Random Thoughts and Musings by moi

Musings by a feisty, opinionated Deaf gal who wants nothing but the best for her community and her people

jeudi 31 juillet 2008

Beautiful English = Lousy Signing? NOT!

I happened to notice this comment in Teri Sentelle's latest entry. The commenter's point was not contained in the portion I'm about to quote and it was more of a toss-away additional thought, but it felt like a slap in the face:
I was shocked to see him on video signing beautifully. I thought he was not a fluent signer because he writes like Harvard scholars.
The implication of this statement is that good signers are not good writers. If one is a good writer, therefore, one is probably not a good signer. THIS is one reason why AG Bell, the Oberkotter Foundation, and the auditory-industrial complex are able to convince so many parents that signing is bad. And for our own community members to believe this too is scary. Have we not seen ample evidence of people with native-like competence in both languages to put this myth to rest yet? Ben Vess comes to mind. So do David Eberwein and Shelley Potma. There are scads more out there, and I'm naming many names in my mind right now.

I took this as a personal affront. Does this mean that people reading what I write automatically assume I sign like I just finished ASL Level 2, just because I happen to know my way around a sentence? I can assure you that is *far* from the case. (and no, I absolutely *refuse* to offer you, the Teeming Millions, proof, thanks to how toxic DeafBlogLand has become. I'm hanging onto my anonymity for my personal, professional, communal, mental, emotional, and spiritual safety. End of rant. Back to the topic at hand.) I find it indescribably sad that at least one of our own people believes that good writing skills and good signing skills are very unlikely to exist in the same person. 

Good writing ≠ good signing
True? (I say heck no!)


  • At 06:41, Anonymous Anonyme said…

    I am a hearing person and well educated, however, many of my friends who are Deaf are way ahead of me when it comes to English writing skills. I think this says a lot for a solid base in their own first language ASL.
    They are very fluent ASL users too.

  • At 08:13, Blogger tayler said…

    I'm not sure if it's a blogspot bug, but if not, you're tri-lingual! :) Some parts of your blog is appearing in French, I think.

    Anyway, you're one of the most beautiful ASL signers I know. I'm asserting that to your readers on your behalf. :)

    I don't know where people get the idea that good English means bad ASL. It's just like one being bilingual in say, French and German. If the person is fluent in both, they can speak beautifully in either language.

    I suppose people still need to get accustomed to the idea ASL is a language. For some, the hand movements and shapes looks so foreign to them. :)

  • At 09:15, Anonymous Anonyme said…

    There is absolutely no relationship between one's skill in writing and signing. Some people just like to make stupid assumptions.

  • At 12:00, Blogger moi said…

    Thanks, well-educated hearing person! I agree that it says a lot for a solid base in ASL.

    :) Oui, je parle français aussi. And thanks for the kind words. :) You may have a point - this myth may have to do with the status of ASL as a language among lay people.

    Anonyme, bluntly but well-put. Thanks.

  • At 12:16, Blogger precious said…

    This only proves further that the bilingual approach is effective. All of the people you mentioned who are fluent in both ASL and English were raised bilingually.


    Julie Rems-Smario

  • At 15:13, Anonymous SDA said…

    moi, you've brought up a very good topic for us to discuss.
    the problem is that we have diglossia in our deaf education & community.
    we give power to one language more than the language that we speak.
    bilingualism removes the diglossic attitude/ mentality.

  • At 18:02, Blogger moi said…

    Julie, exactly. Thank you for pointing that out.

    SDA, yes, yes. It's funny. Right now, I'm discussing that topic with someone - the status of ASL vs the status of English. We are agreeing to disagree, but yes, greater status is conferred to English in so many aspects, it amazes me. Both languages are precious to me and both need to be fostered in all Deaf children. But because of this, it's not happening.

  • At 21:00, Anonymous Anonyme said…

    no no no no no. no, you're all waaaayyy off base in assuming this is about deaf people not being good writers; ASL not being a real language; good writers not being good signers or good signers not being good writers; and blah blah ... I'm fairly certain the person made that comment because s/he assumes anyone who signs that beautifully would make a vlog, not a blog. Deaf Readers nearly always assume the reason why certain people don't vlog is because they can't sign worth a darn. That's the reason. But I know lots of good bloggers, Mishka Zena to name one, and Mike McConnell too, who sign fluently but prefer to only blog, for reasons of their own having nothing to do with their ASL fluency.

  • At 06:34, Blogger Shel said…


    Thank you for blogging on the topic. You and the commenters just emphasized the importance of bilingualism.

    Julie is correct in that we who are fluently bilingual have been raised bilingual. This is what makes it all the more frustrating. We are living, breathing proof that ASL doesn't negate the ability to learn English or even to speak. Yet people discount the living proofs in favour of the monolingual TalkStrong/ListenStrong philosophy of the AGBell-ites.


    PS: You make me feel at home here since Canada has everything printed in both English and French ;-)

  • At 10:48, Blogger moi said…

    anonyme 21:00,
    You're certainly entitled to your opinion, and you have a point in that I shouldn't assume what that commenter in Teri's blog intended. She may have intended what you suggest or something completely different from what either of us are suggesting. I, too, am an example of a person who could easily vlog but prefers to blog for my own reasons (in order to maintain my anonymity.)

    You're right in that I can't know what she's saying. However, the fact that this theme has resonated with at least the readers who left comments here, indicates that this issue is real. I have seen this attitude over and over, and in situations where I have absolutely zero doubt about what the person meant. My premise is valid in general and it is a real and common problem in the Real World, even if maybe it does not apply to this particular commenter.

    Thank you for the feedback - maybe I did not explain that in my mind, I was extrapolating this to many other situations. I appreciate your taking the time to let me know what you think.

  • At 10:52, Blogger moi said…

    Shel! :) I agree absolutely. I find it so frustrating that people, organizations, and corporations are able to get away with saying that ASL harms English development. Every language I learn strengthens the languages I had before; an additional dimension is gained and deepens my understanding and command of my previous languages. People like us are aahhhh-bsolutely "living, breathing proof," like you said. But no. *sweep* And there we go under the rug.

    PS *grin* Merci beaucoup. I'm glad I could make you feel at home.


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