Academic journal article Sign Language Studies

Bilingualism and Bilingual Deaf Education

Academic journal article Sign Language Studies

Bilingualism and Bilingual Deaf Education

Article excerpt

Bilingualism and Bilingual Deaf Education, edited by Marc Marschark, Gladys Tang, and Harry Knoors (New York: Oxford University Press, 2014, 495 pp., hardcover, ISBN 978-0-19-937181-5)

THIS BOOK DISCUSSES aspects of bilingualism and bilingual education that directly or indirectly affect deaf education. It offers an overview of research on deaf education that shows evidence of bilingualism among deaf children, focusing on their acquisition of language and bimodal and bilingual processing. The editors state that not enough research has been done on effective education for deaf people and on whether bilingual education could endorse Deaf education.

Interestingly, in the book the word "deaf" is written with a small d, not with a capital D, already placing it in a position that does not assume a Deaf perspective on education. Instead, this usage of lowercase "deaf" indicates that the book is an aggregation of research that includes studies that use D and others that use d.The book seems to be more general in that it reflects several views of the work produced up to now that does not put forward a consensus view of deaf education.

The volume is organized in three parts: (1) a general discussion of Deaf bilingualism; (2) a focused discussion of Deaf educational issues; and (3) a more specific analysis of the bilingual setting in coenrollment environments experienced by deaf children. Each of these three parts includes works by several authors.

Part one considers various perspectives on Deaf bilingualism, especially with respect to linguistics, language issues (including bilingual acquisition and bimodal bilingualism), psychosocial development, the relationship between reading and sign language, and signed and spoken language development.The findings presented here indicate that Deaf people leverage interconnected language systems and learn how to use them in forms appropriate for their interlocutors and the relevant communication purposes of any given context. Several of the authors mentioned in this section state that it is crucial to guarantee bimodal/ bilingual development for deaf children inasmuch as language development depends on signed and spoken language access, which will enable children to build self-identity and acquire cultural, linguistic, and cognitive skills. Cross-language interaction and coactivation are also considered, together with the effects of bilingualism on cognitive control and the consequent implications for Deaf education. Also in this first part, several authors discuss the effects of a neurolinguistic perspective, such as the possibility of producing both languages at the same time in code-blending examples from early sign language users, indicating the impact of age on neural systems. These chapters present basic research studies on the characteristics of a bilingual Deaf person.

For educational purposes, a number of authors in this first section state that, although the acquisition of sign language seems to be crucial, we still have much to learn about how to design bimodal/ bilingual educational curricula. Several chapters are devoted to deaf childrens reading development.Their authors present research findings that suggest that sign language may have a positive correlation with reading comprehension, but they also present other studies with contradictory results. For children with cochlear implants, research is presented that supports the use of a spoken language with signs cooccurring with speech as the preferred educational approach (rather than a bilingual education model).This controversy about the role of sign language again points out the inconsistency between the chapters regarding the Deaf point of view. Other research in this section presents a perspective of "difference," not "deficiency," claiming that language plays an important role in Deaf people s lives since they have unique linguistic-communicative experiences at home, at school, and in their general social lives. …

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