Every one heard in their own language...

This page supports the use of ASL by the Deaf and Hard of Hearing as their primary language.  We believe this is the "natural language of use."   We feel this is the language that should be used by missionaries or other Christian workers in the field.  It is the most natural form of communication for the Deaf and gives them greatest access to information and promotes the best opportunities for education.   (We also support English - for American Deaf - as a second language).    The following articles support this view.

Articles Relating to:

Mission Perspectives
Why ASL?

Articles on this page:

Language For The Child Who Is Pre-Lingual Deaf

ASL Classes at DWM


Language For The Child Who Is Pre-Lingual Deaf

Hello Everyone,

My name is Mary Anne Kowalczyk and I have been reading many of your letters [on Listerserv] over the past several weeks. I'm very interested in language development - true language development for our children who are Deaf. I'm not speaking about the use of my language (English) in sign and I'm not speaking about the word production in speech only so that my 5-year-old can reach that age and have a vocabulary of about 50 words but NO LANGUAGE!

I'm talking about language development as it occurs in my hearing children. From the day my hearing child was born, he listened to all the sounds around him. He wasn't aware of the meaning of any of that sound. I think when he was about 3 months old, though, he began to have a conversation with me. A what you ask? Yes, he began a conversation. It went something like this -- I was talking to him and when I DROPPED my voice and ENDED my sentence, he started to make noises. He stopped his noises. I started to talk again. When I dropped my voice again, he started his "conversation." And so it went until I had to leave.

He was learning one part of language that we hearing all need to know. Turn-taking. And he's only 3-months old when this started happening. I'm not teaching him but somehow his mind is listening to what the message of his ears are sending.

He's learning other things too. He's learning that inflection means something. When I face him and smile and my voice is gentle and has a lilt, he's treated to a lesson meaning of words and hears a different sound in my voice. Enough of these experiences and he can tell when a person is happy or angry or sad, etc. I'm not really teaching them. His brain is translating what his ears are transmitting.

As to plurals, time, and on and on -- he picks that up from endings on words and specific words. His brain is absorbing and translating this ear message all the time.

His babbling finally begins to take shape. His brain is ready to activate his vocal cords and move his LANGUAGE MEMORY into its vocal path! Oh, darn! It doesn't come out like he learned (heard) it! It comes out in "aahs," "buh, buh,""duh, duh," etc. Oh, well. He is only about 12-18 months old. What do you expect?

Finally the day every parent waits for -- MA, Ma; Ma, Ma; or Da, Da. A pattern. We have been repeating it over and over in our enthusiasm to have the child say something as we do. We want him to imitate us. Now we become more aggressive AT TIMES. We actually do, almost do learning sessions, sometimes.

But even if we didn't, it would come naturally. It starts about the age of 2 years old. the words come. At first, the endings aren't right but that will correct ITSELF. Then the phrases of meaning. They aren't complete sentences but this mixture of words does begin to take on meaning. From there, I believe, we go on to correct sequence of the phrasing and finally into sentences -- short but sentences.

Please remember. We, the hearing parents, haven't taught our child any of this. He absorbed it like a sponge from the day he was born. You took him to the local fast food restaurant when he was a few weeks old. He heard all the noises around him. His ear filtered the noises (as yours and mine do). He heard soft and loud sounds. He heard words and he probably heard adult voices. You took him to the department store and the food market. All the time you might be talking to him or discussing with a friend who is accompanying you. He is listening to all of this.

You bring him home and now you set him down. You turn on the TV. He hears what's happening. Maybe you don't think he's paying attention -- BUT REMEMBER HIS BRAIN IS! Didn't his brain pay attention from the time he was born?

You take him for a ride in the car. You put on the radio. Much of the same. No matter where your child is, your child is HEARING!!!! He can't help it. HIS WAY OF LIFE IS BEING SHAPED BY HIS HEARING!

He goes to school and he begins real socialization. He learns the give and take of situations. He learns this because it is explained to him in the words he has learned from the day he was born. In his formal classes, he begins to get lessons in refining and defining his language which he learned himself.

One more VERY IMPORTANT thing. My began communicating when he started turn taking at 3 months old. And, if you read the September 1996 issue of Parents Magazine, you might fine some interesting research about communicating with your baby about the age of 7 months old! I have hearing friends who COMMUNICATED with their parents at 78 months old over 40 years ago!! These are the hearing children of Deaf parents. The only difference was the they used a different LANGUAGE; and I don't mean gestures, I mean a TRUE AND TESTED SIGN LANGUAGE.

Communication is what this is all about! Every child has the right to communicate with his parents, his siblings, his family! Communicate with them.

A child who is Deaf should have the same vocabulary as a child who is Hearing when they are two years old, when they are five years old, when they are 10 years old. No child should ever have the misfortune to be deprived of LANGUAGE from the time he is born because he is Deaf.

Think back now to the two years of language learning that the hearing child has had. Without that SAME kind of input the child who is Deaf will always be lagging. The child who is Deaf has the SAME right as the Hearing child to LANGUAGE LEARNING. How do we accomplish this you ask?

Perhaps we need to focus on a new area of expertise than the ones which have been used for the last 117 years. For those of you who do not know the history of the education of the Deaf, a dramatic change took place in 1880 at a conference in Milan, Italy, where 164 people were in attendance -- 163 were hearing; 1 was DEAF! At that time a decision was reached which changed the history and education of the Deaf to this minute!

But perhaps, it is time to look to the linguists -- those who are opening up the world for hearing parents of Deaf children. Read the writing s of Judy Shepard-Kegl, Ph.D. from Rutgers; Jenny Singletion from the University of Chicago; Ursula Bellugi from the Salk Institute in California, Steven Pinker in his book, "The Language Instinct." And try a small book. Remember the movie, Awakenings? It was a story told first in a book by Olive Sack, M.D. Well, Dr. Sacks went on to write another book called, SEEing Voices, in which he tells about language development in children who are born Deaf or lose their hearing before they develop language.

For our children who are Deaf to develop to their FULL POTENTIAL, they must have the same language skills as our hearing children. They must achieve every step of language learning as our hearing children do. They can't miss EVEN ONE! If they do, they fall behind. It is up to us, the parents, to expect ABSOLUTELY NOTHING LESS FOR our children.

The world sees our children as a medical problem to be fixed. We focus too much attention on the ear and voice and definitely NOT ENOUGH on the most important aspect of their learning -- LEARNING DEVELOPMENT.


And one last, extremely important fact, the CRITICAL PERIOD FOR LANGUAGE ACQUISITION IS FROM BIRTH TO 5 YEARS OLD! If your child, like mine, was identified at 18 months old,18 critical months of language development were missed. For those identified later, even more time was missed. And the sad thing about this missed time is that it can' be made up. So let's ask the linguists how to get language into our children (perhaps, all of our children, since we can't be sure at birth unless they are tested for hearing loss) as soon as possible.

I write this because my daughter is now 33 years old, was born Deaf and I am doing the research now for the past six years which I should have done when she was identified as normal and Deaf. But 33 years ago there wasn't as much written about language development as there is now.

And two weeks ago, at the Summit Speech School in New Jersey, a speaker, Dr. Irene Leigh from Gallaudet University, a psychologist ended her talk with the words: You , the parents, need to come to us, the experts, the Deaf. Only six years ago did I find out that what she was saying was true. My Deaf child grew up to be a Deaf adult (who does speak) and when she ahs children, she will be a Deaf mother who will face different situations of communication with her child's friends, their parents, school teachers, etc.. These are things we somehow never think about when our children are children. But it is the way it happens.

Enjoy your child(ren) who is/are Deaf. They are a joy. And learning a language that brings them to full potential is so regarding and it can bring families together.

Contact: info@gohear.org   Copyright´┐Ż1996-1997 Where do we go from Hear?  Reprinted with permission from The Endeavor magazine, Summer 1997.  by Mary Ann Kowalczyk (from EDUDEAF@LSV.UKY.EDU - Listserv)



Just a couple thoughts on improving signing ASL from Signing Exact English, (SEE) - simple thoughts to begin the change:

You might read/study, Lou Fant's book "THE AMERICAN SIGN LANGUAGE PHRASE BOOK"

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Original Page date - March 1, 2000
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