www.whyville.net Mar 9, 2008 Weekly Issue

Times Writer

Deaf Culture

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In our society, many people do have some knowledge of the deaf and hard of hearing culture; however, what people do not know is how effectively deaf and hard of hearing students or people change our society.

It would help to understand American Sign Language (ASL). American Sign Language is the language of a national community of Deaf and Hard of Hearing individuals in the U.S. Signing seems to awaken great interest in people, who have little or no experience with it. "The term 'sign language' has traditionally been used as a generic term for different varieties of signing communication," said K.S., a college student.

Exactly who uses ASL? It is safe to say that there are large numbers of ASL users in the U.S., probably more than other countries. ASL is being learned as a second language by thousands of students every year. In the future, it's likely that there will be more second language users of ASL than there are first language users in the U.S. In our current society, American Sign Language is the third most widely used language in the United States.

Many languages have roots or influences from other language. This is true of American Sign Language. It has existed in the U.S. since as early as the late 1700's. The country was colonized by various European cultures. In Europe at the time, there existed several sign languages, including the French and British Sign Language.

In 1817, a strong French Deaf influence was introduced in the U.S. through the establishment of a school for Deaf children by an American, Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet, and a Deaf Frenchman, Laurent Clerc. As a result of the language changing over time, ASL become a language. Later, Gallaudet University was founded in Washington D.C. as the only liberal arts college in the world for deaf people.

All of the communities and their local cultures contribute to what we think of as a Deaf culture in the U.S. It is the culture of Deaf and Hard of Hearing people from which ASL is produced and which has sealed and passed on its language from generations to generations for hundred of years.

The richness of their sign language affords them possibilities in the future, and technologies, such as telephone and other devices will asset them.

Deaf and Hard of Hearing people have formed ways to define and express themselves through their rituals, tales, performances, and everyday social encounters.

A fellow whyvillian friend of mine, nhumanity is deaf, so I interviewed him on the ways that he has expressed himself:

nhumanity: Being deaf can be a struggle sometimes. I challenged myself playing the snare drum in the marching band in High school. I did a few things to show people that deaf people can do anything. Some people treated me differently just because I couldn't hear, like they were trying to be too nice or ignore me.

Over the centuries, many deaf and hard of hearing have fought against discrimination due to their disability. In the nineteenth century, there were many famous deaf individuals who were artists, writers, and other outside thinkers. Each individual was successful, because they spoke the truth and sent a message to all in the hearing culture.

In our current society, deaf and hard of hearing individual have had to make some compromises with the hearing culture. Still, they are limited in particular things, such as sport, jobs, and communications. Many hearing people do not realize how deaf culture is limited in communication. In American Sign Language, there is a limit. The language does not have a sign for every word in English or any other language. When there is an odd or unrecognizable word, fifty-percent of the time the word would be spelled out. To be honest, many Deaf and hard of hearing do not like to do that, because it slows them down when communicating with someone.

nhumanity: I believe that everyone should know that deaf people are not any different from hearing people. They can do whatever they want to. Being deaf made me a stronger person. I had a lot of challenges and I became stronger with every challenge I faced. I try to be a role model to other deaf people who need someone to look up to. I try to show them that they can get a good education, do whatever they want to, etc.



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