Deaf People’s Linguistic Culture is Being Allowed to Disintegrate

The word ‘deaf’ is spelled in sign language

When I was a kid, I used to play at being deaf by covering my ears. Obviously, this was not a very satisfactory approximation of the deaf experience, and I didn’t really have an inkling of what it meant to be deaf until I shared a car with a hearing friend who works as a British Sign Language interpreter and three other BSL speakers.

Everyone made concessions to my limitations and we talked in a mixture of English and BSL. But as the conversation got more animated, whole digressions and throwaway jokes went on, and I could barely have known what I was missing out on. I was tongueless in that car, and I found it stressful and alienating. I realised as I’d never realised before that I’m not entirely sure who I am if I can’t be heard (probably an especially acute complaint for columnists).

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