in restaurants and instructions on how to sign the various menu options.
The restaurant is the brainchild of owner Anjan Manikumar, who began learning American Sign Language (ASL) when working as a manager at a Boston Pizza in Markham.
“I had a deaf customer that would come around a lot,” Manikumar told ABC News. “He wasn’t getting the service he deserved.”
After attempts to communicate with a deaf regular customer consistently resorted to a series of pointing and nodding, Manikumar decided to learn to sign.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

When People Come A-Knockin'

When summer's over and school is back in session (which is coming up very soon), it seems that's when most people start walking up to my door and ringing the doorbell. I've got one of those fancy devices that throw off a strobe light whenever that happens. But I HATE it! From the moment it flashes till I actually open the door, all I can think is, "Darnit! Who is it this time?!?!?" That's because of my many experiences with answering a door while alone.

I'll be watching TV or doing the dishes and suddenly: FLASH! FLASH! FLASH! I try to peek out of the living room window first, but I can't tell who it is. I open my door and there are two people dressed in suits with huge smiles on their faces as they begin to speak.

I interrupt and point to my ears and shake my head--indicating that I'm Deaf. They begin to over-enunciate and point to their lips. "I can't lipread either," I slur. They laugh uncomfortably and start to talk to each other. "Are you Jehovah Witnesses?" I ask.

"Yes," they answer with a great amount of excitement and start talking to me again.

"I'm sorry, but I'm not interested," I say as I close the door. Whew! That was exhausting.

Sometimes people will write to me after I indicate I can't hear:

"Can you read?" No. What does this note say?
"Is there someone else I can talk to?" Nope. All alone and there will never be another person home.
"Do you read Braille?" Only in the dark.
"I can come back." Sorry, but I'll still be Deaf and uninterested.

I get all sorts of things happening after the house is empty of kids. It can be truly tiring. Some people just don't get it and I'm always amazed at the pantomime and facial expressions they'll spew off.

But I can't live in a bubble. I have to interact with other people at some points in my life. I guess that's just the way things go, but....FLASH! FLASH! FLASH! Oh, dear. Gotta run. Gotta go see what this next person has to say, sell, or perform. Wish me luck!

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

10 Things You Definitely Shouldn’t Say To A Deaf Person

If you’re someone who has never been exposed to deaf culture, you may not really understand how the whole “deaf thing” works.

10 Things You Definitely Shouldn't Say To A Deaf Person
Apatow Productions / Via
Shouting at a deaf person will not make them any less deaf, no matter how loud you yell or how close to their ears you get. If you are speaking to a deaf person who reads lips (not all do!), exaggerating your lip movements to “help” the deaf person read them actually makes it harder to understand. When you are unsure, the best thing to do is ask how the deaf person would prefer to communicate. Typing them a note on your phone is one easy option.

2. “Do you use Braille?”

"Do you use Braille?"
This is one of the strangest, yet most common things deaf people get asked! Let’s go over this together, shall we? Blind people use braille. Blind. Not deaf. Very big difference!

3. “Can you read and write?”

10 Things You Definitely Shouldn't Say To A Deaf Person
NBC / Via
Deafness is not a learning disability. Deaf people can do everything hearing people can do, except for hear. Deaf advocacy groups worldwide continue to fight for better access to education, because deaf students deserve every opportunity to excel!

4. “Why can’t you speak?”

10 Things You Definitely Shouldn't Say To A Deaf Person
ABC / Via
Some deaf individuals adapt by learning to read lips and speak English. Others choose to use sign language. Some can both speak and use ASL. Some deaf people have cochlear implants. Deafness is a full spectrum and every person is different! Assuming all deaf people learn spoken English comes off as ignorant.

5. “Oh, I know the alphabet in sign language!”

10 Things You Definitely Shouldn't Say To A Deaf Person
It is lovely that you took an interest in sign language, it really is. But, deaf people get this one all the time! Imagine if an adult hearing person walked up to another adult hearing person and said “I know my ABCs!” Kind of awkward, right?

6. “How do you say {swear word} in ASL?”

10 Things You Definitely Shouldn't Say To A Deaf Person
A&M Films / Via
Again, taking an interest in sign language is super awesome! Asking a deaf person to be your personal dictionary for rude phrases is not.

7. “How can you drive?”

10 Things You Definitely Shouldn't Say To A Deaf Person
Paramount Pictures / Via
You don’t need ears to drive, and all emergency vehicles use flashing lights. Some studies have suggested that deaf drivers actually have safer driving records than hearing people because they are more visually alert and less distracted!

8. “Can I try your hearing aides?”

10 Things You Definitely Shouldn't Say To A Deaf Person
Fox / Via
What? No. Deaf people do not want to share their medical devices with you. I get why you would be curious, but the answer is still no.

9. “Why don’t you get a cochlear implant?”

"Why don't you get a cochlear implant?"
In our modern medical times, deaf people have the choice to receive a cochlear implant, which allows them to hear a range of sound. Having this surgery is a very major personal decision with many factors to consider. Hearing people should not assume all deaf people want, or are able to receive, a CI just because they are available.

10. “That must really suck!”

"That must really suck!"
Being deaf does not suck. It’s just a part of life! Deaf culture is unique and diverse, and deaf people are experts at adapting to the circumstances. There are plenty of ways to enjoy this beautiful world without sound!

Monday, August 4, 2014

The Great Outdoors

One of my husband, Kenny's, favorite things to do is hunt. He doesn't get to do it often, but when he does, he often takes our oldest daughter. But one year, I wanted to go.

"You'll have to be really quiet. We can't talk to each other a lot. You can't move around and rustle the leaves. It might be hard. Not to mention it's freezing out there at 4 am." Kenny was trying to prepare me, I knew. But I was sure it'd be a cinch.

"No problemo," I said. "I can be quiet. I'll just sign instead of using my voice." And, with that, he agreed to let me tag along.

The next morning, around 2:30 am, Kenny shook me awake. "What??? I'm trying to sleep," I said as I rolled back over.

"I thought you wanted to go with me."

"Now?" I couldn't believe how tired I was. But I dragged myself out of bed and put on the coat Kenny had gotten for me. I grabbed a cup from the cabinet and closed the door. Kenny startled and looked at me with big eyes.

"What?" I asked.

"Nothing," he sighed. He didn't need to tell me I closed the cabinet door too hard, but I wasn't aware of it at the moment.

After a little coffee and a seemingly endless car ride, we arrived in the part of the woods Kenny had picked out for us. He climbed up in his tree stand and I stayed in a pile of leaves on the ground. "OK. Now we wait," Kenny explained. "I'll talk with you a little later."

And so we waited. I sat on the wet ground and the leaves were itchy, so I scratched. I felt a tickle in the back of my throat, so I quietly cleared my throat. After what seemed like hours, I decided I wanted to ask Kenny how much longer. Problem was, he was up there and I was down here. So, I waved to quietly get his attention. It didn't work. I then used both hands. Nothing doing. I stood up and tried it again. Nope. Finally I gave up that "quiet" business and barked, "Hey!"

"Shhh!" Kenny was not happy.

"What do you mean? I've been quiet for hours."

"You think so, huh?" Kenny asked with a smirk on his face. Looking at his watch, he shook his head. "We've been here an hour and half. You've scared away two deer while you were rustling the leaves, clearing your throat and whispering. I love you, but it's impossible for you to know how noisy you are, and I can't hunt with you here with me. I'm sorry."

I was dumbfounded. Was I really that loud? I guess it goes to show that when you can't hear anything (including yourself), you can be the loudest thing in the woods. Oh, well. Bed, here I come!

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Fool Me Once -- Shame On Me

Eight o-clock in the morning. Time to take my oldest daughter, Mollie, to her summer job. We get into the van and start on our way. All of a sudden the van skips a beat--sending Mollie and me bumping up and down in our seat.

"What was that?" Mollie asked.

"I think I hit a pothole," I signed. "No big deal."

We both heaved a sigh of relief. I dropped Mollie off, giving her a big hug, and then started on my way back home. BUMP! It happened again!

"Man, there's got to be something wrong." I decide to drive to the nearest auto mechanic and see if they can help me.

I pull up to the service station.

"Something's wrong with my van. It keeps bumping or something."

"Is it making any odd noises?" The man behind the counter seemed very nice.

"I'm Deaf. Can you write that down?" I ask. And he does.

"Oh, well obviously, because I can't hear, I wouldn't know." Duh. The man behind the counter blushes and asks me the kind of van I have.

"Uh...silver?" I honestly have no idea. "I'm pretty sure it is a Ford of some sort." I cringe.

It is a Chrysler Town and Country. And thank goodness for this man being polite about it.

"Have a seat and I'll do a test drive."

The man eventually takes my keys and heads out to figure our what's wrong. I stay in the lobby, watching some uncaptioned soap opera on their television.

"I see what worried you. I'm glad you brought it in. Looks like you're losing fuel out of your gas cup and the entire left sided Spockter Galley is loose."

I had absolutely no idea what the man just said, so I asked him (again) to write it down and he did.

"Oh my! I'm glad I brought it in, too! Can you fix it?"

"Well, we can fix it, but it's pretty major work. If we start on it now we can have it done in about four hours.

Wow! Four hours = a lot of labor costs.

"Well, I guess there's no question here. I mean, it's gotta be done, right?"

"I'm afraid so. These kinds of repairs will run you about $2500. But if you like, I can throw in a few free fluid checks."

"Great! Thank you SO much," I said, sincerely grateful.

There was a mall across the street, so I decided to spend my time waiting, window shopping. Four hours went by very slowly. When the time was up I headed back to the mechanic.

"Hi! I dropped off my van four hours ago and the guy said it'd be ready by now."

"What work did we do on that one?" The other guy was checking the books.

"Something with my gas cup and Spockter Galley."

The man looked up from his books and gave me the weirdest look. After a couple of seconds his light bulb came on. "Oh! Yeah! You're the Deaf lady. Sorry about that. Yes, it's ready. It cost us a little more to fix than we expected though. Your total came to $3300."

Heaving a big sigh, I handed over my credit card. I then took my van and headed home. BUMP! I was dumbfounded, so I asked my hubby to test drive it when I got home.

"It's OK, You must have just hit some of the holes in the street. Michigan got it pretty bad last winter."

That's when I broke the news to him.

"$3300!!! For what?!?!"

I told him and just stood there with a bizarre stare in his eyes. He was obviously as stunned as I had been.

When I saw he was upset, I did my best to calm him. "Hey, it's OK. They did some free stuff, too. They even filled up our blinker fluid on both sides. No charge!"