Issues

Chapter Two continued...
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found an alternate way into the phonological or flow of the spoken component without necessarily being able to speak or hear (Lichtenstein 1983).

In their discussion of the linguistic interdependence model (Cummins 1989; 1991), Mayer and Wells (1996, 104) contend that, for a first language (L1) to provide a bridge to a second language (L2), the following assumptions must be met:

  1. Both languages have a written as well as a spoken mode, and the former constitutes a systematic representation of the latter--that is, the two modes are representations of the same underlying linguistic code.
  2. In both languages, the external spoken mode can provide a bridge between the mode of inner speech and that of written speech.
  3. The learner has already achieved some degree of mastery of the written mode of his or her L1 before attempting to master the written mode of L2.
  4. There are adequate opportunities for the learner to become a fluent speaker of L2.
  5. In both languages, the written mode is used for a broad range of functions, at least some of which are relevant to the learner's purposes.
They argue that, since none of these assumptions are met in the case of deaf students, natural sign language alone cannot provide an adequate bridge to written forms of spoken language. Because of their linear mapping with the spoken language, however, it may well be the case that natural sign systems may provide that bridge.

Assertion 3: Natural sign systems, because of their links to spoken language, are viable for use in teaching educational subjects, such as science, social studies, and mathematics.
There is no doubt that sign language is capable of expressing the necessary conceptual complexities contained in these fields of study. Indeed, it might be argued that it is only through the use of sign language that most deaf children will be capable of exercising this level of thought. The difficulty arises when the children must begin to learn independently through the use of printed materials. In highly literate and technological societies, true participation demands the ability to read and write. Those who cannot recognize their face-to-face language in print are disempowered, regardless of their hearing status. This assertion begs the question of how technically lexical items should be represented, as well as the process for their mapping onto written and signed forms, fingerspelling and initialized signs. It also requires that adults be fluent in the academic register of both target languages.

In North America, ASL is not widely used in schools for instructional purposes. Moreover, there is no clear school discourse in this language, nor is there any written form of the language. Because this schooled register is not widely used, if at all, the students do not have practice in using that level of discourse to think, to learn, and to think about thinking, learning, and languelatively few teachers currently employed who are capable of using it. Written (and signed/spoken) English remains the language used across contexts.

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