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Interview: William Vicars, EdD

This interview was conducted via email from a Illinois high school student the name is on file but not displayed in order to protect the student's privacy:

Interview questions

Question: Should Illinois high schools be mandated to offer ASL classes?

Response: No, but funding should be set aside specifically for a number of ASL classes -- thus paving the way for those schools that wish to offer classes. Legislation should be passed allowing students to use ASL toward second-language credit requirements system-wide.

Question: How long does it take to get used to signing?

Response: Depends on individual ability, quality of instruction, resources available, motivation, and many other factors. In general -- four semesters of college-level ASL and/or 4 years of high school language courses is sufficient to bring a (motivated, studious) student to a level of basic conversational ability or "intermediate-mid level." Average students will reach an intermediate-low level. For more information on that do a search for "ACTFL" levels.

Question: Would it be beneficial for hearing children to learn ASL? If so, then when?

Response: Yes--from the cradle on up. ASL provides additional cognitive resources to the brains of hearing children with which they can draw upon for intellectual pursuits.

Question: How are deaf people treated by the public?

Response: The treatment of Deaf people varies from situation to situation. Generally, in America -- state colleges and universities, government organizations, and other public institutions particularly in regions with large Deaf populations -- Deaf people (faculty, staff, and students) are treated relatively well -- because if they are not -- legal action will ensue. However appropriate accommodations and affordance of dignity and respect are not consistent and generally downhill from there.

Question: What challenges do people face when they are deaf or have deaf loved ones?

Response: That question is very broad and borders on inane (silly) to be asking in a brief interview since it would take a book-length answer. On the chance that I'm suffering from the curse of knowledge I'll simply offer up that being Deaf involves challenges that affect nearly every aspect of life. However it is quite possible to navigate those challenges via a combination of knowledge, skills, abilities, patience, and persistence. The main challenge is an unlevel playing field. If everyone on earth were Deaf then being Deaf would not be challenging at all.

Question: How could teaching the next generation ASL benefit, deaf people? Would it benefit everyone?

Response: We Deaf people would benefit from greater and more convenient access. It would benefit those learning ASL as a second language in myriad ways including an eventual slowing of cognitive decline and the staving off of dementia (as a result of having built additional cognitive pathways and resources).

Question: What challenges do the school districts face when implementing a new foreign language class?

Response: Challenges include limitations in money, time, and resources. You need money to pay for a new class. What are you going to do? Terminate some other class? Fire some other instructor? You need time to learn the new language. Which class are you going to "kill" to free up 180 hours of learning time per year? You need a skilled instructor. What are you going to do? Hire some overconfident non-Deaf person that took four years of ASL and thinks they know sign language when they are at best "intermediate-mid level" who goes on to teach all kinds of mistakes to students who don't realize they are being taught garbage?

Question: What are the credentials to become a teacher or professor in ASL?

Response: At the college level? None. Get hired -- that's it. Most community colleges claim to require six years of experience and an associate degree, or two years experience and a bachelor's degree, or zero experience and a master's degree in the field. At the high school level you generally need your state's basic teaching credential plus a specific ASL credential (if your state has developed one). It is actually harder (in terms of credentials) to become a high-school ASL teacher than a college ASL teacher.

Question: Is the process of learning ASL the same as learning other foreign languages?

Response: In some ways yes, in other ways no. There are dozens of common approaches to language learning and instruction. Some are lousy. Others are effective. See:

Best wishes to you.
Warm regards,
Dr. Bill
William G. Vicars Ed.D.




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