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Deaf Culture This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

      I am a hearing person. I can hear birds outside, the alarm clock in the morning, and other people’s voices. My American Sign Language teacher, Ms. Zahnen, is deaf. Most people would call her disabled, but she doesn’t see herself that way and always tells us not to feel sorry for her. This seems to be the general attitude of those who are deaf - they do not want sympathy because in their opinion, they are perfectly normal. In fact, most hearing people do not know that they have their own culture.

The Deaf are united by the fact that they cannot hear, and have created their own language and culture. American Sign Language is the third most widely used language in the U.S. after English and Spanish and uses a variety of gestures, movements, and expressions to communicate. ASL, as it is called, is adapted from spoken English but uses only important concepts with a different sentence structure. In English we would say “I need to go to the store.” The ASL equivalent is closer to “Need go to store, I.” Each sign represents an English concept rather than a specific word. Deaf people are required to learn written English, however, and most become adept at reading a hearing person’s lips. Many deaf people also learn to use their voice but most of them sound strange to us.

Like anyone, the Deaf become offended if they feel their culture is being intruded upon. Our teacher showed us a documentary called “The Sound and the Fury.” In the documentary, a young deaf girl asks her deaf parents for a cochlear implant so she can communicate with her hearing friends. To her father, this is out of the question, having been born and raised deaf. Her mother is more open to the idea but they finally decide that they want their daughter to grow up with the Deaf culture, which sparks a disagreement between other family members (some of whom are deaf and some are not). This turns into an argument with some pretty hateful things said. The hearing see the deaf as disabled and a minority group impaired by their inability to hear.

If there is any solution to the tension between these two cultures, I think I have it. The hearing are not educated enough about Deaf culture. Before I took this class I never knew about it. A fellow student mistakenly believed that deaf people could not drive cars. Many deaf children describe being harassed by the hearing. Basically, I feel that the best solution is simply to respect one another. Whether we are deaf or hearing, we are all human beings. I strongly feel that each side needs to be more educated about the other and learn to respect one another. I feel that I have achieved a new level of understanding by being a hearing ASL student.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.

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Native ASL Signer said...
yesterday at 10:48 pm
American Sign Language is not adapted from Spoken English. American Sign Language is originally based on French Sign Language, brought over by Laurent Clerc, as well as regional sign language such as Martha's Vineyard Sign language, and home signs. In over 200 years, ASL has evolved since then into a stand-alone, linguistically rich visual language.
Confused_scheherazade This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Aug. 19, 2011 at 11:23 pm
I know what its like to be different. I am not deaf and cannot imagine what its like, but I could't speak until I was five and even after that I had trouble reading. Even though no one directly made me feel bad, I hated being differnt. So good for thhose who push on despite other people's prejudices.
Kershaw Bakesale said...
Apr. 25, 2011 at 12:21 pm
Man, i totally agree with you. Both my parents are deaf and me and my two brothers are hearing. Many people talk about how they're disabled but i just say basically the same thing you say and the people are really shocked
Katie_Grey This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Sept. 3, 2010 at 9:34 pm

it's really cool to see an article on the Deaf culture. I've been enrolled in ASL for three years now and have had the chance to be immersed into the Deaf world myself.

Your article is great, but a few things bother me. ASL is not adapted at all from spoken English, rather, it has been adapted from French sign language. We just sort of interpreted it into our English language. Another thing that I have learned is....only very VERY few Deaf people are adept at reading lips. It's a diffi... (more »)

Asianflowers said...
Jun. 19, 2010 at 2:08 pm
This is awesome! I have a half-deaf sister and understand what your talking about. This is a very insightful essay and I will never think the same again about deaf person.
AspiringAuthorAnonymous said...
Feb. 7, 2010 at 7:23 am
That was awesome!! My grandfather has taught me some ASL and I have taken a class. I totally get the whole feel and meaning of your article.
HarryPotterFan4 said...
Oct. 7, 2009 at 9:51 pm
I'm a person with a cochlear implant. I do believe that deaf people know how to drive. But the fact is that I have a Cochlear Implant for most of my life. But the one thing that is very annoying for me about being deaf is that I can't hear without my implant.
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