Nav: Home

American sign language and English language learners: New linguistic research supports the need for policy changes

June 11, 2018

(Washington, DC) - A new study of the educational needs of students who are native users of American Sign Language (ASL) shows glaring disparities in their treatment by the U.S Department of Education. The article, "If you use ASL, should you study ESL? Limitations of a modality-b(i)ased policy", by Elena Koulidobrova (Central Connecticut State University), Marlon Kunze (Gallaudet University) and Hannah Dostal (University of Connecticut), will be published in the June, 2018 issue of the scholarly journal Language. A pre-print version of the article may be found at: https://www.linguisticsociety.org/sites/default/files/e2_94.2Koulidobrova.pdf .

The US legal system offers various protections to children for whom English is an additional language, such as access to focused English instruction to facilitate mastery of the academic curriculum. However, these laws do not protect all multilingual students in the US. One population of bilingual students has been systematically excluded from these protections are those whose native language is ASL. The authors' research shows that ASL has long been considered a system of communication for people with hearing needs and viewed through the prism of disability as opposed to multilingualism. However, as decades of linguistic research have revealed, ASL is a language in its own right and independent from English; it is the primary language of the Deaf community in the US, but there are also many members of the ASL community who are not deaf. Yet, the conflation between the lack of hearing and language drives the linguistic, as well as educational policy, of the US government.

Among the most serious ramifications of the exclusion of ASL speakers from the legal policies on multilingual education is that no data has ever been systematically collected on users of ASL who have no disabilities: we simply do not know with certainty how many typically developing children in the US school system have ASL as a native language. This article systematically demonstrates that there are different kinds of "ASL native" groups, and each is truly multilingual in all the ways which have by now become familiar as a result of previous linguistic research with individuals who speak other languages. Schools and educators understand the need to separate issues of language impairment from language development so that ASL speakers are able to receive appropriate linguistic support. The authors propose explicit programmatic curricular suggestions, but more importantly, they call for a change in policy that would dismantle the conflation between language and disability and, therefore, finally take the US closer to equity for children whose native language is a sign language.
-end-
The Linguistic Society of America (LSA) publishes the peer-reviewed journal, Language, four times per year. The LSA is the largest national professional society representing the field of linguistics. Its mission is to advance the scientific study of language.

Linguistic Society of America

Related Language Articles:

Why the language-ready brain is so complex
In a review article published in Science, Peter Hagoort, professor of Cognitive Neuroscience at Radboud University and director of the Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics, argues for a new model of language, involving the interaction of multiple brain networks.
Do as i say: Translating language into movement
Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University have developed a computer model that can translate text describing physical movements directly into simple computer-generated animations, a first step toward someday generating movies directly from scripts.
Learning language
When it comes to learning a language, the left side of the brain has traditionally been considered the hub of language processing.
Learning a second alphabet for a first language
A part of the brain that maps letters to sounds can acquire a second, visually distinct alphabet for the same language, according to a study of English speakers published in eNeuro.
Sign language reveals the hidden logical structure, and limitations, of spoken language
Sign languages can help reveal hidden aspects of the logical structure of spoken language, but they also highlight its limitations because speech lacks the rich iconic resources that sign language uses on top of its sophisticated grammar.
More Language News and Language Current Events

Best Science Podcasts 2019

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2019. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Erasing The Stigma
Many of us either cope with mental illness or know someone who does. But we still have a hard time talking about it. This hour, TED speakers explore ways to push past — and even erase — the stigma. Guests include musician and comedian Jordan Raskopoulos, neuroscientist and psychiatrist Thomas Insel, psychiatrist Dixon Chibanda, anxiety and depression researcher Olivia Remes, and entrepreneur Sangu Delle.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#537 Science Journalism, Hold the Hype
Everyone's seen a piece of science getting over-exaggerated in the media. Most people would be quick to blame journalists and big media for getting in wrong. In many cases, you'd be right. But there's other sources of hype in science journalism. and one of them can be found in the humble, and little-known press release. We're talking with Chris Chambers about doing science about science journalism, and where the hype creeps in. Related links: The association between exaggeration in health related science news and academic press releases: retrospective observational study Claims of causality in health news: a randomised trial This...