We. Have. A. Big. Fucking. Problem. Here.

Everyone,

Did I get your attention? Good.

Watch my vlog, then read on…

I am talking to the Deaf Community here.

Are you sick of audism?
Sick of hearing signers making money off ASL?
Sick of non-certified interpreters taking jobs that they are not qualified to do so?
Sick of hearing people taking ASL teaching jobs?
Sick of this and that?

Let’s look at National Association of the Deaf’s mission,

“The mission of the National Association of the Deaf is to promote, protect, and preserve the civil, human and linguistic rights of deaf and hard of hearing individuals in the United States of America.”

Audism – is a civil and human issue.
Language/ASL appropriation – is a linguistic issue.
Non-certified interpreters – is a civil and linguistic issue.
Hearing people taking ASL teaching jobs – is a civil and human issue.

Let’s look into linguistic rights. What is this really mean?

American Sign Language is our right. That is OUR language. (Please keep your debate about who owns ASL out of here, because that is NOT the POINT!)

We need to band together to EDUCATE OURSELVES what is language appropriation really means, and we need to instill OUR VALUE in American Sign Language.

To be perfectly honest with you all… the truth is…

The ASL is accessible to hearing people – and they take classes on ASL. They earn credits in High school and College. Some took formal study of linguistics in college too. Interpreters study ASL and they KNOW more than US! Yes, US, the Deaf people!

That’s Greatest Irony Part Two here.

Deaf people are NOT given the chance to STUDY THEIR OWN LANGUAGE! We are constantly taught, immersed, drilled, and re-teaching ENGLISH every single friggin’ DAY from BIRTH through 12th GRADE, and beyond! We were told that our English language skills are weak and we always need to work on our English skills for the rest of our lives.

Over 90 percent of DEAF CHILDREN and ADULTS don’t know any dillysquat about American Sign Langauge, OUR Deaf History, OUR language, and OUR rights!

That is happening right now. Seriously.

The fact is that over 90 percent of recent Deaf graduates are from mainstream programs. Many of them were assigned with their educational interpreters. They learn “sign language” from interpreters and they interact with their peers who are not even fluent in American Sign Language. Why? Because, they learn from interpreters! Maybe they interacted with one or two Deaf students of Deaf parents who are fluent in ASL, and we have limited exposure in ASL. Maybe they watch several ASL videos from Deaf ASL Masters online.

Less 10 percent of our recent graduates are from deaf schools and about less than .05 percent actually took ASL classes. More likely one semester in high school.

And, very, very few actually took ASL classes from preschool through high school, and they have formal study of ASL in Deaf schools. That’s very rare and very uncommon nowadays.

So… we do have a big fucking problem here. What can we do with our Deaf community who really don’t know American Sign Language and Deaf History?

According to one article on NAD Magazine on Spring 2014. The title of this article is called, “Academic Study of American Sign Language Skyrockets.”

Look at this article snippet here.

NAD Magazine

This is one of many examples of college classes, online courses and websites offering ASL instruction… all are specifically targeted to HEARING PEOPLE! They are second language learners, also “L2 Learners”. Hearing people are raised and taught with their PRIMARY LANGUAGE which is ENGLISH (or any spoken language), and they take classes to learn second language, hence, L2. Therefore, they are L2 Learners.

How about Deaf people? Is L1 applies to us? No. We are Primary Learners also known as PL. Let me explain.

L1 (First language learners) for the Deaf community means a very small percentage. Approximately 3 to 4% of Deaf children learn ASL from birth. Now, do they have an access to formal L1 curriculum in ASL while growing up? No.

ASL is our primary means of communication. We don’t have formal L1 ASL Curriculum We are drilled with English curriculum every single day.

We are not given an opportunity to study our OWN language in formal settings. We interact with our peers with our PRIMARY LANGUAGE informally. Where are the opportunities for us to actually study our own language with our peers? There are NONE!

Because, OUR LANGUAGE is a CASH COW to L2 learners. All of money generated from ASL classes, ITP programs, online courses, websites, ASL videos, interpreting jobs, and ASL/ITP teacher jobs, benefits to THEM. This is economic inequality and linguistic embezzlement!

Brenda Jo Brueggemann, Professor of English, Vice-Chair of the Rhetoric Composition and Literacy Program, and Acting Director of Literacy Studies at Ohio State University. She is also the former coordinator of American Sign Language Program at Ohio State University, and she wrote an essay, “ASL The Little Language that Could.” in this book: Worlds Apart?: Disability and Foreign Language Learning edited by Tammy Berberi, Elizabeth C. Hamilton, Ian M. Sutherland.

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Brueggeman made a very good point that we need to reclaim our language.

Now, we have a problem… I learned that Gallaudet University will have a new unit called ASL Central.

On September 19th, Gallaudet University Provost Carol Erting announced a new unit: ASL Central (see announcement).

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ASL Central is being directed by H. Dirksen Bauman, Ph.D. (a hearing person with no ASL teaching background). After a few inquires, I learned ASL Central will be offering ASL courses offering ASL courses designed for new signers, L2 students or in other words, for hearing people who do not know ASL. While I understand ASL Central is a “cash cow” for the University, we as the Deaf community need to demand:

I checked Gallaudet website about ASL Central and there is only mention that is under Human Resources advertising the position as coordinator. But, look at these dates: It was posted 1/14 with a deadline of 1/22. That is very insidious job, because often when organizations want to hire someone they already have in mind, what they do is post a job for only ONE WEEK (like that) and then take it down. Typical.

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How did Dr. Bauman take this position? Why is this position been advertised for only ONE week? Why didn’t Gallaudet promote ASL Central? I am sure that there are several qualified and talented Deaf ASL teachers who can have this position!

It makes sense that the Deaf Community can ask Gallaudet with two proposals as below:

1) That ASL Central be run by a Deaf, experienced ASL teacher, preferably certified by ASL Teachers’ Association, with an ASLPI test result of 4 or up. This is economic justice for the Deaf community and puts ASL back in the Deaf community’s hands. That will send a a very strong and clear message to the rest of the nation and the world that sign languages are owned by Deaf people and should be taught by Deaf people with the appropriate certifications, experience and training.

That is crucially important because other universities/colleges will look at Gallaudet University as the model program. If they learn that the chairperson is a hearing person, therefore they will follow that example. This needs to be changed NOW!

2) That ASL Central profits be funneled towards PL K-18 curriculum and resource development for the thousands of Deaf children deprived of ASL and the formal study of ASL nationwide. I want Gallaudet to take this leadership role to gather profits from “Cash Cow” venue back to the community!

Our future generations of Deaf children need to be provided the opportunity to study their own language from K – 12 and in college. Hearing L2 learners have more options and opportunities to study ASL than we do! THIS IS ECONOMIC JUSTICE!

We need to take THE stand to stop this LINGUISTIC and ECONOMIC INJUSTICE!

And…. We. do. have. a. big. fucking. problem. here.

Best,

Amy Cohen Efron

20 Responses to “We. Have. A. Big. Fucking. Problem. Here.”

  1. MM Says:

    I can tell you, that studies into deafness here by hearing people are NOT done to enhance communications between sign users and hearing people, but simply to get ‘easy points’ to add to their University coursework. we saw 150 students in 5 universities taking deaf studies and BSL. Only TWO went on to use it with deaf people after. BSL is seen as just an easy way to enhance the real course work they are taking. None went on to interpreter status or worked in the deaf areas….. Maybe the USA insists they do state a real interest in the deaf world first,here, they don’t.

  2. Nancy McCormick Says:

    I actually took classes along with hearing people to learn about ASL, linguistics and the culture. That’s because I grew up oral and learn ASL later. Since that time I have taken upon myself to learn more about Deaf Culture, MY culture, history and local history of the Deaf where I am.

    Why don’t we have classes for Families? OR Deaf Teens? What about Ohlone College called ‘Deaf That!’ To increase their own ASL Skills.

  3. Amy Says:

    Exactly, Nancy! That is what the Deaf community need to have this opportunity to increase our own ASL skills, Deaf history and many more. We need to give back to the community!

  4. MM Says:

    Here, people with severe deafness cannot access SIGN Classes, it is all hearing people looking to earn a living at it. Also whilst sporadic lip (Speech)-reading classes exist, there are none for lip-speakers, and the students HAVE to have useful hearing. I’m struggling to see where History enhances communication options, and worry the over focus on culture is by-passing the real issue of very poor deaf-hearing communication options or,teaching. I still think deaf studies, deafhood et al are a luxury for the few academics and not us at the coal face. It is to our shame in the UK we charge fees to families of deaf people to acquire skills to help us. It should be free on demand.

  5. Eileen Says:

    Idk where you all are located. There are many opportunities for the Deaf and their families to take classes throughout their lives. Many are free! I have taken many college level ASL classes with Deaf (myself included,) HOH and Hearing ppl. It is interesting to me that Many of the Deaf students “think they don’t have to do the work” because they are native signers and many of them have failed the classes because of that attitude. Yes, many hearing students are taking the classes to boost their college acceptance opportunity but how many hearing ppl take Spanish or French etc. for the same reason and never go on to use it. The hate I have seen in articles like this are what put up barriers between us and the hearing world. If the Deaf community will stand up and work WITH the hearing to educated everyone, we all would be better off.

  6. RLM Says:

    Hmm, that is pretty “eye-opening” article! Thanks for writing out this column.

    RLM

  7. Avis G. Says:

    My first ASL Classes (non-credit), were taught by Deaf teachers through DHHS. They did an amazing job. I went on to credited classes, out of the 4 semesters, only one was taught by a Deaf person. Is it that there aren’t enough qualified Deaf teachers available?
    I had a Deaf teacher for my class (non-credit) when I was in Cincinnati, St. Rita’s School for the Deaf, she was wonderful. I also had a Deaf man teach a small group here in FL. I was especially impressed as they used true ASL, not the pidgin I see so frequently (even with the Deaf, I guess because they were mainstreamed). I never fail to be amazed with the true ASL signers, the beauty is unmatched. I may never become an interpreter, but I will always sign and continue to learn. I pray the true ASL continues.

  8. Angelina Says:

    I teach ASL at college level, I have had many Deaf students apply for my basic ASL classes, unfortunately, the college requires a COMPASS test, which makes it difficult for Deaf to pass (read, write and speak English).

    I used to teach private lessons opened especially for Deaf community because I felt just like what Amy Cohen is expressing. Hearing people learn more about ASL than Deaf themselves, but after a semester or two, don’t even use it. i consider that a waste of time and effort on my part to teach them, for what?

    Deaf feel that I am insulting their intelligence in providing these classes, but I feel strongly that lack of access to one’s language is liguistic deprivation (I didn’t attend Deaf school, rathar oral school, and spent 90% of my time in speech therapy. I feel many mainstreamed Deaf are deprived of their language and culture in those schools.

    I am glad to find someone whose perspective is similar to mine. I will offer those classes again, pray that all goes well. Thank you, Amy, for such insightful perspective.

  9. E Says:

    That’s too bad about Gallaudet’s new center and job posting which only lasted one week.

    I read the job posting and it says it only requires a minimum of Bachelors but look at the amount of work and skill level needed. I would think it would need Masters or PhD at least. And the salary level for that kind of skill level seems low.

    I do agree that Gallaudet could have paid attention to the needs of their Deaf students which are their primary students and the reason for the founding of the University. They’re trying to make money by selling ASL to hearing people online, from what it looks like. Are Gallaudet going to use that money to set up a new center for Deaf people or how Deaf people themselves can use the current technologies for exploring and increasing research in ASL from a Deaf centre, Deaf mind, and Deaf culture approach?

    The signing naturally cirruclum is great but I would love to see additional resources such as Black ASL, Queer ASL. I love the signing natually cirrculum and I am supportive of that material, just want more variety out there by Deaf people in different academic positions.

    Recently I interviewed for a position for a deaf program and I was not offered the position. I’m fine with that although I wonder why not as I’m Deaf and have asked for feedback. As I understand that position has been offered to a hearing person who already worked with that place. I would have it rather go to a Deaf person than to a hearing person. I’m fine if they didn’t think I was not a good fit, just want know more about their requirements same for Gallaudet. As I’m starting to look for work.

    Then how does one start working at a place run by hearing people if you’re Deaf and have not worked there before?

    That job posting I applied for was up for less than a month. How long should the job posting be up? Other job postings for non-deaf related positions, I have seen stay up five weeks to 4 months.

  10. Amy Says:

    Thank you so much Angelina and I am glad that you are able to see my insightful perspective. Yes, THAT!

  11. Amy Says:

    It is institutional mentality and it is easier for the companies/schools to have managers who can hear and speak… not worrying about hiring an interpreter or following ADA requirements. It sends out wrong message especially teaching a language of Deaf people to hearing people! It is a linguistic/cultural appropriation.

  12. sue Says:

    I agree with Eileen above. I am hearing. I have been interested in ASL from a very young age. I finally got the chance at 58 years old to take a class in ASL. I loved it. I continue to study on my own. I have noticed with the Deaf, the same type of behavior that goes a long with the black/white thing only it’s a Deaf/hearing thing. The Deaf are really misinformed about the hearing and the attitude of the hearing toward the Deaf. Now that I have interacted with the Deaf, I get a feeling of disconnect. I feel that the Deaf want me to keep my nose out of their language and their world. A lot of articles I’ve recently read are almost hostile toward the hearing. This is very sad and hurtful. I don’t understand the reasoning and probably never will.

  13. American Sign Language, We Have A Problem | Blog Says:

    […] Deaf activist and psychologist, Amy Cohen Efron also known as a blogger “Deaf World As Eye See It“, Efron posted the article about the value in American Sign Language (ASL) which related to […]

  14. Julia Says:

    I just have to say how thankful I am for Sue, and Eileens comments. It’s not often enough that this side of the issue is brought up. I couldn’t have put it more beautifully.

    All I want is to break down that barrier, and pull away from that attitude that keeps us separated. Act as we are the enemy, and we may become it. Not out of hate, but more out of hurt. At least that’s how it works for me. I want to be allies, but we both need to commit to it (hearing and deaf).

  15. harold johnroe jr Says:

    I agree the statement.

  16. Karen Says:

    Do not blame hearing people for Deaf people not taking sign language classes or not learning about their own language. Also, there is no reason a hearing person who IS fluent in ASL can’t teach it. Are all Spanish teachers from Spanish-speaking countries? Are all French teachers French or Italian teachers from Italy? The only language I know of that teachers typically come from the native country is Hebrew. I didn’t become an interpreter because the money is good and I certainly didn’t become an educational interpreter for the money. I enjoy what I do.

  17. Libby Says:

    Excellent pointers you brought up!

    Copied -n- pasted here: “Sick of hearing people taking ASL teaching jobs?”

    I’d like to point out an alarming trend.

    More and more higher ed institutions are dropping ASLTA from their employment requirements to teach ASL, and at the same time, they are adding RID certified interpreters only.

    Who generally are responsible for this decision? 😉 Ditto…

  18. Nancy Popovich Says:

    I.have.a.big.fucking.problem. I wasn’t aware of how to access your posts. At my old age I still feel the pain of being the only deaf person in my family of origin. Losing my hearing almost 6 years old and sent off to a deaf school in 8 months was traumatic for me. None of the teachers were fluent signers. Enuff for now. Many thanks for this post.

  19. Georgia Says:

    I am Deaf and have been studying lingusitics and phsycology at Western Carolina

    University for 3 years now. I have been wondering that ASL classes should have been

    provided in the deaf schools as well for hearing schools in the state nationwide because for

    centuries hearing schools have been providing English classes, so why can’t the deaf

    school provide ASL as well ? And public school ought to provide ASL class too? The

    nationwide schools would have been more acknowledge with Deaf culture and the

    language.

    I am currently having an awful time with an RID certified interpreter who is not qualified

    because the interpreter refuses to translate or elaborate when the professor cusses and

    ofteh having to ask the professor to repeat her comments and not being able to elaborate

    well how in the world am I suppose to be fully immersed into the of what the professor is

    lecturering. Also learned that the intepreter does not have state licenesure NIC or an EPIA

    and is violating the state law and is not qualitifed and has RID certifications and quality is

    horrible and how did she get RID certification. I dont understand..???? So, I am like wow.

    She got the whole message mixed up on three different topics on the assignments. I had to

    confront to the teacher myself in writing to have it clarified. Sheesh, that is not COOL and

    so absurbed . I was stressed out and overwhelmed by the circumstances. So, Enuff

    is enuff. ( THis is so Fucked UP) I felt treated unfairly and having to struggle this and

    even the Disability Service Director, at the Univeristy does not know the entire law of ADA

    and the rules of hiring an approiperate qualified interpreter. I could ramble all about my

    experiences with an interpreter, but will take all day LOL… Anyways , I have had great

    deal of outstanding qualified interpreters and is Deaf at heart and want to keep it for myself.

  20. Monica Says:

    This situation makes me sad. As a hearing person, I would be plenty willing to pay to be educated about ASL, while someone who is deaf or hard of hearing does not have to pay to learn it. However, you do have to consider that the person teaching – whether deaf or hearing – must be paid for the service they are providing. They also have to be educated enough themselves, in order to teach it. How can we possibly determine whether someone hearing who gets a job is getting it because they are more qualified, or is getting it instead of someone deaf and qualified for the wrong reasons? How can either one of these people get the job if they are not educated in the first place? How can more deaf people be reached to get them educated enough to take a job such as this? I think that is the real problem. Someone must be educated enough to get it, and must be paid to do the job in order to teach other people about it. Should a non-hearing person be more suited to get a job like this if the hearing person is of the same qualification? Wouldn’t that be prejudism against the hearing person? I am all for the person with the most qualification to get it. If being heard of hearing for deaf Makes them more qualified, then so be it.

    It all comes down to this: most people are into learning ANY subject so that they can have a future working for a living in that field. How can it possibly be determined whether they will actually get a job in that field in the future? That depends on whether and where a job will become available in their future. It cannot generally be foreseen, unless you already have a position lined up, due to knowing of a job that is available. Also, not every deaf person is out to learn this ASL information and you can’t force them to learn about it if they are not inclined to do so. The same goes for a hearing person. It is all about choice and circumstance. I am very sorry that this topic upsets you so much, I fully understand and feel for you about this and I truly hope that more deaf people will gravitate toward learning these things so they can have a future teaching others about it. But there are hearing people that also deserve to learn, who truly want to help, rather than to do it just for the money. There will also be non-hearing people who will be in it for the exact same reasons – money. Somebody has to get paid to teach, period. I feel anyone who wants to learn a profession should have the opportunity to do so, but the person teaching that profession must have had the education themselves in order to be eligible to perform the job. This is truly a “which came first – the chicken or the egg” type situation. We can’t bash a person just because they were able to get a job and you feel someone like yourself should have had it instead. There must be someone of your ability applying for the job in the first place. This blog if very helpful in getting the information out that you’re talking about, but the message definitely needs to reach both non-hearing and hearing people. The situation can’t be rectified if people aren’t even aware there is a problem. Thank you for bringing it to my attention, at least. Please at least try to see both sides of the situation. From replies I have read above, there definitely are educated hearing people who are not in it just for the money, but truly to help non-hearing people, and hopefully there will continue to be both hearing and non-hearing people who want a future in helping others, whatever their situation may be. What would be great to see is perhaps the YWCA or YMCA having volunteers from both groups who already have the education, to be able to offer classes for it, also to both groups, to come and learn about it for free. But I guess that is more of a wish than a reality. It takes desire, funds, and opportunity for anyone to get an education in any field. Unfortunately, not everyone has all three of these. =\

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