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Speaking Hands, Eearing Eyes

  • (Judy Small)

    Jeffrey is just six years old, the biggest smile you ever saw
    And there's so much I know he wants to say
    But Jeffrey cannot speak to me in language I can understand
    But oh, the thoughts his fingers can convey

    So I'm learning to speak with my hands
    I'm learning how to hear with my eyes
    So that I can understand what he wants to say to me

    Sarah is my mother's age, the dignity shines from her face
    There's much about her life I'd like to learn
    She tries to read my lips but I can see frustration in her eyes
    And most of what she says I can't discern

    So I'm learning to speak with my hands
    I'm learning how to hear with my eyes
    So that I can understand what she wants to say to me

    I know she can't do it all my way
    But if I meet her halfway
    There's no telling what good friends she and I could be

    No cane in your hand, no chair identifies you
    Silent and invisible your lives
    So much to offer and our hearing world denies you
    Seeing only handicap in the language of your signs

    So I'm learning to speak with my hands
    I'm learning how to hear with my eyes
    So that I can understand what you want to say to me

    I know you can't do it all my way
    But if I meet you halfway
    There's no telling what good friends you and I could be

Susannes Folksong-Notizen

  • [1986:] Written in 1984. If my friend Michael Clancy had not asked me to write a song about sign language (for an educational video series called 'Talking Hands') I would never have met my interpreter, Chris Miller, and I suspect I would still be of the untested opinion that deaf people cannot communicate properly. This song has opened up a whole world of deaf culture and language to me, and made me some good friends, and has therefore enriched my life in a very special way. (Judy Small Songbook 54)

  • [1999:] The deaf were not put so absurdly on pedestals [as the blind]. But they were put down. The ancient Greeks allowed deaf babies to be abandoned up to their third year, while both Jewish and Roman law withheld from the deaf full adult status and property rights. The excuse for this was that those born deaf could not learn to speak in the normal way. They were not just deaf. In every sense, it was widely assumed, they were also dumb. Speech, Herder argued, was 'the rudder of reason'. [...] Without it, how could the deaf be fully conscious of their own humanity? And how could they play a responsible role in the state? [By the seventeenth century it] was known that the deaf could be taught simple signs for objects. But how were they to understand concepts such as sin and eternity while cut off from language? It took a cleric, the abbé de l'Epée, to make the breakthrough. The deaf, he recognised, did not in fact need teaching a language. They already had one, a potentially sophisticated system of signs, which even the poorest seemed to acquire, and which only needed expansion and codification. [...] By the nineteenth century, his variant of sign language was dominant both in France and in the States.

    In Britain, however, the 'oralists' reigned supreme. [They] believed signing was inferior, and set the deaf unfairly apart. [...] Only in this century has it come to be understood that, in most important respects, signing is just like any other language. It is not simple, natural and innate. It is not monolithic, but takes many forms. And it changes over time with great rapidity. Yet it would be unduly self-flattering to believe that our understanding now is remotely comprehensive or value-free. (Linda Colley, review of Jonathan Lee's 'I See A Voice: Language, Deafness and the Senses', Observer, 31 Jan)

Quelle: Australia

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