January 3, 2011

Why Do Some Deaf People Use Sign Language?

I like to look at search terms, using the 'Stats' section of Blogger, that people typed in Google leading them to my blog.

One of them was a question:

 "Why is it that when you are deaf you use sign language instead?"

For most people it may seem silly to ask this question. You may say, "Well, duh, because most deaf people cannot hear much of spoken language and would prefer to communicate visually."

I'll admit, I thought it was a silly question at first.
But, it seems as if some people honestly do not understand why a deaf person would prefer sign language.

I will attempt to answer this question in a way that may be helpful to those who are learning about sign language and how some deaf people communicate.

First of all not all deaf people use sign language. Not all use the same sign language either. Some use ASL, some use SEE, and some use PSE, some use BSL, etc. Those who don't sign may use cued speech or may only use voice and rely on clear and understandable speech, lip reading, visual cues, and what is left of their hearing to get by. 

To understand why those who are deaf would prefer sign language, first try to imagine learning a brand new language, let's say Russian, and you are in a sound proof bubble. The person trying to teach you the new language is standing outside speaking to you in Russian. The person gets angry with you because you are not responding appropriately. Sometimes you can make out some sounds, but you are unable to hear what they are exactly. Did he say 'ka' or 'ta'? Did he say 'bo' or 'po'?

What do you think this would be like? Uncomfortable? Annoying? Fun? Easy to learn?

For some people it is easier for them to learn language and to communicate with others if they utilize sign language. For some others, they are able to pick up spoken language pretty well without sign language; after using certain techniques that may work well with the person.

If you can't hear the sounds I would think that it would make sense to most people why some deaf people prefer sign language or some sort of visual system to learn language and to communicate with others effectively.

Anyone care to add to this?



  1. Well point you had made. People learn best through visually when they are learning new language.

  2. John Egbert of Deaf Bilingual Coalition proposed the concept of "data flow". Sign language for Deaf people gives a maximized flow of information. Lipreading, hearing aids, etc. gives a reduced data flow.

    Some hearing people also find in sign language a larger amount of data flow because it is visual and involves more different aspects of information than spoken language.

    Some things expressed in signs are not translatable into English. Carried to the ultimate level, visual communication can be achieved even without signs. It is a versatile language, applicable to many situations where speech is impossible or inadequate.

  3. Why do some deaf people prefer ASL over SEE, PSE/CASE, cued speech, or any Manual Coded English (MCE)?

  4. Environment determines mostly. The most effective sign using person will find it useless if there is no-one a the other end who understands it, and will then adapt to more oral-based means like lip-reading etc... Not enough is made about our ability to adapt, which we have to day in and day out... even if deaf people prefer or a naturally wanting sign, your environment determines how effective it is not the deaf. It is why many deaf who are brought up in mainly hearing areas, have more ability to adapt in communication. I certainly don't agree those who are not in 'immersion' mode with deaf signers are losing out at all, or it is valid they are attacked as less educated than dedicated sign users, it's all relative..

  5. I guess most 'hearing' people who do not come in contact or know any Deaf people don't understand or know how we communicate?

    Your point was valid and good...and for me, I rely on ASL, lipreading and speech, I do what works for me and the person I am communicating with.

  6. Communication, it's all the issue is about. Let no-one make out it is anything else. If you have no option but to live in a hearing world, you adapt, or go under, end of..... Culture/deaf politics is a luxury you then cannot afford. In the UK 8 out of 10 employers said despite the disability act of inclusion they would NOT employ a disabled person if they can help it. Awareness/inclusion was too costly and as we saw via an foreign office in the UK, denying a deaf diplomat an interpreter, on the grounds the interpreter support cost more than her wages... in education (University), one deaf law student cost near £200K a year in support costs, that , was 7 times the uni fee. Unless the deaf are being educated to be considerably less reliant on any single mode, they are going to have a very hard time of it. Deaf have to oppose their own preferences of ASL/BSL immersion systems, as mainstream is never going to adapt to that, and any immersion system is by default going top be impossible to provide outside that area.

  7. I am hard of hearing and have learned to sign because I have friends in the deaf community...I wish more hard of hearing people would want to learn sign..nothing compares to knowing the ends of stories and sentences and when the hearing aids are out we can still be part of the conversation...

  8. What about cued speech? It is also a visual communication method and is much more accurate representation of a spoken language since its based on phonetics.

  9. Well I think they are comfortable to communicate with they visual perception rather than the sound or noise they hear. But there are some who still preferred using hearing aids to use to hear those in their surroundings.

  10. Nice input! I agreed with your opinion on the fact that why deaf uses sign language. Lip reading and sign language are the only ways in which a deaf person can interact with anyone. Like a small baby is able to express his/her feeling by signs in the same way deaf person can interact with others.

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  12. sup I agree with ur opinion

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