Sign Languages as Indiginous Languages

There is an excellent article in The Conversation today about sign language in the context of indigenous languages , since 2019 is International Year Of Indigenous Languages.

...while we celebrate and promote indigenous languages, cultures and peoples in 2019, let’s not forget about signed languages and the unique contributions that they also bring to their users and communities.
— The Conversation

Notably, it is written by Anouschka Foltz, who receives funding from Public Health Wales and the Wales School for Social Care Research. I point this out because, in my opinion, Wales’ meaningful contribution to BSL recognition is very poor. Especially when compared to the investment in the provision of written Welsh which, while a valuable, justifiable, and important thing to preserve, tangibly benefits only Welsh readers who cannot read English.

A population, according to the last set of census data, of zero.

Jim Cromwell
BSL at Scottish Parliament's FMQ's

The Scottish Parliament continues to lead the way in actually recognising BSL in real, concrete, and impactful ways. It is a shame that the UK parliament can’t take a leaf out of their book.

Through a range of actions, we will seek to integrate BSL into the fabric of the Parliament’s work: by involving the BSL community in our planning and interpreting of business, as well as in engagement and outreach events.
— Presiding Officer Ken Macintosh
Jim Cromwell
The Dinner Table is No Laughing Matter

Today’s article about the Dinner Table Effect in the Limping Chicken reflects the author’s own experience and I absolutely take no issue with anybody’s personal experience of this effect. However, Liam’s concluding comment of “Forget it, I’ll eat in the living room” is not a solution for many people.

Not all people experience this, but having provided therapy over the last decade to Deaf children and young people, more than half of them dreaded this issue. The problem was not that Christmas Dinner is hard - but that Christmas Dinner reminds you that your family did not effectively adapt to your needs when you were born.

The Dinner Table Effect is not a problem - it is a symptom of a much deeper problem. The problem that despite being screened and diagnosed as deaf within a couple of months of birth, the medical and social care communities rallied around the family to focus entirely upon fixing ears, rather than upon ensuring a rich language environment for the child. For a deaf child, that language environment must be visual, accessible, and effective. This does not mean an English-approximated system of gestures. It means a signed language with a grammar that has evolved naturally within the ecosystem of deaf people across the millennia.

The child’s window for acquisition of their first language is at best five years from birth; and that first language - any language as long as it is effectively embedded - is the foundation of all later cognitive development: educational attainment, social skills-building, theory of mind development, income, and quality of life. Remember too that developing a first language does not restrict developing a second, or a third. Indeed - the sooner you establish your first, the more easily you will learn others.

The Dinner Table Effect is a reminder of the harm that naive health and social care professionals can do to confused and vulnerable parents upon the birth of their deaf child, and the distraction from, or direct rejection of, Sign Language that they engender.

When your car breaks down you catch the bus. You might prefer to drive but if you spend five years tinkering with the car you will miss the party.

Read more about this issue in the Harm Reduction Journal.

Jim Cromwell