THE SOMEWHAT BACKWARDS BILINGUAL EXPERIENCE OF A DEAF CHILD IN AMERICA Meghan Eckerson
Some background • Bilingualism – what does it mean? • Deaf children – what do you do? • Education • Communication • Research focuses on knowledge and understanding of English • What about education?
Education • Merriam-Webster defines education a few ways, one of which is the following: • “to develop mentally, morally, or aesthetically especially by instruction.” • What else do we want to teach deaf children other than English? • What is the most effective way to do that?
Side A: Bilingual-Bicultural • American Sign Language (ASL) has its own structure and grammar • The Deaf culture associated with it is very unique. • Most deaf children grow up in families where the parents and siblings are hearing so they are not exposed to Deaf culture in their home, and often times are not exposed to the language either. • Most of the exposure to ASL and Deaf culture comes from outside the home.
Bi-bi education • “all of these factors – the fact that most deaf children do not learn English as a true native language; their ability to learn ASL as a native language; and the existence of a deaf community, to which most prelingually (and many postlingually) deaf youngsters and adults belong – have an important bearing on the education and language development of deaf children in North America.” (Veda R. Charrow and Ronnie B. Wilbur The Deaf Child as a Linguistic Minority. 354) • Bilingual-Bicultural Education (Bi-bi). It “involves exposure to and acquisition of two languages, American Sign Language (ASL) and English. It also involves exposure to and involvement in two cultures, the Deaf culture and the Hearing culture . . . Bi-bi involves using ASL as the primary, and often sole, language of interaction in the first 6-7 years of life with children who are deaf and exposing children to all aspects of Deaf culture.” (qtd in Huefner, 2001 pg 187)
Side B: Signing Exact English • Signing Exact English (SEE II) is a manual code of English developed from Seeing Essential English (SEE I) in the 1970s. SEE II is used in the education of deaf children today to help them learn English grammar and structure. • “unlike American Sign Language, these codes follow English word order, and contain specific signs for bound morphemes to signify English verb tenses, adverbs, and function words. They were also designed so that they could be presented in coordination with spoken language.” (Barbara Luetke-Stahlman A History of Seeing Essential English (SEE I), 29) • The idea is that if a deaf child can read and write English well, they will be able to understand more at school and around them and therefore succeed more academically. • By teaching a child SEE (II) before they enter school, the child may develop an understanding of the syntax and grammar of English similar to that of the hearing children their age. English will become their native language.
Methodology • Lack of research • Focuses on English skills • Longitudinal study • Observe both sides for ten years • Academic success • Critical thinking skills • English proficiency • Why age 8-18?
The test . . . • A standardized test will be created for all twenty children and given at the end of every year. • The English skills test – the Utah ELP standards • Academic success – performance evaluations in school (i.e. report cards, teacher evaluations, etc) • critical thinking test – based on Bloom’s taxonomy of education objectives. • A final test will be given prior to graduation of high school, at which time the results will be analyzed and a conclusion decided on.
The Hypothesis • Side A: • English skills may develop slower but eventually will catch up. • Critical thinking skills will develop faster. • Will be proficient in both languages. • Side B: • English skills will develop faster. • Critical thinking skills may be delayed. • Will be proficient in English (will be their native language).
If . . . Then • What if the hypotheses are true? • We’ll have twenty smart, critically thinking deaf children! • We’ll have ten bilingual children. • We will be able to know which of these methods of educating a deaf child, if not both, is effective in developing thinking skills. • We will know the strengths and weaknesses of each program and can identify ways to improve each.
Further Research • Does the ability to lip read and speak make a difference in the education of a deaf child? • Why is it that some deaf children can lip read and voice but others can’t? • What role does family involvement play in the education of a deaf child? • Can English be a fully-developed native language for a deaf child? • Are there other ways to educate deaf children that are just as effective as the two evaluated here? • What about psychological effects?