Kat Reading

Kat Reading

Sunday, July 31, 2011

English is part of bilingualism too!

As any reader of my blog knows, Miss Kat currently attends a school that focuses on spoken English as the language of communication. The school does have a heavy emphasis on language (NOT speech alone, but the language behind the sounds) but it also teaches math and science and emphasises reading and literacy easily as much as language.

We believe this school is the best place for our child right now. Would it have been the right place for her three years ago? NO WAY!! Will it be the right place for her in three years? Who knows. But right now, it fits.

As I have said many times, here on my blog, on other's blogs, all over the internet, as well as every day in our lives, our family's goal is for Miss Kat to grow up BI-lingual. We want her to have the ability to use ASL AND English fluently.

 For the first five years of Miss Kat's life, her only language was ASL. She did not have access to spoken English, and her ability to understand print was very limited. After her cochlear implant, her ability to access and use English dramatically changed. She was able to understand and use spoken English as a means to understand others as well as communicate herself. As that language expanded, we had some tough decisions to make. We decided to use the years following her implant (while she was still young and better able to learn language AND since all the research shows that the first 3 years post implantation yield the most language growth) to learn English.

Does that mean that we have abandoned ASL? Of course not. Does it mean that we "look down" on ASL users? NO WAY! Does it mean that my daughter is "better" than non-implanted kids? Uh...NO! Does it mean that we have rejected ASL and the Deaf community? Not in a million years.

The truth is, if a child is going to be bilingual, they HAVE TO learn both languages. They have to be immersed in both languages. They have to have the opportunity to use and be around people who fluently use BOTH languages. That means, for my child, she is going to have to be in a spoken English environment.

I have had MANY people say what we are doing is child abuse. They say that ALL deaf children MUST be in an ASL environment for school, it is the only way they can be assured access to the curriculum. The same people insist that the parents must ALWAYS use ASL in the home. Otherwise you are cutting your child off from the communication in the home, and that will lead to the child being left out and feeling like they are not a part of the family. You must also make sure to obtain interpreters for church and extra-curricular activities, doctor's appointments and special events, because you want your child to have the same access as hearing kids............

Ok, so when and where do they use spoken English? Can't do it at school. Nope, not at home either. Out in the community you want to make sure they have an interpreter, so that is out too.....Where does that leave us? Speech therapy? Come on, you can't learn a language in an hour a week. No one would advocate for a deaf child learning ASL through a therapy model, so why should English be done that way?

BOTH languages need to be valued. BOTH languages need to be used. BOTH languages need to be taught.


Anonymous said...

English is a language.
ASL is a language.

A person who knows a language and does not know another language is NOT bilingual.

A person who knows two languages
IS bilingual.

A person who knows three languages is trilingual.

If a person knows four or more, he is multilingual.

Jean Boutcher

ASL Deafined said...

I totally agree what you said. We have to respect English and ASL accordingly. In my opinion, we need to provide every tool to help every child succeed. Thanks for sharing your story.

jimm said...

I thinks it helpful, down the road, that your child has as many communication options as he/she can cope with.

Speech therapy, in my own experiences, involved pronouncing sounds properly, and lip-reading. Nothing to do with learning a language. Maybe times have changed, dunno.


Anonymous said...

If your child is able to follow every word the teacher is speaking, then being taught classes in English shouldn't be a problem. If your child is not hearing every word, then she's missing out.

Dianrez said...

It annoys me that people use the word "English" as if it means only "spoken language" and omits other forms of English such as writing, reading, fingerspelling, etc. Expressed that way, it gives the impression that the new parent has to "choose between ASL and English."

Balderdash. Such misleading inferences by the AGBell organization and its affiliates need to be challenged. I hope that you continue to emphasize that Miss Kat is learning in all forms of both languages.

B.BarNavi said...

It's no different from an immigrant child whose first exposure to English, written and spoken, is in kindergarten in an Anglophone country.

We are no longer in the outmoded days of believing that a foreign language hinders development in English and is therefore an obstacle to success.