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How to communicate with deaf and hard of hearing people ?
The sign language used by the Deaf Community in the UK
is called British Sign Language (BSL). Like other sign languages of the
world, it is a rich and complex visual-spatial language, with a vocabulary
and syntax of its own. It is different from other sign languages and, of
course, from spoken language such as English. It uses both manual and non-manual
components, including hand shapes and movements, facial expression and
body movements to express meaning, and can be used to express a full range
English is an example of one of the spoken languages of the world. Others include French, German, Urdu and so on. Many British people have another spoken language as a first language, for example Punjabi or Cantonese. In such cases English will be their second language. Spoken English may be modified in a number of simple ways to make it more lip readable for a deaf people using English. The ways include clearer lip movements and more use of gestures and facial expression to help convey meaning.
Hearing impairment itself leads to much frustration in
communication but many other communication problems are often caused by
the thoughtlessness and poor practices of those speaking to hearing impaired
people. The following points can be useful when speaking to those with
a hearing loss.
Speak clearly, perhaps a little louder than usual but
DO NOT SHOUT. Shouting distorts the lips, makes it difficult to lip-read,
and makes it embarrassing for both of you Speak with the ordinary rhythm
and flow of speech As far as possible, cut out background noise
Be prepared to repeat things if necessary. A good tip
is - if you've tried a couple of times and can't get the message across,
rearrange the sentence and present it in a different way, perhaps with
the key words at the beginning of the sentence.
Don't ever say 'Oh, it doesn't matter, it's not important'.
It is humiliating to be treated in this way.
If these simple, basic points are followed, it should be easier to talk to hearing impaired people, but if all else fails, write it down.
The History of Sign Language.
It was in the sixteenth century that Geronimo Cardano, a physician of Padua, in northern Italy, proclaimed that deaf people could be taught to understand written combinations of symbols by associating them with the thing they represented. The first book on teaching sign language to deaf people that contained the manual alphabet was published in 1620 by Juan Pablo de Bonet.
In 1755 Abbe Charles Michel de L’Epée of Paris founded the first free school for deaf people. He taught that deaf people could develop communication with themselves and the hearing world through a system of conventional gestures, hand signs, and fingerspelling. He created and demonstrated a language of signs whereby each would be a symbol that suggested the concept desired.
The abbe was apparently a very creative person, and the way he developed his sign language system was by first recognizing, then learning the signs that were already being used by a group of deaf people in Paris, To this knowledge he added his own creativeness which resulted in a signed version of spoken French. He paved the way for deaf people to have a more standardized language of their own one which would effectively bridge the gap between the hearing and non hearing worlds.
From L’Epée's system developed French Sign Language (FSL), still in use in France today and the precursor of American Sign Language (ASL) and many other national sign languages.
FSL was brought to the United States in 1816 by Thomas Gallaudet, founder of the American School for the Deaf in Hartford, Conn. The new sign language was combined with the various systems already in use in the United States to form ASL, which today is used by more than 500,000 deaf people in the United States and Canada, it is the fourth most common language in the United States. National sign languages such as ASL have more in common with one another than with the spoken languages of their country of origin, since their signs represent concepts and not English or French or Japanese words. One system, Cued Speech, first developed by the American physicist R. Orin Cornett in 1966, does, however, successfully employ hand signs representing only sounds (not concepts), used in conjunction with lip-reading. It has been adapted to more than 40 languages.
Another prominent deaf educator of the same period (1778) was Samuel Heinicke of Leipzig, Germany. Heinicke did not use the manual method of communication but taught speech and speech reading. He established the first public school for deaf people that achieved government recognition. These two methods (manual and oral) were the forerunners of today's concept of total communication. Total communication espouses the use of all means of available communication, such as sign language, gesturing, finger spelling, speech reading, speech, hearing aids, reading, writing, and pictures.
Chinese and Japanese, whose languages use the same body of characters but pronounce them entirely differently, can communicate by means of a sign language in which one watches while the other traces mutually understood characters in his or her palm. Evidence of long use of sign language to communicate around mutually unintelligible languages exists for Africa, Australia, and North America.
The most generally known model is that of the Plains Indians of 19th-century North America. Although their languages were dissimilar, the mode of life and environment of all groups had many shared elements, and, consequently, finding common symbols was easy. Thus, a cupped hand leaping and bobbing away from the "speaker" was familiar to all as the rump of a bounding deer, a circle drawn against the sky meant the moon or something as pale as the moon. Two fingers astride the other index finger represented a person on horseback, two fingers spread and darting from the mouth like the forked tongue of a snake meant lies or treachery; and the gesture of brushing long hair down over the neck and shoulder signified a woman. This sign language became so familiar that long and complex narratives in monologue or dialogue could be signed and understood within large groups of Indians otherwise unable to communicate.
The Indian sign language was codified by use into an explicit vocabulary of gestures representing or depicting objects, actions, and ideas, but it made no attempt to "spell out" or otherwise represent words that could not be conveyed by gestures. Several forms of sign language were developed to enable deaf-mutes to spell out words and sounds, however. Most of these are as complex and flexible as spoken languages.
Members of religious orders who have taken vows of silence,
as well as others who for reasons of piety or humility have forsworn speech,
have need of sign language. Often, in a silent monastic order, for instance,
natural gestures such as passing food or pointing to some needed object
have sufficed for effective communication, leaving little need for specially
coded signs. Meher Baba, an Indian religious figure, abstained from speech
in the last decades of his life but "dictated" voluminous writings to disciples,
at first by pointing to letters on an English-language alphabet board;
but, after evolving a suitable sign language of gestures, he relied on
that alone. The medieval English cleric Venerable Bede worked out a coded
sign language based on manual signs representing numbers, with the numbers
in turn signifying letters of the Latin alphabet in sequence, i.e., 1 for
A, 7 for G, etc. It is not known, however, whether he devised the system
to communicate with the deaf or merely to maintain silence.