Signed languages can do so many things spoken languages can’t
Sunday 19 October 2014
The deaf community is no utopia, but it does offer an alternative language, culture and social life to those who choose to be a part of it
When people notice my daughter and me signing in the street, they often stop and comment: “You know,” they say, “there’s this thing called the cochlear implant.” As if the mother of a deaf child could’ve missed that news.
Or they offer some hopeful anecdote: “I met this deaf woman with hearing aids from Queensland when I was on holiday in Fiji and she’s a really good plumber – I mean really good.”
Because this week is National Week of Deaf People, I feel it’s a good time to talk about the nature of Auslan (Australian Sign Language) and the deaf community. I’ve only been studying Auslan for four years, but I’ve come a long way from that first community course.
You see, I used to be one of you, one of those people who thought sign language followed English grammar. And I thought there was just one sign language – the same in every country – though if I’d thought that through for more than a minute I would’ve realised those two assumptions were mutually exclusive.
I also used to assume all deaf people would prefer to be hearing.
The deaf community is no utopia, but it does offer an alternative language, culture and social life to those who choose to be a part of it. In fact, signed languages can do many things spoken languages can’t. In fact, here’s a list of ways in which visual languages are superior to the spoken word: