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Thread: Deafness and Sign Language

  1. #1

    Default Deafness and Sign Language

    I would like to start by saying I am not Deaf, I am in my 3rd year of studying American Sign Language.

    In my class we are reading a book called Of Sound Mind by: Jean Ferris and we ended up getting into a discussion, that was sparked by a scene in the book, about how Deaf people feeling isolated because there are not many people they can communicate with. There was an open discussion and several of my peers mentioned that the Deaf students in my school will flag one of the 3rd or 4th year students down in the hall because we have a common language and just chat and chat and chat.

    I have always wondered about this, my teacher has 17 years of deaf culture and history under her belt and several of her friends are deaf, but she is still hearing. I would like an answer from someone Deaf, so I can better understand what is culturally acceptable.

    1. How do you feel about hearing people wanting to learn about your culture?

    2. I have had this happen once and I had no clue what to do. There was a couple having an intimate conversation when I was at a restaurant and their table was in my line of site. I caught my self eves dropping and ended up moving my chair so I wouldn't feel like a creeper. My teacher told me if it should happen again to let the signers know there was someone else in the room who could understand, and introduce myself.

    How would you feel if you were approached and someone told you they could understand?

    Personally, I would feel weird if a stranger came up to me, but I would rather know than someone knowing secrets they shouldn't because I thought no one would understand me.

    3. Have you ever felt isolated? Or is your community nearby big enough you always had people to talk to?


    Sorry for the wall of text, I would rather have the truth on how you guys feel rather than a teachers interpretation of how it would be when it comes to things like this.

    (Also, If this should be in Mature Topics, would someone move it? I didn't know if it would turn into a heated debate or not so I put it in Off Topic for now)

  2. #2


    Interesting topic, and question. However, in response to the 'should you introduce yourself to someone to let them know you know sign language as well'. Personally I wouldn't. I mean, whether the people talking are hearing or not, the fact remains that they are in a 'public' place and anyone might happen to also know sign language. To me , it would be no different if someone who was hearing was talking too loud was was over heard by someone else about something private. Bottom line: You're out in public, be careful what you talk about because you never know who is able to see or hear you.

  3. #3


    I'm thinking of going to Decembers Deaf coffee chat. There's a Starbucks in my town that hosts one on the first Saturday of the month. Maybe I would be better off asking my questions there =\

  4. #4


    Quote Originally Posted by Jossilyn View Post
    What has killed your thread is; “I would like an answer from someone Deaf,” this seemed to preclude people with any level of hearing. Despite that you got some very good advice from dlCherub.

    His advice would fly in the face of what you understand your teacher to have said. In this case I would agree with dlCherub’s stance, as opposed to your teacher’s advice. The same social conventions apply to deaf people as hearing people in this case. You interrupting a private conversation could be greeted with hostility. Unless their conversation was impinging upon other people’s rights, leave them be. So what you did do in the restaurant, in positioning yourself so you could not eavesdrop, was 100% the correct thing to do.

  5. #5


    Ok, Thank you dlCherub and thank you too Acorn. =)

    I feel better about what I did in my position. For now though I'll stick this thread in my back pocket and maybe I can ask someone I meet on Saturday the rest of the questions. ^^

  6. #6


    I'm going deaf. Does that count? :P I have a genetic disorder that is slowly deteriorating my sense of hearing. So far I can't hear sounds such as the click of a computer mouse or the trickling of water on a stream. I'm feeling more and more isolated because people keep pointing out that I speak loudly sometimes. I too am learning sign language; slowly, but surely. I was out shopping this past week speaking sign to my mom who was across the store. Their was a lady that approached me and started signing, too! I was thrown back in surprise and she was too when I started talking. "Ma'am, I'm not deaf. But thanks for being considerate!" XD

  7. #7


    I have a deaf friend and i am learning basic BSL (British Sign Language)

  8. #8


    I'm hearing impaired. I started learning sign language at 3rd grade and stopped at half year of 8th grade until my senior year in high school to quick re-learn sign language. I had an interpreter in college for 2 yrs before Gallaudet for 2 yrs. and still keep my ASL since. My hearing family had gestured all my life without using sign language.

  9. #9


    I am hearing impaired myself and I used sign language reguarly up to around maybe 4th grade give or take. After not using it after I left the hearing impaired unit of my local schools for a new school due to a dispute with the teacher; I lost the skill sadly. I even went to a post high school program for the hearing impaired in Columbus for a while but was a fish out of water because of the fact I didn't have the skill anymore.

    I also have a father who has a hearing loss as well. As for how severe my hearing loss is; I am deaf in one ear and have forty percent hearing in one. So I wear a hearing aid. At least I can still enjoy music, life and what have you.


  10. #10


    Hi, I am not deaf, however. Took ASL for three years in high school and some in college. My first major was Deaf Education. However we did go over the answers too all of your questions in my Deaf Culture class. I also read the book, its a pretty good one.

    1. Per the deaf individuals in my Deaf culture class, It is fine to learn the language and the culture, more hearing people knowing about it, the better the chances of communication in a respectful manner. Most Deaf people will ask where/why you learned sign.

    2. It was right of you to move your chair, looking at people signing, is like listening to a conversation of people near you. How ever going up and introducing yourself is not polite. When deaf people go out they want to eat, or shop, or whatever in peace just like all of us hearing people. Never interrupt someones dinner or outing simply to chat. If they do catch you looking and confront you, just explain that you are a ASL student, and apologize, however most people are used to the stairs (who can blame people for looking, its a beautiful language).

    3. Most deaf people have felt isolated at some point in their life. Mainstreamed students often have difficulty making friends or communicating easily. Some people's families don't sign so that is isolating, yet others are the only deaf person in their work place. The lack of people who know sign language make isolation a real possibility, but this really ties back into question one, more people knowing sign would lead to less isolation.

    Hope this helps. I have tons of info and books on Deaf culture and stuff, anything else just ask.

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