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How To Learn Sign Language

Levels of Power | ASL Ponderings & Deaf Awareness Month

Hello, I’m Rogan and welcome to
another Deaf Awareness Month video. This is also an ASL Ponderings. I’m not sure how I’m going to do the title. (shrug) What I want to talk about today is something
that I discussed with my Frontrunners group. It applies to ASL, and I think it probably
applies to any sign language. What I want to talk about, I’m not sure what to call
it. The best way to describe it is levels of power. I’m going to start with a sign: looking down. It’s either I’m [looking down]. Like the person is in
front of me, and I’m looking down on the person. They’re below me, [looking down]. Or… If I’m talking about someone doing that to
me, it’s [looking down on me:two alternatives] So, [looking down] or [looking down on me]. The position of your hands show where the
power is. So I [look down], I have the power. They [look down on me], they have the power. I’m showing you that sign because I will give you
a few other signs that also show a level of power. See if you can figure out where the level of power is. God. People. The government. Workers. Hearing. Deaf. See where I’m going with this? Let me explain. God. Obviously, God is a greater “being,” above us. People are below. I “take on” the role of God. That’s just an example. In that case, it’s obvious where
the power is, God and people. Now, government. Did you notice I made
a face when I signed government? That is because often when you do that, pointing up,
it’s like Big Brother, Orwell’s 1984 kind of government. They control us, they have all the power. We can’t do anything. And the workers, they’re under the government.
They can’t do anything, they’re less than. So that’s the idea of those situations. Now, I’m sure some of you were surprised
when I said hearing and deaf. This is…something that a lot of signers do and they
will do levels of power without even realizing it. They just do it unconsciously. But what they often don’t
think about is they often refer to hearing people like so. Yeah, that’s a hearing person. Often, they will put them higher,
not on the same level. Why? Why? Of course, this has a lot to do with how a person
was raised, how they view hearing people… Their attitude towards hearing people. This came up during one of our
conversations at Frontrunners. I don’t remember how this conversation began,
I think one of the teachers mentioned it… Or caught one of the students making it really
obvious, pointing high when saying hearing. They asked the student, why point so high? Hearing people are not above us. Why point so high?
Why? It should be on the same level, it should be flat. Not up, flat. So after that, we discussed
it and government came up, and God. Anything that has a power imbalance. Some situations, it’s completely
understandable, and makes sense. Like school, they have the power, it makes sense.
Parents, makes sense. But…hearing? Why? It’s not one of those signs that can be analyzed
to find its origin, because it’s more of a locative. Meaning location of where the sign
is, pointing, orientation, all of that. It’s not the sign itself. The sign itself is not the problem. It’s the thinking behind that sign. Or
rather, the not thinking behind that sign. In this situation, hearing, it probably has
to do with a long history of oppression by people who have hearing ability or those who believe
that hearing is everything, speaking is important. Sign is bad, having hearing loss
makes you worthless or less than. Back then, I can understand why someone would
sign this way. But today? In 2017? No. Enough. Hearing people are not more than. We are equal. I know it’s a kind of short video today, but
I hope to see a discussion started below. And…tell me what you think
about this, the levels of power. And before I end today’s video, I want
to let you know (if you didn’t know), this week is International Week of the Deaf. It’s an international celebration of the deaf community. International Week of the Deaf just started,
and I believe it ends on the 24th, which is International Day of the Deaf. I
think that’s correct. I will put the dates here. Obviously, there will be other videos for this week by
other people. Who, I don’t know. What, I don’t know. I might link some of them as I see them below. Maybe? And…look for them on your own. And just do
what you can to celebrate the deaf community. That’s all for today. I hope you learned something new. If you want to support my content, I have
Patreon and ko-fi. Subscribe to this channel. Follow me on all my socials – Facebook, Twitter,
Instagram. Thanks for watching, see you next time.

13 Replies to “Levels of Power | ASL Ponderings & Deaf Awareness Month”

  • Wow! Two watches and I'm still trying to formulate a response- I love that, by the way. Even if I have 300 pages between 2 Deaf culture books waiting for "before Thursday" unless I can renew them.

    I meant to get vlogs related to Deaf Awareness together, but I haven't managed. Darn depression. But thanks for take about International Week of the Deaf. I'm going to take "managing to start a conversation about BDSM and ASL" in my learning group as a mini-success.

    Interesting to see your point about pointing up when talking about hearing people. Of course, I think from my short stature; at 4'11", most adults are taller than me. I may be 39, but only a few years ago, a cashier guessed me as "not a day over 12." Away from height though, I have the most immediate thoughts of what I read in the "Introduction to American Deaf Culture." It's in chapter 6, what I'm thinking about here, but he was talking about what were the hallmarks of Deaf culture- residential schools, ASL, Deaf clubs being changed from their place before many modern changes. Well I wanted to argue with the author- as I'm guessing you'll want to as well when you're able to read the book. But when I shared this to the learning group- Lifeprint has a Facebook group 😀 I talked about how I love the fact that you don't voice, don't have voice over.

  • I just wanted to let you know that I will be going to my areas Deaf Celebration expo, and my viewpoint with all of this. I think that with signs of power especially with us being Deaf and then hearing people, your right, they don’t know how they use the sign and what it means to put a certain sign high up like that. I think with proper education and dealing with the deaf can help with this, but even then I see some of us using Deaf or looking down on someone. I think it would have to also be apart of the persons mindset too. Do they always think that of everyone? Were they born being raised to think that way or do they truly not understand? I hope my response wasn’t confusing.

    I am gonna video my experience at Deaf Celebration this weekend and post it on my new YouTube channel. I hope you can catch it Rogan! ❤️

  • Thanks for bringing up this topic and making an informative video about it. I've thought about creating explicit lessons / lectures about certain English expressions that have imbedded power dynamics implications for when I teach ESL. For instance, a non-native speaker might not realize the difference between "I {need | require} you to do something." I think of those verbs as implying that the "speaker" has {less | more} power than the receiver. (Actually, depending on the tone of the delivery, "need" (or "want") could imply "less" or "as much" power.) But to "require" someone to do something definitely puts power on one side.

    Anyway, I think it's a huge topic when learning/teaching any language. Thanks for tying it to social justice issues in the Deaf community, and society at large. (I found the "workers" vs. "government" one particularly interesting!)

  • I grew mainstream, (hoh), and in all my years of schooling, the "power play sign" is used ALOT here at NTID. Im a first year and its clear that there are pro hearing and "anti." I thunk we are all equal but it depends on how one was rasied,

  • That's an interesting topic to think about. I agree that we're equal but I do still think that hearing is superior because of gene therapy and cochlear implants and so on, so forth.

  • Wow thank you for pointing that out, i'm hearing and a novice signer so I never noticed, I'm gonna try to be more careful about that now!

  • I like the facial expression you made for the government. curious, have you ever made a video featuring ways to sign popular activist sayings/chants? might be a timely topic?

    like Resist
    and the people, united will not be defeated etc.

  • I get what you are saying about direction of authority. But couldn't it also be a separation of closeness? As in, if I sign "them over there" lower and closer to my body it means I feel more connected to them. (Children, close friends). But if I sign up and out I am conveying (maybe even subconsiously) that I am not close with that group.


    Can you share this ASL (American Sign Language) page? To start conversation.

  • Fascinating!! I have never noticed this, but I am still so new to signing that I use all of my brain power trying to simultaneously think of what I am saying and trying to sign it. I want to keep an eye out for this and see where it consciously or subconsciously creeps up for people. I hope people will be more mindful, and I'll make sure I remain mindful of this as well!

  • I find this concept of locatives (and non-manual markers) fascinating. It reminds me of a reply you wrote to a comment I left on another video of yours, about how someone might sign that they had “listened” to someone tell a story, but make the sign for “listen” below the eye instead of the ear, to show that they had “listened” with their eyes instead of their ears. I would love to learn more about these aspects of sign language that go beyond the simple signs taught in classes … if you ever feel like making a video about it.

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