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Teaching ASL:  Bilingual Bicultural Approach
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A bilingual bicultural approach:

There seems to be quite a bit of talk these days about using the bilingual (two languages) bicultural (two cultures) to teach English to Deaf children.   The supporting idea is that Deaf children can readily learn ASL.  We can use ASL as a foundation language from which to build an understanding of a second language (English). 

This method has been tested with Deaf children and has shown promising results.

Which is to say, the student's native language (ASL) is being successfully used to help teach the target language (English).

What if we reverse the process and apply it to hearing students?

A bilingual-bicultural approach to teaching ASL to hearing students can also be effective. Just as the use of ASL can help Deaf students learn English, English can help hearing students learn ASL.

An issue though is that English and ASL use two different modalities.  English is a spoken language whereas ASL is signed.


The problem with allowing hearing students to use their voice is that they tend to jabber away excessively and never get down to signing and never develop serious signing skills.

Two approaches to a bi-bi classroom:

1.  A dual-modality class.  This means allowing students to voice at least part of the time.  If you decide to do this I recommend a 90 / 10 split.  The class should maintain at least a 90% no-voice environment.  This goes for us Deaf instructors too.  If you don't feel comfortable voicing for yourself or you don't like relying on lip-reading then consider having an interpreter come in the first day.  Allowing students to voice their questions can really get the class off to a fast start and make use of the student's linguistic foundation. Then require voices off for the rest of the semester.

Hearing instructors have a bigger challenge because on the second day of class the students know that the instructor can still hear thus creating temptation for the students to simply voice their questions. Such being the case, Hearing instructors might want to consider setting up an environment whereby if a student wants to use their voice they have to be wearing the "hearing necklace" or standing in the "hearing circle" or some other control method. 

2. Use a no-voice class but incorporate written English.  If you are going for a totally "non-voice" environment, make sure you have plenty of pre-made overheads or computer projections in the student's native language to provide quick linguistic support at appropriate times in your teaching.

Don't like either of those ideas?  Then consider holding separate voiced sessions on other days or have an ASL lab where students can use their native language to seek answers to questions that are on their mind.

Lifeprint Institute