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Inclusion

Semilingualism and Monolingualism

By ASL, Bilingual, Early ASL Acquisition, Early Language Development, Information, Language Deprivation, Research

colourful bubbles with different languages

What does monolingualism mean?

Being monolingual means knowing one language. Many people who grow up in Canada may be monolingual and know only English or French. In contrast, many Deaf Canadians may be bilingual because they use two or more languages, for instance, they might use ASL and the written form of English.

What does semilingualism mean?

In order to become fluently bilingual, with strong language skills in two languages, a child must have early access to a first language or “mother tongue”, preferably from birth. When children are given late, infrequent or inadequate exposure to two or more languages, they may become semilingual rather than bilingual. When a child is semilingual they seem to not have a full grasp of any language, and tend to mix the vocabulary, grammar and structure of the two languages together so that the child may not be fully able to express themselves in any language. In order to reap the benefits of being bilingual, a child must be given the opportunity to develop a strong first language.

What does semilingualism mean for Deaf children?

Since more than 90% of Deaf children are born into hearing families who may not know ASL, it is crucial for parents to make the extra effort so that Deaf children are exposed to a signed language (ASL) as early as possible in order to have a strong first language that is visual and 100% accessible. By being given frequent and consistent exposure to ASL through communication with family members, videos, and socializing with other Deaf children, a first language can develop which is the first step to developing strong language and critical thinking skills. By having ASL as a first language, it will be easier to acquire English because the child already has knowledge of language structure and has the ability to connect ideas. Without frequent exposure to ASL and with only limited access to English (since the child does not have full access to spoken English), the child is in danger of never fully acquiring either ASL or English and becoming semilingual. By making the effort to expose your child to ASL as frequently and as early as possible, your child can thrive and learn how to communicate in two languages- ASL and English.

References:

  1. Cummins, J. (1979). Linguistic Interdependence and the Educational Development of Bilingual Children. Review of Educational Research, 49(2), 222-251.
  2. Grosjean, F. (1992). The Bilingual & the Bicultural Person In the Hearing & in the Deaf World. Sign Language Studies 77, 307-320.

Definitions & Identities

By Deaf Community, Deaf Culture, Identity, Information

The words "Deaf and Hard of Hearing" in rainbow-coloured text. The "i" in "Hearing" is dotted with a ladybug.

The following is an excerpt from the National Association of the Deaf :

The Deaf and hard of hearing community is diverse. There are variations in how a person becomes Deaf or hard of hearing, level of hearing, age of onset, educational background, communication methods, and cultural identity. How people “label” or identify themselves is personal and may reflect identification with the Deaf and hard of hearing community, the degree to which they can hear, or the relative age of onset.

For example, some people identify themselves as “late-deafened,” indicating that they became deaf later in life. Other people identify themselves as “deaf-blind,” which usually indicates that they are Deaf or hard of hearing and also have some degree of vision loss. Some people believe that the term “people with hearing loss” is inclusive and efficient. However, some people who were born Deaf or hard of hearing do not think of themselves as having lost their hearing. Over the years, the most commonly accepted terms have come to be “Deaf,” and “hard of hearing.”

According to Carol Padden and Tom Humphries, in Deaf in America: Voices from a Culture (1988): we use the lowercase deaf when referring to the audiological condition of not hearing, and the uppercase Deaf when referring to a particular group of Deaf people who share a language – American Sign Language (ASL) – a culture, [and community]. The members of this group have inherited their sign language, use it as a primary means of communication among themselves, and hold a set of beliefs about themselves and their connection to the larger society. We distinguish them from, for example, those who find themselves losing their hearing because of illness, trauma or age; although these people share the condition of not hearing, they do not have access to the knowledge, beliefs, and practices that make up the culture of Deaf people.

“Hard-of-hearing” can denote a person with a mild-to-moderate hearing loss. Or it can denote a deaf person who doesn’t have/want any cultural affiliation with the Deaf community. Or both. The HOH dilemma: in some ways hearing, in some ways deaf, in others, neither. Can one be hard-of-hearing and ASL-Deaf? That’s possible, too. Can one be hard-of-hearing and function as hearing? Of course. What about being hard-of-hearing and functioning as a member of both the hearing and Deaf communities? That’s a delicate tightrope-balancing act, but it too is possible. As for the political dimension: HOH people can be allies of the Deaf community. They can choose to join or to ignore it. They can participate in the social, cultural, political, and legal life of the community along with culturally-Deaf or live their lives completely within the parameters of the “Hearing world.” But they may have a more difficult time establishing a  satisfying cultural/social identity. Deaf Life, “For Hearing People Only” (October 1997).

The term “hearing-impaired” is no longer accepted by most in the community and is not a politically correct term. The term “hearing-impaired” is viewed as negative as it focuses on what people can’t do. It establishes the standard as “hearing” and anything different as “impaired,” or substandard, hindered, or damaged. It implies that something is not as it should be and ought to be fixed if possible. Every individual is unique.

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Assessing ASL use in “Mouse Trap” Video

By ASL, Early ASL Acquisition, Early Intervention, Early Language Development, Information

This video clip was submitted to IHP ASL Services who assessed two Deaf children’s use of ASL in a conversation about trapped mice. IHP ASL Consultants use a battery of ASL assessment tools while monitoring Deaf and Hard of Hearing children’s ASL language development.

Qualified IHP ASL consultants facilitate, motivate, and empower families to provide a language-rich environment for their child to acquire ASL. IHP ASL consultants also monitor the child and family’s ASL language learning progress using standardized outcome-based metrics. The language learning goals of the family are to be developed, revised, and updated regularly to meet the outcomes of the family’s Communication Development Plan. The provision of IHP ASL services is family-centered and coordinated with the rest of the Ontario Infant Hearing Program team.