ASL Lessons | Bookstore | Library | ASL University Main ►
Can you speak?
Is it okay to ask a Deaf person if they can talk?
I have a random question:) Do you ever speak with your voice or do you solely sign? Like at home, do you ever use your voice for fun?
Here's an example of me using my voice for fun:
Once in a while during my in-person classes a student will ask me, "Do you speak?"
I sign to them (or type) that I can indeed speak and ask them, "Would you like to hear me speak?"
They of course excitedly sign "Yes!"
At which point I make a show of it and sign "Ready?! Ready!? Listen carefully! ..."
The students lean forward in anticipation -- eyes wide with excitement in anticipation of being let in on a secret.
I clear my throat for a moment, wet my lips a bit, and then let loose with a couple of loud "Arf! Arf!" barking sounds as if I were a dog speaking on command to appease my "master."
Yes indeed – that is great fun!
Want more information on my "speaking abilities?"
For an insignificant little donation of $495.00 I'd be happy to email you a report.
Thanks! Your contribution will help more people all over (including parents of Deaf children) to learn sign language!
Is it okay to ask a Deaf person if they can speak?
To answer that allow me to discuss for a moment the topic of "guns."
A gun is a powerful thing. While there are positive uses for a gun -- such as security, protection, revolution from evil dictators, hunting for food, and fending off zombies -- the fact is guns are dangerous (for example due to accidental discharge, corrupting influence of power, and/or during times of temporary emotional instability).
Guns can (and have been) used to harm, abuse, or oppress others. Regardless of if you are for or against “guns” it is rather obvious that a gun gives the owner an unfair advantage in a fight.
A stranger brandishing (or "waving around") a gun tends to be a source of concern or fear to others. This fear or concern extends even to other gun owners who often obtain a concealed carry permit so they can protect themselves from some evil idiot who shows up in a mall and starts shooting people.
If you ask a person who is carrying a concealed gun to "whip it out" in public – the person (if intelligent or at least sane) will likely tell you “no” because to do so would likely cause an immediate public concern and possibly even panic or an adverse reaction from those nearby. (For example someone else may tackle or shoot the gun bearer.)
Let’s state that again: Whipping out a gun in public tends to cause concern and adverse (bad) reactions from those around you.
In the Deaf world you can to some extent compare the ability to speak to the act of carrying of a gun.
The ability to speak is a form of “privilege” that some have and others do not. The ability to speak can be (and has been) abused to unfairly gain jobs, favor, or opportunities at the expense of individuals who do not speak.
Speaking can be (and has been) used to oppress and/or gain unfair advantage in a “fight” for resources (promotions, discounts, dates, insider information, camaraderie, attention and so forth).
A person “speaking” in the Deaf world causes concern in others who may (and often do) choose attack the speaker in presumptive self-defense (via ostracism, gossip, social media attacks, online petitions and so forth).
Asking a Deaf person in a public forum if they "speak" is somewhat like asking a person to pull out a gun in public. You are asking us to do something inappropriate in our culture. You are asking us to make a public declaration of privilege and to expose ourselves to attack.
It is not your business and just because you are curious doesn't mean we need to be telling you and causing concern to others while exposing ourselves to harm via ostracism (exclusion from our society).
Many Deaf can and do voice (for positive, useful reasons). It is not a secret to our loved ones and close colleagues in the same way that the owning of a gun is not a secret to the gun owner’s loved ones and close colleagues.
If you have indeed taken the time to become close to or loved by a Deaf person you will know the details about that person (whether we speak, carry a gun, or cry at movies).
If you have not invested the time to become “close to” or “loved by” a particular Deaf person then quite simply where, when, and if we choose to speak is not your business.
* Want to help support ASL University? It's easy: DONATE (Thanks!)
* Another way to help is to buy something from Dr. Bill's "Bookstore."
* Want even more ASL resources? Visit the "ASL Training Center!" (Subscription Extension of ASLU)
* Also check out Dr. Bill's channel: www.youtube.com/billvicars
You can learn American Sign Language (ASL) online at American Sign Language University ™
ASL resources by Lifeprint.com © Dr. William Vicars