The Development of Sign Language
Prior to the 16th century no formal recognition was made of sign language. Resorting to homemade signs was the only way for Deaf people to communicate, until an Italian physician, Girolamo Cardano, tried to develop some code of signs that never caught on.
His work, however, paved the way for a new perspective on Deaf people: communication WAS possible, and just because they could not hear didn’t mean they were inferior.
Spanish monks began to develop a standard set of signs, trying to form similar shapes to the written word.
By the 18th century, in France the first public education of the Deaf was started, by Abbe de L’Epee. He devised signs for certain functions of grammar. He taught Deaf pupils through writing, signing, and finger-spelling successfully.
In the 20th century, Dr. William Stokoe, linguistic researcher, declared American Sign Language an official language. Other research on sign language worldwide produced similar results; sign languages are true languages with their own set of linguistic rules.
The Goals and Role of the World Federation of the Deaf (WFD):
To promote recognition of sign language and the right of Deaf individuals to use sign language;
To promote the right of Deaf children to have early and full access to sign language;
To promote increased support for sign language research;
To promote better quality of teaching of sign language;
To promote better quality of sign language interpreting;
To promote more availability of sign language in the media.
Sign Language Recognized in the Following Countries:
Brazil, Finland, South Africa, Czech Republic, New Zealand, Uganda, Ecuador, Portugal, Venezuela
Legislation / Policy
Australia, Denmark, Romania, Uruguay, Belarus, France, Russian Federation, Zimbabwe, Belgium, Some German States, Slovak Republic, Brazil, Greece, Spain, Canada, Iceland, Sri Lanka, China, Iran, Colombia, Latvia, Switzerland, Cyprus, Lithuania, Thailand, Czech Republic, Mozambique, United States of America
Sign Language Officially Recognized by the Government
United Kingdom, Cuba, Mauritius
Sign Language is a pictorial rendition for the words of spoken language, a short cut.
Sign language is universal, the same in every country around the world.
Abstract concepts cannot be expressed in sign language.
People can learn sign language easily.
Education in sign language jeopardizes the learning of the written language.
Sign languages have complex rules of grammar and expansive vocabularies, and are comfortably capable as vehicles everyday conversation, intellectual discourse, rhetoric, wit, and poetry!
Sign languages in each country are found to have dialects, just as spoken languages do.
In the United States of America, ASL (American Sign Language) is the fifth most used minority language, after French, Spanish, German, and Italian.
Some studies reveal that children can learn sign language 2-3 months earlier than they can learn to speak.
Sign Language and Education
Prior to the late 1800’s, sign language was commonly used to give a good education to Deaf pupils.
In 1880, at a conference in Milan, Italy, hearing authorities made the decision to eliminate sign language from the classroom and prevent Deaf teachers from teaching in European countries; at the same time, American schools saw a similar fate as the number of Deaf teachers (47% of all teachers in Deaf schools) went down to a single digit.
In place of using sign language, nearly all schools implemented the Oral Method, placing Deaf children’s education in the Dark Ages for 100 years.
To this day, in spite of numerous studies showing that Deaf children learn best through sign language, Deaf education has still not fully recovered from the blows dealt by the Milan Conference and by the reduction in numbers of Deaf teachers.
Sign language is different from other minority languages, in that it is a visual language- facial expressions, body language and visual placements are all important components of sign language.
Although Deaf people consider themselves (and research supports this view) a linguistic minority group, governments and other institutions insist on labelling Deaf people as ‘disabled’.
There are currently about 4,000 recorded spoken/written languages in the world- if more countries recognise sign languages as well, this number would go up dramatically.
Languages are the roots of culture.
PRESERVE SIGN LANGUAGE, SAVE CULTURE!
Oralism in education
The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines oralism as: "advocacy or use of the oral method of teaching the deaf". Oralism consists of various methods used in teaching the deaf how to read lips by recognizing formations of the mouth in spoken dialogue, practicing certain breathing patterns used to produce words and letters, and mimicking mouth shapes.
Oralism methods can be traced as far back as 1648. Oralism gained popularity in America in the 1860s when it began being utilized in the education process of many schools for the deaf. The notion of oral methodology gained tread in deaf educational institutions as popular opinion believed it was paramount for the deaf community try to "assimilate" themselves into the hearing world.