High school sign language lessons are good, advocate says

Starting this fall, Ontario high schools will be able to offer American Sign Language (ASL) and Langue des Signs Québécoise (LSQ) as a second language.

This is great news for people like Travis Morgan, who is with the Northern Ontario Association for the Deaf, but he says the development has been a bit surprising.

“We weren’t advocating that it be in high school. We were advocating that it be an introductory class in elementary school.”

ASL and LSQ are distinct languages, each with unique histories, cultural references, and distinct grammar and syntax. In order to ensure linguistic accuracy and to include authentic stories in ASL and LSQ, the Department of Education consulted the ASL and LSQ communities on course content.

Morgan says the current resources available to track American Sign Language are unfortunately limited.

“A lot of times you have to pay for it. You have to go to a community course offered by the Canadian Hearing Service. By offering it in high school, anyone can take it.”

Teaching this second language in high school is very promising, he notes.

“There are two main things that we, the deaf community, hope to gain from this. The first, we have a serious shortage of interpreters and this is currently affecting mainstream education. “Do not provide your child with an interpreter because none can be found,” “he said.

“On the mental health side, it’s very isolating. Ninety percent of deaf people were born into hearing families, so they either do not learn sign language or have to learn it from their parents. There is therefore a little delay in language or a deprivation. So deaf people who have to grow up away from deaf school, who are in London, Milton and Belleville, it’s hard for them to find friends or socialize. “

Travis Morgan is a member of the Northern Ontario Association of the Deaf. He says he is optimistic about the launch of sign language courses in Ontario high schools this fall. (Olivia Stefanovich / CBC)

With the introduction of the sign language program, improved mental health in the deaf community is something Morgan says he hopes to see.

“A lot of my deaf friends say they went to Starbucks and the barista was signing, ‘Hello, what kind of coffee do you want?’ And that makes a huge difference. And that keeps bringing the customer back there because there’s this person who can take the order, ”he said.

“As more and more young adults leaving high school are learning sign language, there is this awareness of a different perspective. So we hope with this program that understanding will continue to grow. ”

Morgan says he’s concerned there aren’t enough resources and qualified teachers to roll out the program.

“I probably know about five people who are fully qualified to teach in high school. I haven’t really heard how [it’s going to happen]. We don’t even know if this is a pure sign language course, or if they will include an introduction to Deaf culture, to help students understand the stress that accompanies hearing loss, “he said. he declared.

“Hearing loss is mentally exhausting. And the more you have, the harder it is. It’s really hard to talk about deafness because every time we try to explain it to the hearing it kind of gets rejected. , by increasing awareness of what hearing loss actually is, how hard deaf people have to work to try and figure out what is being said, maybe we’ll change the way we are educate.

The availability of new sign language courses will depend on each school board, according to a spokesperson for the ministry, as boards are not supposed to offer all courses in the Ontario curriculum.

“Since this is the first LSQ as a second language course developed by the ministry in Canada, the Ministry of Education is also funding a pilot project for an LSQ skills assessment tool which, in a first time, will allow the recruitment and training of interviewers and qualified evaluators, for the evaluation and the hiring of teachers qualified in LSQ to teach it as a second language course in the secondary schools of the French language school boards.

Sylvester L. Goldfarb