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Sign Language Studies

American Annals of the Deaf

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Bilingualism and Identity in
Deaf Communities

Melanie Metzger, Editor

Now in Paperback!

Read chapter one.
Read reviews: Studies in Second Language Acquisition, APA Review of Books, The Sign Language Translator and Interpreter (SLTI).


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The Sixth Volume in the Sociolinguistics in Deaf Communities Series

From The Sign Language Translator and Interpreter (SLTI), cont’d.

The second paper under the sub-theme of languages in contact is Detthow’s study of transliteration used by a Swedish Sign Language interpreter. She defines transliteration as “the process of representing the discourse of a language in a different form”, whereas interpreting is “the process of conveying the meaning of a language into another” (p. 79). Detthow identified the same strategies in the data from her informant as had already been recorded by Winston (1989) and Siple (1995) in the data from studies with American Sign Language (ASL) interpreters, although these strategies were used inconsistently by her informant. As Detthow states (p. 91), “interpretation and sign language interpretation are still unexplored activities in many regards”, and the challenge will be to get more data for this kind of sign language representation of spoken language discourse and find out why members of the Deaf community can access text that would make no sense at all if it was a ‘transliteration’ from one spoken language to another.

The third sub-theme is multilingualism; this fits very neatly into the perspective of bilingualism of deaf communities. The education of Deaf children in Barcelona, as described by Belies, Cedillo, de Ibarra and Molins, highlights similarities with the history of education of deaf children throughout the world, including the oral versus manual debate. However, the discussion also provides an overview of the unique features of the situation in Barcelona, where there are not only two spoken languages (Catalan and Spanish) existing in a bilingual space, but also two sign languages (Catalan Sign Language, LSC, and Spanish Sign Language) existing in parallel. This article describes the school as an example of a bilingual programme and is a must for any researcher of bilingual education for deaf children of any age and language preference.

Two chapters are placed under the sub-theme of language policy and planning. The first is entitled ‘Language Attitudes, Deaf Education and Miracle Cures in Mexico’. Here, Ramsey and Noriego argue that not all cultures respond to deafness and deaf children in the same way as parents in the United States. Rituals, as “indicators of beliefs and attitudes toward language and communication” (p. 118), need to be respected “to advance our understanding of the ways other cultures interpret the meaning of deafness”. A study by each of the authors is described, as well as three popular and well-known cures for deafness in Mexico. The final point the authors make will strike a chord with any professional worker in any deaf community: “Like the Mexican parents who seek supernatural treatments for their deaf children, most hearing North American parents of deaf children must also wait for the outcomes of the miracles they are promised by professionals”.

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Melanie Metzger is Professor and Chair, Department of Interpretation, Gallaudet University, Washington, DC.

ISBN 978-1-56368-589-7, ISSN 1080-5494, 6 x 9 paperback, 320 pages, references, index


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