Deaf World: essay reflection

This is the seventh in a series of reflections on essays from the book Deaf World, edited by Lois Bragg. All essays in this text are by d/Deaf authors, meaning it is both a primary resource, and thanks to the scope of essays, a historical reader.

Another person concerned with changes in ASL is George W. Veditz, whose lecture “The Preservation of the Sign Language” was captured on video (watch it here on YouTube). He compares American and European deaf people, claiming that while several European countries had already transitioned to oralism, America had not, though it was coming. With money raised by the National Association of the Deaf (NAD), Veditz explains what a treasure to deaf culture it would be to preserve the “masters of our sign language” (84). 

I’m both confused and encouraged by Veditz’s essay. Confused, because he claims there are masters of the language, and I’m not sure how he would define “master.” Is it anyone who first learned when Gallaudet and Clerc returned from France? Is he accounting for signs changing over time after people move to a new region, and how different signing styles influence each other? Language staying exactly the same is impossible; we don’t even speak the same English that Shakespeare did. We don’t say “iced cream” anymore. Or, does Veditz want ASL preserved to protect it against the oncoming damage oralism will cause? I know someone who refuses to use the sign for IPHONE that I’ve seen Deaf people from Indiana to Massachusetts use, and while protecting language is one thing, it must adapt to contemporary need (e.g. people care if their phone is Android vs. iPhone).

I’m hopeful because recording technology is easier to use than ever. YouTube has lots of videos of Deaf people doing daily tasks, like using a drive-thru or hanging out with their sweethearts. They respond to common questions hearing people ask them, report the news, share art and explain their creative process, give Ted Talks, and teach new signs in evolving Deaf minority and international communities. There are even Deaf stand-up comedians in drag who do skits and jokes about hearing people being clueless (it’s hilarious). Imagine what Veditz would think! 

Published by Grab the Lapels

I'm a graduate of the MFA fiction writing program at the University of Notre Dame, which inspired me to follow along with trends in teaching, publishing, and reviewing. I also have an MA and BS from Central Michigan University. I used to teach composition, creative writing, and literature in higher education, then did a brief stint at a civic theater, followed by two years at a references desk at a public library. I'm now working toward my ASL Interpreter license.

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