Love in a Silent World

1 January 2017

Love in a Silent World” is an article explaining some deaf histories and deaf cultures by describing the backgrounds of a young deaf couple, Mike and Monica. Mike, a Gallaudet college sophomore, is a “manualist”, meaning that he “does not speak” and that he only communicates “through sign language”. Monica, a Gallaudet college freshman, on the other hand, is an “oralist”, which tells people that she has learned “speech and lipreading” and that she used to be forbidden to communicate with others through sign language.

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Even though Mike and Monica are both deaf, they are very distinct from each other. In fact, Mike and Monica were lucky to have the opportunity to learn sign language because American Sign Language didn’t even existed in the past. American Sign Language was created after decades of which Charles Michel, a French Catholic cleric, founded the first public school for the deaf in the mid-18 century in Paris. Many people, at first, thought that deaf people must learn speech and lipreading.

It wasn’t until the rise of a concept called Total Communication of the mid-70s, which encourages “an integrated combination of speech, lipreading, hearing aids and sign language”, that sign language gradually became popular. Unfortunately, the argument of whether deaf people should learn lipreading or sign language has already formed two sides of “the War of Methods”, resulting the debates between manualists and oralists, until now. Of course, there are several reasons that oralism can prevail for many generations.

First of all, it’s easier for oralists than manualists to participate in the world where most people communicate with speech. For instance, when there’s no translator in a class with a hearing teacher, oralists are much more capable of learning the course than manualists. Secondly, oralists actually get to experience things when they learn to “grasp the meanings of words”. Children, as a result, develop their interests in learning languages. Although oralism has its advantages indeed, it, too, has some drawbacks. People have to “watch the tongue, the throat, …the teeth [and the lips]” at the same time when lipreading.

Meanwhile, there are many words, like bed, mad, pad, mat, bat, pat, met, bet, and pet, etc, that look alike when pronouncing. Lipreading is limited by mumblings, bad light, distance, and mustaches. Besides, fewer than 10% of profoundly deaf people can imitate speech sounds. Those deaf people who can speak “either have some residual hearing or become deaf after they learned to talk. ” Because the process of learning speech takes too long for deaf children, their communication skills during young age are greatly affect. Manualists claim that manualism is better due to the following points.

Firstly, manualists lead their daily lives without much inconvenience. Teletypewriters enable deaf people talk to each other on phone. Light bulbs can function as an alarm clock. Doorbell flashers are as useful as any normal doorbell. Furthermore, deaf families can watch different TV programs at the same time and not distract each other at all. Secondly, since it’s easier for babies to control their hands than “the muscles of mouths”, the process of building vocabularies is even faster than hearing children when young.

Most importantly, if the parents are both deaf, deaf children have much better communication with their parents through signing. Unlike those deaf children whose parents are hearing, manual children talk to their parents without language barriers. However, as oralists argue, manualism makes an “invisible handicap visible”; it takes away deaf people’s possibilities to fit into the mainstream society, [isolates] them from the hearing”. Therefore, manualism, like oralism, has both benefits and disadvantages for deaf people to concern.

Before I’ve read this article, there are simply many things that I didn’t even think of. I didn’t notice the difference between a deaf person, who “grows up in an oral environment, never having met or talked with Deaf people”, and a Deaf person, who are more familiar with sign language since he/she was born. To me, there used to be only deaf people, who are not hearing. I had never deeply pondered about the feelings of a person who lost his/her hearing ability after he/she already touched the beauty of sounds, of music.

Also, I had never wanted to ask myself if I were deaf, I would prefer to born deaf or hearing, to learn speech or sign. These are still questions I’m not able to answer right now, but, at least, this article motivates me to learn more about the challenges deaf people face each day, the joy they gain while being able to communicate, and the unique background even between each deaf person. This article makes me more grateful of what I have as a hearing person and of the fact that I may be able to befriend with deaf people in the future because I am learning American Sign Language now.

Most importantly, when I read this article, the united spirit within the deaf community greatly surprises me. I’m amazed to see that some deaf people not only form “deaf athletic teams” but also found “deaf social clubs, deaf churches, … [and] deaf senior citizens’ homes”, etc. Deaf people take care of each other in a way that some other minorities, such as blind people, cannot accomplish. Therefore, reading this article makes me strongly admire deaf people as well as helping me gain more knowledge about the deaf culture. Overall, I’m glad that I have the chance to read “Love in a Silent World”.

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