In writing this, I thought it would be important to discuss about educational approaches to the teaching of American Sign Language (ASL)-English literacy for Deafhood Discussions, a project of Deafhood Foundation (www.deafhood.us). These approaches uses “controlled written prose passages” to give the viewers amounts of actual copying and interpreting practices while requiring a cross-linguistic/cross-cultural discussion by the book, Understanding Deaf Culture: In Search of Deafhood written by Paddy Ladd. This copying and interpreting exercise makes the viewers to look at things from both language perspectives in order to become effective ASL-English bilingual. I must emphasize that I am not an expert on ASL. I realized a lot—awfully a lot after working with Ella mae Lentz back in 2012 about Oralism & the Renewed Religious Discourse.
English grammatical analysis is required, and explanations are done in exclusive ASL in both the simplest possible terms and the English word order that ASL allows. Ella and I had to examine well-written prose passages and discuss by code switching between ASL and English in some meaningful ways. Each time when someone who works with Ella for translating from English to ASL from the book chapters shall eventually apply these skills in their own language creation, using suggested topics included in each passage.
Controlled written prose passages are mindful copying and interpreting; they are a method of learning to advance ASL-English literacy. This copying and interpreting method is actually quite ancient. My late mentor has told me stories, for example, for several thousand years at least, people have known how to copy and interpret stories by the pupils at Plato’s Academy in ancient Greece as well as biblical stories by monks and nuns in the scriptorium of some monasteries.
Can the viewers learn ASL-English literacy without learning a lot of grammar? Yes, I realized if they can read good written prose passages to copy and interpret them. They need to see patterns (subject-verb agreements, helping verbs and verb phrases, indirect object-direct objects, relative and reduced clauses, and so on). The viewers shall improve their literacy skills by examining how others use the written language and how it is interpreted into ASL, which amazes me more than anything. It is the la crème de la crème, the cream of the crop in languages.
All in all, the first duty of all the viewers that Deafhood Foundation has provided is to acquire and apply as much ASL and English as possible. Such is the magic that, by human accord, often the same concepts in both languages may mean different things in ASL-English literacy. It will evolve your thinking in many ways. Deafhood is an evolution of the Deaf mind.
Advocating for Deaf people’s interests is a fundamental right of all Deaf people. It is a healthy measure to recognize that it is constitutionally-protected First Amendment right for Deaf people that include children for ASL and the state of being Deaf. Can Deaf people advocate for themselves without political and social organization like DHF? The best investment in equity and equality is education and contribution for DHF.
Ella mae Lentz is a great ASL teacher and translator that makes her a world-class expert.