Thoughts about Speaking/Voicing at Gallaudet From Two Hearing Students


Hi JT,

Thanks for thinking of me and allowing me to share some of my thoughts.

Living on campus is one of the best ways for hearing students to truly immerse themselves in Deaf Culture.  However, when two or more hearing people gather in the absence of a Deaf person, the urge is to switch to SimCom or voiced English (I don’t know which is worse).  This means that entire dorm rooms, cafeteria tables, and even classrooms follow this unwritten policy.  If one person switches languages, then the entire group is pulled toward English because it is our first and native language.  When faced with the decision of choosing a downhill path and a uphill struggle, most would choose the former.  But that is not why we are here at Gallaudet.  We are not here to practice our English.  We’ve done that for our entire lives.  We are here to completely dive into a language that is not native to us.  But when voicing happens on campus, it becomes a black hole, sucking in all hearing people, regardless of their good intentions.  It takes every fiber of self control to sign answers in response to voiced questions.  However if everybody understood this, respected the mission statement and language policy of Gallaudet University we wouldn’t feel this internal struggle between which language to choose. But for now all I can do is surround myself with as many Deaf people as I can find so that both on and off campus I will not have to choose which language to use.

Although there are many hearing students who voice on campus, I believe that there are even more hearing students who are uncomfortable with this unwritten philosophy.  These students are just not confident enough in their signing to surround themselves with Deaf friends, not confident enough to ask their hearing friends to “Please for me, voice-off”, not confident enough to stand strong in the presence of a black hole.  However it is our job as allies to stand up for a voice off campus.




Hi JT,

I was just thinking about some of my frustrations regarding this issue and two things that hadn’t yet come to mind did.

1. Escapes
Many hearing people here, even ones who are very skilled in ASL, have difficulty signing all day and feel the need to speak English as a way to escape, to have a moment where they can feel themselves. This can be true of any person in another culture, or if they moved to china spoke Chinese all day, they may need some times where they speak English. So, when hearing people live on campus with only hearing people they treat their room as “the escape.” They feel their room is the only place where they can be themselves. I think that anthropologically this makes a lot of sense.

2. Hearing Culture Conflict
However, this becomes a problem when the entire suite is hearing because then the suite allows hearing culture to take over which can be a problem for someone like me who does not feel the need to participate in hearing culture. Hearing people behave certain ways in hearing environments because of their hearing and there are also certain manners that accompany that. As a hearing person who does not feel like I need a “break from using ASL” I don’t have the ability to only sign in a suite where everyone speaks because it is considered very rude in a hearing environment for someone to speak to you and for you to not speak back if you have the ability. In doing so i would be rejecting their right to speak which they do have in their own bedroom without deaf people around. This creates a culture conflict amongst hearing people on the campus because how their hearing culture exists changes, and it affects the way ASL exists in Gallaudet when there are all of these pockets of hearing culture due to the fact that there is such a concentration of hearing people in the graduate school.

Didn’t come to any conclusions but i thought i should share it.



Copyright © Jason Tozier

This text may be freely copied in its entirely only, including this copyright message.

2 thoughts on “Thoughts about Speaking/Voicing at Gallaudet From Two Hearing Students

  1. I have noticed some of interpreter who are at skills of ASL but choose to speak english with hearing interpreters that are learning ASL, how can other beginning signer learn quick if they decide that they need break from ASL, but those beginning signer SHALL accept Gallaudet University’s policy to use ASL all the time, even in the cafeteria, it belong to DEAF CULTURE, ON GALLAUDET UNIVERSITY CAMPUS IS DEAF CULTURE! Unless hearing interpreter or beginner signer are in their bedroom or at party room with no DEAF or HOH in the presence, go ahead switch to English or Semi-Com…PLEASE RESPECT OUR DEAF CULTURE…Ask yourself why did you choose Gallaudet University for Interpreter programs while others university DO provided Interpreter programs which, are not required to use ASL all the way? Ask that yourself again, please? RESPECT is all WE ASK out of YOU all hearing interpreter? Is that hard to respect our culture when you all are on our campus?? I have few friends who are hearing interpreter and they have common sense and respect us and I am very impressive and adore their commitment for Deaf Culture!

  2. My strong belief is that every one has the freedom of expression. This includes the freedom to use any form of communication. The hearing person that was criticized for not using ASL has the freedom of expression and has the freedom to use any form of communication. It is not our right and we have no power to take away her freedoms.

    The conversations that the hearing person had are her own private communication and the cafeteria is one of very few places where people can have private conversations with each other freely. It is not our place and it is not our power to shrink the remaining spaces where people can have their own private conversations.

    Sim-Com is not evil. It is a manifestation of a semiotic process, semiotic space or semiotic world. Every one including that hearing person has the freedom to direct her own semiotic process; she has the freedom to create her own semiotic spaces; she has the freedom to cultivate her own semiotic worlds. It is not our right and it is not our power to take away these freedoms from her or any other people.

    Gallaudet University is not ASL-only academic. It is a bilingual university. It means that people can use spoken English language. Bilingualism is already built in the mission statement. It is contrary to the spirit of bilingualism if people are not allowed to use spoken English language or any English-like signing systems.

    We should reconsider our action toward that hearing person. Many decades ago when oralism gripped deaf education, the oralists kept watch over the deaf kids to make sure that they never signed. The oralists took away the freedom of expression from the deaf kids. What some people did to the hearing person is not much different from that they did. There is a saying that applies to this: Oppressed becomes oppressor. Don’t oppress that hearing person and other people by telling them what languages to use and what languages not to use. We should always try to improve our tolerance by recognizing and respecting the diversity in communication, especially in their private spaces.

    Joseph Pietro Riolo

    Public domain notice: I put all of my expressions in this post in the public domain.

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s