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Proficiency of Deaf High School Graduates

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Essay title: Proficiency of Deaf High School Graduates

Running Head: English Proficiency

Different English Proficiency Levels of Deaf High School Graduates

Erek Brewer

The College of Saint Rose

Historically, the English proficiency levels of Deaf people, let alone high school graduates, have not been viewed as very high. An important question raised by this statement is whether mastering spoken and written English is even a possibility for deaf individuals. In spite of concerted efforts by educators to facilitate the development of literacy skills in deaf individuals, most deaf high school graduates read English at roughly a third or fourth grade level. Having limited literacy skills acts as a hindrance for deaf people in the workplace. They often have had limited opportunities at school for job training. The problem is if deaf children cannot fully comprehend the linguistic information received in English, how can a full understanding of English reading and writing be expected?

Many hearing students are monolingual. Oral language is acquired naturally and effortlessly during early childhood and use only one language in both their school and home environments. They enter school at age five, while still using and developing their first language (English) primarily through listening and speaking. At age five, they are learning both the oral and written forms of one language, English. Not only are they still using and developing their

English conversational skills, but in kindergarten they are exposed to English academic language and begin to develop two additional skills, reading and writing. These skills contribute to their social (oral) language abilities. In other words, their social (oral) language is the foundation on which reading and writing are built, and it continues to serve this role as children develop as readers and writers. Throughout the twelve years of mandatory education, hearing children continue to expand their vocabulary and develop special language registers in each subject area. It takes a hearing monolingual student 12 years to build a high level of academic language skill. Their knowledge and cognitive development is also expanding with each grade level.

In comparison, most deaf students have significant gaps in early language achievement and development. For example, by age five when most hearing monolingual children have acquired a fully-functioning (oral) language, many deaf children are just beginning the language acquisition and learning process. Deaf students vary in the ways they become bilingual. Most often, deaf children of deaf parents develop their bilingualism simultaneously, while deaf children from hearing families often develop their bilingualism successively.

The task of acquiring and learning is challenging for deaf children. Whether it is American Sign Language (ASL) or English, deaf children must be provided with comprehensive language models for both languages to function within their home and school environments. In order to fully understand the different English proficiency levels of Deaf high school graduates, we must again take a look at what impacts these individuals from the roots of their education.

There have been many attempts taken to aid the Deaf communities’ understanding of the English language. The oral approach, which prohibited the use of signing, was the traditional method for teaching language and other academic subjects to the deaf. During the 1970s, “Oralism” gave way to the practice of teaching hearing-impaired or deaf persons to communicate by means of spoken language. This was an inefficient shot at English proficiency right off the bat. From a linguistic point of view, language acquisition is a learning process. Learning how to process certain kinds of information efficiently is difficult because deaf children cannot fully comprehend the linguistic information received in English. Hearing impaired children often have been taught to speak, but that does not equate with the mastery of a language.

Oralism utilized a simultaneous manual and oral component.

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