Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Short comment on Galludet

I've been loosely following the Galludet protest in which the student body achieved their goal of ousting the new university president. One of the main reasons cited was that she had been raised a lip-reader and didn't actually learn sign language until she was an adult.

I got a small taste of how political and self-protective the deaf community can be when I was in college and dated a deaf person for a couple of years.

There are two types of sign language in America. One is ASL, which is the older and more primary language, and the other is ESL, (signed english). My boyfriend, for reasons I forget now, had been raised to speak ESL and so that's what I learned.

Signed english is much more verbatim than ASL and relies less on exaggerated expressions and context to communicate the thought. Whereas in ASL, one sign might represent 5 similar ideas, in ESL, the "listener" knows exactly which word you intended.

ESL is also much easier for a speaking person to learn than ASL.
But the fact is that most deaf people speak ASL and have very strong views about the culture and tradition it signifies. As my boyfriend hadn't been brought up in the traditional deaf community, I wasn't exposed to much of it.

I do remember attending a few deaf parties though, and found it unexpectedly difficult to communicate, even though I was fluent at that point. Those evenings, I would be subjected to gentle ridicule from the traditional ASL signers. It was their world, and I was not wholly welcome in it. More than one deaf person walked away from me when they realized I used signed english.
So it's interesting to me to see that this "ridicule" even extends to one of their own.
I also read that she's a bitch, so maybe I don't have the whole story.

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