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Journal Article

The Language-Learning Situation of Deaf Students

M. Virginia Swisher
TESOL Quarterly
Vol. 23, No. 2 (Jun., 1989), pp. 239-257
DOI: 10.2307/3587335
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3587335
Page Count: 19
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The Language-Learning Situation of Deaf Students
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Abstract

Deaf children often have major difficulty learning the language of their parents, who in the majority of cases are hearing. The principal reason for these problems is limitation of linguistic input reaching the children: The hearing loss itself acts as a drastic filter on the linguistic data, and information obtained from aided residual hearing, as well as from visual sources such as lipreading and signed representations of spoken language, is typically fragmentary. In addition to the limitations of input, the very difficulty of the task of learning an auditory language with severely restricted information is likely to lead to loss of motivation. Another complicating factor is language attitudes and the fact that the deaf community uses a visual-spatial language, American Sign Language (ASL), which deaf people acquire without effort and which provides a focus for cultural solidarity. Attitudes toward ASL are complicated by its identity as a minority language in a majority culture, whose standard language influences it to some extent. Attitudes toward English are complicated by the fact that the learning of English is imposed by an educational establishment run by hearing people and that ASL is not used as a language of instruction.

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