How Do Deaf People Think?
In the article today if you’ve ever wondered how deaf people think,
in terms of their “inner voice”,
well, you’re not going to wonder for much longer.
If someone is born deaf how do they think, Those who were born completely deaf and only learned sign language will, not surprisingly, think in sign language.
What is surprising is those who were born completely deaf but learn to speak through vocal training will sometimes think not only in the separate sign language that they know
but also sometimes think in the vocal language they learned,
with their brains reaching up with how the vocal language sounds.
If you are wondering do deaf people think in sign language, Yes, most people who are completely deaf think in sign language.
Similar to how an “inner voice” of a hearing person is encountered in one’s own voice,
a completely deaf person sees or, more aptly, feels themselves signing in their head as they “talk” in their heads.
For those who are not completely deaf people or wear devices to allow them to hear somewhat,
They will often experience many more vocal language in their “inner voice” in proportion to how much they can hear.
Interestingly, deafness is quite more serious than blindness in terms of the effect that can have on the brain.
This isn’t because deaf people’s brains are different from hearing people,
in terms of mental capacity or the like; rather, it is because of how essential language is to how our brain functions.
To be clear, “language” here not only refers to spoken languages but also to sign language.
It is simply important that the brain has some form of complex language that can fully comprehend and can turn into an inner voice to drive thought.
More precisely, language is necessary for such brain functions as memory, abstract thinking, self-awareness and fascinatingly.
Language has been displayed to literally be the “device driver”,
so to speak, that drives much of the brain’s core “hardware”.
Thus, deaf people who aren’t recognised as such very young or that live in places where they aren’t able to be taught sign language will usually be very handicapped mentally
until they learn a properly structured language, even though there is nothing really bad with their brains.
The problem is even more painful than it may appear,
at first because of how important language is to the early stages of the development of the brain.
Those totally deaf people who are taught no sign language until later life will often have learning problems that stick with them throughout their whole lives,
even after they have finally learned a particular sign language.
It is because of how necessary language is to how our brains develop and function that deaf people were long thought of as naturally mentally handicapped and unteachable.
In fact, until around the 1970s, it was still widely thought that the majority of deaf people were at least mildly mentally handicapped.
How could this be when they had different sign languages and even vocal training to allow their brains to develop and function properly.
The problem originated from the fact that it was decided at the International Congress on Education of the Deaf people that took place in 1880 in Milan that deaf people should not use sign language; rather,
they should be pushed to use spoken language almost only.
This seems good enough on the surface, as deaf people are fully capable of learning spoken language and this would allow them to more completely merge into the hearing world,
which is what provoked these educators to make this momentous decision.
The problem with this was only recently discovered and, indeed, many of the negative substances are only just now being understood.
It turns out, while there are certainly exceptions, most completely deaf people who are forced to use only spoken language are only a little better off than those who know no language,
In terms of the development of certain brain functions.
The first research showing the failure of the oral method was done by Cambridge Professor named Ruban Conrad in the 1970s via testing reading ability in deaf teenagers trained in said method.
He discovered that while the average fully deaf teenager could read individual words at about an 8-year-old level, they read without much understanding,
Specifically when it came to speaking in the meaning of a full sentence.
The problem was that they had not had enough be able to develop an “inner voice” due to being restricted to oral language which they could not hear.
Thus, without the inner voice, there was no hearing imagery to remain in short term memory while they took in the whole sentence.
In the general case, the fully deaf taught only the oral method do gain significantly more sense of self and better memory and the like over those who have no language at all,
but in this state, they will never fully achieve their brain’s potential as in when they learn sign language.
The leading idea behind why those completely deaf people taught only vocal language don’t properly develop an “inner voice” is that, without being able to associate sounds with the phonemes and complete words,
Language is too conceptual and a brain without language already struggles with things that are conceptual.
The Deaf people who learn sign language, however, have less risk with comprehending vocal language and, as noted earlier, have the capacity to have an “inner voice” that speaks.
This is thought to be because once the brain has a structured language from which to more or less “run” off of, similar to a computer’s operating system,
conceptual concepts can be more easily grabbed; thus, comprehending vocal language sounds and text becomes significantly easier.
Because of these findings, the “oralist” method of teaching the deaf that had endured for just under a century started being rapidly phased out in favour of “bilingual” education
where sign language is introduced as early as possible and vocal language is introduced as a sort of secondary language.
As noted by Miranda Pickersgill, chief of deaf services for Leeds Local Education Authority, “Bilingualism is still very much a hot potato.
We have come in for a lot of flak and been charged with pushing deaf children into a signing ghetto.
Yet the deaf had a big price to pay when the old methods failed.
Not only could they not speak, but they were left without a code to think in.
We can no longer ignore what the research tells us.
Note:- The article was originally published on qrius.com