Sidebilder
PDF
ePub

For or because. Not usually signed in the Lord's prayer. It is difficult of representation by a simple sign, and it is represented arbitrarily in different ways by different speakers.

Thine is. See above. “ Is ” is taken for granted.
Kingdom. See above.
Power. Clenched hand.

Glory. Waving of hands to indicate flickering light and glory, as shown in paintings.

Ever and ever. Hands moved so as to represent a circle, and therefore something endless.

Amen. Clap hands.

SPREAD AND ULTIMATE DIFFUSION OF THIS

“ SIGN LANGUAGE." After the Abbé de l'Epée had worked for some years, his great success became noised abroad, and a Mr.* or Dr. Braidwood, of Edinburgh, went to Paris to learn the system from him; and in 1760 commenced a private school for the Deaf and Dumb of a class able to pay for the instruction; and his nephew, Dr. Watson, some years. afterwards, commenced a similar school in London. Both countries thus deriving the system from the same French source. At a later period, a Mr. Gallaudet, of New York, a descendant of a Huguenot family which left France on the revocation of the Treaty of Nantes by Louis XIV, heard of the system and its success, and came to Edinburgh hoping to obtain instruction in it from Mr. Braidwood, that he might introduce it into America for the benefit of the Deaf and Dumb there. But Mr. Braidwood abruptly declined to teach him, and unreservedly alleged as his reason-jealousy, lest he might open a rival school in Glasgow. Gallaudet therefore went to London to seek instruction from Dr. Watson, from whom he received a like refusal, though less openly explained. He therefore went to Paris, and remained for three years in the establishment of Abbé de l'Epée and his successor Abbé Sicard, who gave him the further valuable assistance of allowing him to take back with him to New York one of his own trained teachers, a Deaf and Dumb man named Clerc. On his return to America he opened the Harford School for teaching the Deaf and Dumb, and it became the parent stock from which every subsequent Deaf and Dumb School in America took its origin. He became eventually the official organizer of American schools, and his son, Dr. Gallaudet, from whom I heard this narrative, was, at his father's death, appointed the official inspector of all the Deaf and Dumb schools under the American Government influence.

* I have not been able to discover which he was.

Thus it will be seen that England, Scotland and America all received the same “sign” system from the same source, viz., its French inventor; and as Belgium was at that time a part of France it also received it; and the “ language” became cosmopolitan among all the French and English speaking peoples, with the following interesting result. In 1790 the Abbé died, and in 1890 it was decided to hold a centenary commemoration in Paris of this noble and wonderful man, to which a party of a dozen or more deaf and dumb youths went from Liverpool, headed by Mr. J. Wilson Mackenzie, also deaf and dumb, whose high reputation as an artist in this city shows what eminence can be attained even under such a serious drawback. When they arrived in Paris they found themselves in possession of a common language derived from their Parisian hosts, and they had no difficulty in mutually understanding each other, though on the one side none of them knew a word of French, and an equal ignorance of English existed on the other side.

The case would have been different in Germany, or among German speaking people, for they have always favoured the “oral language,” originated as it had been by Dr. Amman, as already mentioned, and subsequently brought to high perfection by the famous Heinicke (see p. 259). One universal language throughout the world, such as this “sign language” almost promised to be, is, therefore, still a desideratum, though it may possibly yet be realised; for both the sign and the oral systems are now being taught together in Deaf and Dumb Schools, though the preponderance is still in favour of the sign language in this country.

The marked and incontestible difference in favour of the sign language is that it can be taught to large classes at a time, so that a comparatively small number of teachers, and a consequent moderate expense is involved. While the “oral system” requires such close observation and conscientious attention on the part of the scholar that only a very small number (half a dozen to a dozen at the most) can be taught at one time, and a very much larger number of teachers is therefore indispensable. Indifferent or idle scholars, and also those who are mentally sluggish or of limited brain capacity, make no progress in it, and there is no excitement in its machinery to keep the indifferent scholar amused or interested. It is also so much more difficult of attainment that, while five years careful work will produce a fairly competent "sign ” scholar, seven years at least are requisite for even moderate competence in the “ oral” language. And when acquired and practised with even more than average skill the sounds which pass for words are so slowly emitted and grasped, that the communication is a trying one on both sides, and is continually dropped in favour of the sign system even by those who know them both. There is also so much more life and intelligence brought into play by the sign than by the oral language, that the deaf and dumb themselves prefer it, and the difference of expression of pleasure and of rapid appreciation of the subject when expressed in the two different methods is strongly marked. I have observed a whole deaf and dumb company convulsed with laughter at jokes or points made in the sign language, which have been received with painful gravity, owing to the attention required for appreciating them, when expressed by the oral system.

The “Education Department” now wisely requires both systems to be taught in State-aided schools, while showing an apparent favour for the oral in preference to the sign system, founded upon the Report of the Royal Commission on the Blind, Deaf, and Dumb, issued in 1889. In estimating the true value of this report on this particular question it is necessary to bear in mind that the Commission was originally formed with reference to the blind only, and fourteen of the eighteen commissioners were appointed while that was its sole object. The deaf and dumb were added as an after-thought some months afterwards, and four additional names were added, who represented the deaf and dumb interest.

From special and exceptional circumstances one or two of these were in some sense committed to the oral system before appointment, but it is my confirmed belief that both the teachers in deaf and dumb schools, and also those who have had the longest and most practical acquaintance with the deaf and dumb prefer the sign system for general use, while willingly encouraging the addition of the oral system for the benefit of the more limited number who possess the time, the means, and also the intellectual capacity for making use of its more exacting requirements. The increased number of years in school now required by the Department, and the grants in aid of the schools now officially made, have removed the greatest obstacles to the benefits to be derived from the oral system.

There is one medium of communication between hearing people and the deaf and dumb that it is in the power of the Education Department to create without the necessity for any new commission or any legislation, and I should strongly urge it as a great boon to the deaf and dumb, and also as a source of enjoyment and amusing instruction in all Kindergarten schools aided by Government grants. That is the compulsory requirement of instruction in the Finger Alphabet language in all such schools. To the children themselves, learning to spell on their fingers would be fully as much instruction as learning to spell upon a slate, and at the same time it would be a source of amusement and interest to them, not unlike such "acting songs

as“This is the way we wash our clothes,” &c., which are sung and acted with such zest as part of the daily teaching. At the infantile period of school life the letters would be easily mastered, and they would never afterwards be forgotten, and it would be an inexpressible boon to many a deaf and dumb inmate, male or female, of a workshop to feel that they could communicate in such a way with their fellows in the shop, or with the foreman, instead of being practically isolated, forlorn, and solitary workers in an otherwise busy community. Existing masters or mistresses of such schools could learn the finger language without the least difficulty if they do not already know it, and no hardship would be imposed upon either teacher or scholar in requiring such an addition to the present curriculum.

« ForrigeFortsett »