CrispAds Blog Ads

Wednesday, February 22, 2006


I'm sure that when we're with friends, colleagues, classmates or whomever, we've had opportunities to discuss a wide range of topics. I'm sure we've made comparisons between ourselves and others or between our country and others and the like. You know, we designate who is Subject A and Subject B and find the similarities and contrasts between the two. Sometimes, comparisons and contrasts are accurate and sometimes, they're not. Sometimes, our perceptions color what we see and sometimes they benefit us and, other times, do not.

Some of us carry the notion that foreigners are more likely to be bilingual than Americans. Foreigners are more likely to be bilingual with their native tongue and English. Some countries have enforce students to learn a second language. In other countries, they're encouraged to learn a language. Second language learning is encouraged or enforced because it's beneficial. It could be a benefit for the enhancement of their careers, social interactions around the world or whatever reasons.

Americans are sometimes perceived as cultural imperialists (or ethnocentrists or whatever other word you choose in regards to where one's language/culture is "better" than another) in regards to English. Sure, English is widespread but not a universal language. Sure, Americans aren't the only ones that speaks English. However, there's that perception that Americans don't really pursue a second language, other than satisfying requirements for a degree or whatever.

Now, the same has been said for American and international Deafies. There's a perception that international Deafies seem to know their own sign language and ASL. Now, they may not always be fluent in ASL, but they have "survival" knowledge/competency of our language. There's a perception that many American Deafies do not know a foreign sign language. If they do, the most they can do is the alphabet of that language.

Now, is that a fair comparison? Is it fair to make or carry these notions, especially if there are factors to consider? One example, Americans have military bases practically around the world. So, these foreigners are likely to practice and improve their English skills. We know that classroom instruction of the second langauge is artificial and isn't sufficient. You've got to go out and mingle with natives. Plus, remember that I said that English is widespread, so it's not just the Americans they can practice with. There's British people, Australian people, Canadian people and many others to practice English.

For Americans, unless you have a job that requires international travel, most of us work in places where everything is entirely conducted in English. America is one of the top places of the touring industry. Therefore, it seems (my perception colored?) that there's a larger number of foreigners (practically the rest of the world) coming in to travel and visit than Americans venturing out of the country.

Americans basically do not have a regular opportunity to use a second language, except Spanish where there's a high population of Hispanics. Americans are likely to learn a second language if they have a neighbor, a co-worker, a love interest or whomever who is fluent in another language.

Now, for Deafies learning another sign language. Is this a fair comparison as well? Where do we see a large number of international Deafies? In D.C., where Gallaudet University is located. Gallaudet is the world's only liberal arts university for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing students. Being the "world's only" is going to attract everyone from around the world. Classes at Gallaudet are conducted in ASL. Therefore, if a Deafie from another country wants to attent Gallaudet, ASL has to be learned and understood. After spending 4 or more years at Gallaudet, of course, you're bound to know ASL.

The opportunity for an American Deafie to learn another sign language is minimal. This opportunity will be present if an American Deafie goes into an exchange program or does an internship in another country. Even then, the exchange program or internship is short-term compared to staying 4+ years at Gallaudet. Another thing, a Deafie from another country is more likely to go back than stay in America, for a variety of reasons.

So, is it really fair to cast a "downward glance" upon Americans or American Deafies for not being bilingual, even if it's just "survival" knowledge? Do you agree or disagree with these notions/perceptions? Are there other factors that prevents us from learning and mastering a second language? Are there other factors that enhances us to learn a second language? Are these good reasons or are these excuses that Americans/Deafies use to explain their reasons for not being bilingual or multi-lingual?

Wha'cha think?


ta ta for now...