Rant: Why I think Sign Language Education should be free

I had been curious about sign languages before, but they kind of seemed scary to learn; after all, all my language education comes from books and websites, so it’s kind of intimidating to learn one that you can’t actually write (more on that later). 

 So I’ve been watching Switched At Birth, and I think to myself, “hey, Rex, maybe you should learn some sign languages; after all, you’re a language vlogger, and this is an area that many people neglect”. And then I respond to myself, “Y’know what, Rex? That is actually a great idea”. I already picked a few words of ASL, but since I don’t intend to visit the US soon, I figure Mexican Sign Language (LSM) should be my go. So I go online and google “curso de lengua de señas mexicana”.

There is exactly one resource: the EscuelaParaSordos website (SchoolForTheDeaf in Spanish). They offer an online course, but it’s a bit expensive: MXN$2,500. Now, this isn’t an exorbitant amount (for context, a can of Coke is $9), but one thing to consider is that the minimum wage in Mexico is around $70/DAY, so for families in poverty this ends up being prohibitive. And what does this mean? Homesign thrives in Mexico, of course! Deaf poor people are being deprived of the chance to learn their own language, because they can’t afford it. They could go to a special needs school, sure, but those are very few and far apart in our country, not to mention the stigma that it carries in a very prejudiced culture to need special education. Best case scenario, Televisa picks you up with a financial aid and uses you for their tax-exemption pity party that dehumanises people with disabilities, and then they throw you out when you turn twelve because fuck you, teens aren’t pitiful; if you can’t make us money, we don’t want you. Worst case scenario, you grow up in a shitty family that won’t bother trying to communicate with you and they get rid of you ASAP, forever impairing your chance of ever getting any language skills at all.

Now, you could argue that “hey, this is 2016, I’m sure there are plenty of resources out there by volunteers”. Well, here we stumble into another problem: people aren’t learning LSM, so they won’t make any resources. There are very few LSM videos on YouTube, and most of them are short lists of really basic vocabulary. Don’t get me wrong; I applaud the few who have given it a try, but it’s not enough for two reasons. The first, and the most obvious, is that most of these give up after realising it’s not that easy to climb to YouTube fame (thrust me, I’ve been at it for months already and I barely pass the 50 subscribers mark). Second, and most important, is that in most cases they’re native speakers with no teaching or linguistics training. I really appreciate the effort they’ve made, and I’ll encourage them to keep at it no matter what, but the sad truth is that, while being a native speaker is a fantastic head-start, any language professional will tell you that it’s not nearly enough qualification to teach languages. You need to know how to teach; you need to study grammar, and morphology, and phonetics (before you ask, yes, sign languages have phonetics; I’m not entirely sure of how it works, but it is definitely a recognised branch of sign linguistics). they need to be able to provide practice material, especially for online courses; they need to answer questions about how or why something’s done. And, especially with non-written languages like LSM or ASL, they need to be able to provide extensive vocabulary lists to the students.

I know some other languages like BSL have free courses for the GenPop, but many others don’t, and this is incredibly discouraging for deaf people in poverty, families and friends of deaf people, language hobbyists, and the population in general. I’ve been asking around for weeks and I can’t seem to find anyone who knows where my state’s school for the deaf is located, much less if they have any kind of courses. And the thing is that, without these, many deaf people can’t communicate with the world around them, and that has consequences for the future. Since people don’t know LSM, linguists can’t study it properly. If it isn’t studied, there is no scientific literature about it, and it all becomes a vicious cycle that ends with the extinction of a beautiful language because government institutions couldn’t be arsed to teach it.

I’ll close with this. My school teaches English, French, Italian, Portuguese, Japanese, Mandarin, Hebrew, Russian, German and Spanish as a Second Language. We’re the most renowned institution that both teaches languages at an accessible price and is known by the whole southwest. Yet there is no LSM course. This is an official language of Mexico, and it’s not being taught at literally the one place people think of when they say “hey, I want to learn a new language”. I don’t know why things are this way, but it needs to change now. For the sake of the deaf, for the sake of linguistics, and for the sake of society. We’re making so much progress, and yet we can’t communicate with our own people. This isolation needs to stop.

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Things Hearing People Need To Know

1. Yelling wont make a Deaf person hear you

2. Not all Deaf people read lips well

3. Speaking extremely slow is not only offensive, it makes it harder for Deaf people to read your lips

4. Deaf people can listen to and enjoy music

5. Deaf people can drive

6. Sign language is not universal

DEAF AWARENESS
  •  if someone is not responding to you, they may not be just acting rude. They may actually not be able to hear you
  •  when you find out out someone is deaf, please try not to let the first words that come out of your mouth be “I’m sorry.” or “I could never live like that.” Deafness is not some terminal illness that we suffer through everyday.
  •  If you see someone struggling to communicate, please do not make them the center of attention. Trust me. The last thing I want when I can’t understand is someone pointing out that I can’t understand.
  •  if someone is struggling to communicate, and you know sign language, please ASK before you start interpreting. Yes, we appreciate the kind offer, but not everyone is comfortable with some stranger intervening. Also, not all deaf people know sign. 
  • -When you see someone with hearing loss jamming to their music in public, and you can hear it, please do not ask them to turn it down. It’s really ruse, considering it may just be loud enough for them to hear it or feel the vibrations.
  •  NEVER cover your mouth and ask if we can hear/understand you.It’s really insensitive. Most of the time, reading lips is very important for people who are deaf to communicate.
  •  Obviously, never ask how they get and keep their jobs. I feel like I shouldn’t have to explain this one.
  • Do not, DO NOT, under any circumstances, encourage or promote the use of technical devices such as hearing aids or cochlears to ANY deaf person. Many of us struggled with these devices as children. As we get older, we start to decide for ourselves if we want to use them. I respect people who their devices, but i do not respect hearing people who know nothing about them suggesting them.
  •  do not ask “if you’re deaf, how can you speak so well?” It’s basically the same kind of thing as above. many deaf children are fitted for hearing aids/cochlears and sent to speech therapy the minute their hearing parents find out. Some deaf people can speak, some people can sign and speak, and some can sign. It’s honestly their choice, and sometimes it’s not a choice.
  • if there’s anything else that you want to know, but just for a slight moment you think “I don’t want to come across as rude,” DO NOT ASK.
  • Thank you for reading. The Deaf Community would love it if these were actually followed. :)
Dare I Say It... (Closed Captions!) I Just Did.

So lately I’ve been seeing a lot of hate or at least negativity towards Captioned videos of any sort. People making posts about “How annoying CC is” “Why does CC exist?” and other remarks. 

This is coming from me, a Deafblind Individual who NEEDS CC to understand speech/video/audio of any sort. This also is on behalf of the Deaf/HOH/ADP/Anyone who needs CC.

You abled, privileged, hearing people have the glorious opportunity, chance of a life time, to watch ANYTHING you want without problems. Without discrimination. Without complaints. Without threats. Without negativity thrown at you. YOU get the privilege of being able to enjoy anything/everything that has spoken language to it.
Us, d/Deaf/HoH/APD/Second Language Need closed captions (CC). NEED accommodation.

Imagine (and I do ask you to TRY IT OUT) you have the TV on mute. Can you understand anything? I doubt it, there’s no sound! You’re trying to make out the characters reactions, movements, behaviour but it’s not working because you can’t tell what’s being said. Then you put CC/Subtitles on. At last! You can FINALLY understand the spoken language! You understand what’s happening!! You’re not lost and tired from trying to play charades. Now you can enjoy the show without complaints!

Another Try It Out put earplugs in and walk around all day or at least a few hours with those earplugs. Can you understand speech? Can you figure out where things are coming from? No? Everything is muffled sounding yes? As if you’re in a tunnel? 

This is how many d/Deaf/HoH/APD people feel each and every single day Speech is muffled sounding, distorted, garble nonsense. It’s tiring to constantly lipread (Which isn’t 30% accurate for English language seen on lips), trying to understand what someone is saying when it’s all so muffled!

Now, you go to entirely new country, with only said language as your SECOND language which you aren’t entirely fluent in yet. Even if you are… understanding the second language is fairly hard yes? Everything all muffled and “Blah blah blah” sounding correct? Putting subtitles on can make a HUGE difference! Yes the country’s language can be spoken, but having YOUR language on subtitles can be beneficial for you. You aren’t lost. You aren’t confused. You understand what everyone is laughing about in the movie because you have subtitles!

Gifs/Moving images: people uploads these on tumblr, facebook, other media sites. They have captions on them because people wouldn’t know what is being said. Imagine the subtitles/captions, gone. I doubt you’d have any idea what is happening and what particular scene the gif/moving image is from. Here’s the thing, people don’t complain about gifsets being made that have subtitles/closed captions on it so EVERYONE can see whats happening….  Yet people complain that there’s (OMG!) Subtitles/Captions on VIDEOS?!?! A TEXT POST UNDERNEATH A VIDEO THAT HAS (Dare I say it?) CAPTIONS! HOW UNCALLED FOR! 

Did you know that Captions can be extremely useful? 
Check these links out explaining why. 

Perks of Having Closed Captions (CC)

Stop Making Excuses And CC Your Videos

How To Closed Caption Your Videos 

Closed Captions (CC)

rikkipoynter did a video on WHY CC is important 

tyleroakley followed up with that and gave reasons why CC is important (Hear Me Out)

paulidin did a video on why Access Matters! Closed Captions

my good friend timelordonbakerstreet shows you HOW to CC your videos

captioned-vines, captioningresource, waitwhatdidtheysay and others do a wonderful job captioning the videos. 

Captions are IMPORTANT. If you add captions, you get more respect. When you add captions you don’t get complaints, you get more views/followers/people who will enjoy your videos. When you add captions you can enjoy watching shows on mute while at work, in line, anywhere. 

If you don’t like Captions… there’s one Simple Thing To Do TURN THEM OFF WHEN PEOPLE WHO NEED THEM… Leave. Don’t make a HUGE DEAL!1!111 about CC. If the CC benefit the person, then be accommodative, not an asshole, and let the CC be on. Would you rather us ask you 20 questions in 5 minutes asking “What they say? What? Whats so funny? Huh? I missed that! Again?” Doubt it. So put CC on. It isn’t that difficult.

When you see transcript/cc underneath a video…. Please DO NOT delete the CC. All you need to do is go to SOURCE’s page and Reblog from there. It isn’t that difficult. 

JUST BE RESPECTFUL because you won’t know who you have hurt/make someone feel upset. You’re unintentionally discriminating and be disrespectful to those who need CC/subtitles. 

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College students created a glove that translates sign language into speech and text

Thomas Pryor and Navid Azodi just won a $10,000 Lemelson-MIT Student Prize for SignAloud — a pair of gloves that can translate sign language to text and speech nearly instantaneously. The gloves break down the language barrier for the deaf and hard of hearing community, which consists of millions of people in the U.S. alone. Here’s how they work.

Follow @the-future-now

“Colors” - Halsey ASL Cover

Okay NOW the ASL Covers are back! Youtube blocked the video on my channel so I took it down. I had to trim it a bit at the end so the video size would fit on Tumblr. I’m so so sorry for the confusion and delay! I’ll still be uploading ASL Covers, they just can’t be over 3:50 in length I guess.

Anyways, enjoy! This might be my favorite cover so far :) thatdeafblackguy deaflepuff deafdestroya rikkipoynter

But you can lip read right?

Yes, I can lip read but it takes a lot of strength and energy to figure out your mouth formation. Lip reading isn’t even 30% accurate.

It’s “Did the person say mat or bat?” or if you figure out some words it’s “The __ __ into __ __ and ___ behind the ___ ___” guessing game. We miss half the sentence so we just guess. “The dog ran into the house and hid behind the kitchen table?” When the person actually said “The cat walked into the house and hid behind the couch” Sometimes we misinterpret/hear what is being said. “How is the weather” could heard as “How are you?”

So when talking to someone who does lip read, don’t assume it’s a MAGICAL SUPERPOWER! Because it’s not. It takes a lot of energy from us trying to figure out the missing gaps. Don’t over exaggerate your mouth movements either. Speak slow, clearly and face us when speaking.

Also it’s extremely hard to lip read someone when…

1) They have a facial hair

2) Covering their mouths when talking

3) Chewing/having food in mouth while talking

4) Having anything near their face. Example: scarf, hand

5) Bad lighting in the area

6) Over exaggerating their mouth movements

7) Facing away mid-talking 

8) Mumbling

9) Barely moving mouth when speaking

What to do when you’re with someone who lip reads…

1) Make sure you’re in a good area of lighting. Ask if the person can see/read your lips before speaking any farther

2) Make sure you aren’t chewing anything while talking

4) Leave your hands away from your face

5) Have minimal facial hair possible. This especially when you know you’ll be communicating with a lipreader daily

6) Speak slowly, clearly. 

7) If they ask you to repeat, please do so.

8) Face them when speaking - this IS important of course.

12 Reasons To Learn (American) Sign Language

1. Easily communicate UNDERWATER

2. You can talk when your MOUTH is FULL

3. Understand and help end AUDISM

4. Speak right through a CLOSED WINDOW and still be understood.

5. Talk across a CROWDED ROOM without yelling

6. Quietly chat at the MOVIES without being rude

7. Learn a language that’s UNIQUE VISUAL SPATIAL & GESTURAL

8. COUNT to TEN and HIGHER on just ONE hand

9 It’s a 3D language - 3D GLASSES NOT NEEDED

10. Satisfy your FOREIGN LANGUAGE requirement 

11 It will never be TOO LOUD or TOO QUIET to sign to someone

12 Get to know some wonderful people in the DEAF COMMUNITY (Possibly the best reason of all!)