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Sign Language Translator
Posted: 18 September 2007 05:24 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 23 ]
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Charybdis - 18 September 2007 09:08 PM

But once they learn to read and write shouldn’t they be indisinguisable from a non-deaf writer?

The only profoundly deaf people I’ve met who could read and write English that well were either later-deafened or had some residual hearing when they were young.  (Again—I sound like a broken record—I haven’t had as much contact with the people these days getting cochlear implants at a young age.)

It sounds like you’re saying it’s harder to learn, but what you said earlier seemed to indicate it was harder for them to understand after having already learned.

No—you’re right on this.  It does seem like language acquisition by a critical age is the biggest thing.

One of my last clients when I was interpreter fits this.  She lost her hearing due to an illness at something like 8 or 10 years of age.  When I knew her, she was absolutely completely deaf.  She was a wizard with speech reading (though that has all sorts of limitations—line of sight, people who cover their mouths frequently, shaggy facial hair, foreign accents, lighting, etc.), and her English reading and writing was indistinguishable from a hearing person’s.  In fact, her academic skills in general were well above average.  She also had a good concept of sound and music—even though she hadn’t heard any in years.  She could even speak pretty well.  Her biggest problem was no clue of appropriate volume for a room—she’d be way too quiet in noisy rooms, for instance.

She eventually got a cochlear implant as an adult, and with her English already in place (and, I think, her brain already organized for sound), she basically became a hearing person nearly overnight.  It was dramatic. 

Other adults who’ve had the surgery consider it the worst mistake they’ve ever made—all they got were unpleasant noise sensations.  Others only hoped to get some idea of environmental sounds (like sounds of cars for safety purposes).

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Posted: 18 September 2007 05:36 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 24 ]
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Kathleen - 18 September 2007 09:20 PM

That’s a really good point, Maegan and Joe, particularly about the big differences in grammar and syntax, but still…people who can hear often know what a written word means even if they don’t know how to say it. I mean, I can remember using epitome, and using it correctly, long before I realized it wasn’t pronounced EP-eh-tome.

But understanding individual words is not the same thing as language.  I can attest to that with some of my experiences with foreign languages.  (Which is why I said the device described in the OP is much more like a foreign-language dictionary than a translator or interpreter.)

Sense and sound are not linked all that closely, not in a language like English when ou can be pronounced like the “ow” sound in bough, like the “oh” sound in though, like the “aw” sound in thought, like the “uh” sound in rough and so on.

Again, at the level of a word, I agree mostly.

But learning syntax is a lot more difficult without hearing.

And I never meant to say it wasn’t impossible, or that I think it shouldn’t be done.  Alexander Graham Belle was a big proponent of oral education (teaching deaf kids English and not sign language).  My niece has a Master’s degree in Deaf Ed (the non-sign variety).

The controversy was (and is, I suppose) similar to the one faced by immigrants regarding bilingual education.  One school of thought says you must immerse in English—no sign language (or Spanish) at all in school.  Their opponents would say, you may do a better job of teaching English that way, but wouldn’t it be nice if the kid also learned math and history?  Surely it’s easier to teach those subjects in a language the student already uses.  A lot of educators advocate “mainstreaming” where possible, but maintained “sheltered” classrooms for learning other subjects.

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The truth may be out there, but lies are inside your head.

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[color=green]“That is a very graphic analogy which aids understanding wonderfully while being, strictly speaking, wrong in every possible way.”

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Posted: 18 September 2007 05:49 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 25 ]
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I understand what you mean, I really do. (Well, as well as a hearing person can, I guess.) But I definitely agree that it should be done—too much depends on knowing how to read, as adults with reading difficulties can attest. And while I know you’re right about the difficulty in picking up syntax and so on, even there…well, I just don’t see how it could be insurmountable—not that you’re saying it is, but I have heard people who seem to believe that. I mean, I was never, ever fluent in Spanish (and I’ve lost a lot of the knowledge I did have), but I did have three years of it, and at the end of those three years, I was still pretty much hopeless when it came to conversation. However, I could understand it fairly well when I read it on the page. In reading, you can sometimes get clues as to the meaning of words from a word’s visual similarity to its root word, similarity that may not be as obvious when the words are spoken. And of course the big benefit in reading, whether one is deaf or not, is that you can control the input speed, which helps a lot—even with things like idioms.

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Posted: 18 September 2007 08:59 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 26 ]
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Charybdis - 18 September 2007 07:51 PM

Spoken and written English differ widely, and most (sensible) people don’t write the way they speak.

Hurrah, I’m not sensible!  wink

I think that people are excited about this new computer technology not for what it can do now (which probably isn’t much), but more because it’s a step in the process to making an even better computer technology.  If we can get a computer that can handle this sort of thing reliably, it would probably have all sorts of revolutionary bits of technology and programming in it that would have uses far beyond interpreting sign language.

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Posted: 18 September 2007 11:16 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 27 ]
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I have seen books written for the deaf and the syntax and grammer are different than speaking people would use.  I live around where Kentucky School the Deaf is.  When I worked at Wal-Mart, I had to communicate with the deaf people with writing since I do not sign.  I put out the effort to “listen” to them when I have seen some hearing people would just dismess them.  This meant a lot.  There is an instance where someone who worked returns did not help a deaf customer well when a little research would have taken care of a situation.  I did the research and the customer went away happy.  Teaching a deaf person to read is important, I believe, because it may help them communicate later on with someone who hears who is patient enough to write notes.  After all, how many note did we pass in school?

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