ASL and the Deaf Community

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I love when people express their love for Christ through music, art, and whatever ways they feel led to do so. I am not trying to bash anyone, but I’d like to offer some information that most hearing people may not be aware of.

I have learned a lot from my daughter over the past few years as she trained to become a sign language interpreter. Most hearing people have no knowledge of the deaf community. The ignorance of hearing people regarding the deaf community can be frustrating to not only deaf and hard of hearing people but also hearing professionals who work within the deaf community.

People may not realize the cultural meaning behind the clothing, speech, food, and activities of another culture and it can be offensive to those within that culture when it is used inappropriately in their eyes. Just as some people feel taken advantage of when others appropriate their culture, people in the deaf community can feel that way when hearing people use sign language to “interpret” a song or poem, but they have no training in ASL.

ASL is a language that is not a word-for-word translation of English. It is a language system with its own phrasing and nuances. It is not just about the hands, it includes the face, the tongue, the shoulders, etc. It was created for deaf people to be able to communicate. And while hearing people find it beautiful to watch, most of us don’t bother to truly learn it or understand how it works.

The deaf community has a painful history, just like many other groups of people in our world. They have struggled to be seen as equal. They have fought for their rights. They have been marginalized, abused, and taken advantage of for centuries. When someone who is not deaf uses ASL to gain notoriety or monetary gain, especially if they don’t truly understand the language, it can be painful and offensive to deaf and hard of hearing people.

I’m not trying to be devisive or negative. But I’ve learned so much from my daughter as she trained to be a sign language interpreter. She deeply loves and works to serve those in the deaf community. I can see how videos of hearing people using ASL to incorrectly “interpret” worship songs could be offensive to some people in the deaf community.

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