Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Oralism versus Sign Language

Yesterday, one of the hearing teachers at the Naxal School, after looking at a picture of Melissa, said, "Your wife is very beautiful. She has the skin of a Brahmin. It is because you speak so well that you have married her."

It is interesting that for many hearing people working in deaf education, the ability to speak is still equated with success and intelligence. Less than fifty years ago, deaf students in America, even at deaf schools, were forced to follow the "oral" method of education as opposed to "signed" education. Students weren't allowed to use sign language, and in severe cases, their hands were tied behind their backs.

I went to a "mainstreamed" school, and I learned to speak well after many years of speech therapy, and because I happened to have powerful hearing aids and a little residual hearing. The oral method doesn't work for everyone. A whole generation of deaf was lost in America because of forced oralism. So much time was spent trying to force them to speak that other aspects of their education were neglected.

There are very few students at the Naxal School who use speech. They are eloquent in their sign language, and read and write both English and Nepali. One of the older students believes that people in Kathmandu are quite accepting of the deaf community, and there are several deaf Sherpa guides who lead treks into the Himalaya, using handwritten notes to communicate.

Rav Bir Joshi is the only deaf elected politician in Asia, and he is able to do his job with the help of a translator. Rav Bir Joshi and Ramesh Lal Shrestha, among others, give eloquent speeches in sign language.

Of course there are advantages to being able to speak a language, but the same could be said of indigenous groups learning to speak English. Speech allows for a wider circle of communication, and an opportunity to converse with the world at large. But sign language is just as effective and useful a form of communication as any spoken language; it is just that not as many people speak it.

3 comments:

Luszka Gosia Szok-Ciechacka said...

Hi!
My name is Luszka. I am a polish journalist, I live in Poland.I'm very interested in your blog. Right now I am working on article about Nepal. I want to write about Deaf education in Nepal, the Deaf Culture in Nepal. Can you contact me? Please Your e-mail address.
My e-mail:
szok.ciechacka@gmail.com
Yours sincerely

DHARMA said...

The activities which you have done for the Deaf people in nepal is so wonderful. Is there is any international sign language

Stan Rosenberg said...

Hello,

I am a teacher of the deaf for 30 years in the Philippines, Europe and America, and an audiologist from Gallaudet Uni. I recently travelled with EarAidNepal (medical intervention for ear infections) and met several permanently deaf people in remote western Nepal who did not know Nepali sign language or Deaf Services. For future trips I want to make a simple cared with a few basic Nepali signs and alphabet a and addresses of deaf services. I have not been able to obtain any images or books of Nepali Sign Language online or be emailing the Nepali Deaf Schools and Services I found from Gallaudet Website. Please can you help me to access some image of basic Nepali Sign language and alphabet.
Thank you, Joy Rosenberg
j.rosenberg@maryhare.org.uk