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By: Travis Eckert

Junior Intern

Babbling is quite an interesting thing. Did you know that babies, no matter their hearing status, babble? In the first few months of life, infants develop the same way in this regard, but at about  6 months, hearing infants begin to produce consonants and vowels fairly rapidly, while the deaf infant will stop babbling. It would seem this is the case because hearing children have a full auditory feedback loop, whereas deaf infants do not. However, if that deaf child is born into a signing deaf family, we may see a rather unique happening, babbling, via manual signs. These manual babbles are more than gestures, and are truly isolated handshapes or movements. Deaf infants, unsurprisingly, use symbolic gestures more to communicate than hearing infants, likely due to the utility of manual babbling, but having the inability to have a full language at that stage of their life and language acquisition.

Deaf Baby Babbling, The Deaf Dream
For more information, check out “Language Learning in Children Who are Deaf and Hard of Hearing”by Susan R. Easterbrooks and Sharon Baker.

 This blog post represents the opinion of the author and not necessarily the views supported by The Deaf Dream.



Music and Deaf Culture

Junior Intern

Christina Pettus

            Lately, I have been seeing more people sharing and posting ASL music videos. Some people may view them as the latest fad; however, I believe that signing music in ASL is a cultural expression and revolution for music in the Deaf community.

In contrast with the majority’s belief, Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing individuals can experience music through the physical vibrations of sound. This experience is similar and equal to hearing people listening to sound. They can feel these vibrations by simply standing in the room, or next to a stereo. I have also known Deaf people who hold a balloon or a drink during a movie or concert in order to feel these vibrations. Overall, the community can experience and has always had a relationship with music; however, they felt that music was missing an important aspect—lyrics in their native language.

With the majority of music being sung in English and almost never including captions, Deaf people were less able to experience the meaning of lyrics in their native language. This lack of cultural meaning within music has fueled the community to create music videos in ASL. This has also inspired musicians, such as, Sean Forbes, to center his work on using ASL, and to create a music network for the Deaf called D-PAN, the Deaf Performing Arts Network. All of these responses towards the lack of Deaf culture in music express how ASL music videos are not the latest fad but a form of cultural expression.

Moreover, these ASL music videos have evolved and greatly expanded the relationship the Deaf community has with music; however, these videos have also stirred up controversy about how to correctly sign ASL. These disagreements show how ASL varies across the country, how lyrics have different meaning to each individual and lastly, how Deaf individuals have varying experiences. Overall, by Deaf people having the ability to experience music in ASL, they can develop a cultural and more meaningful relationship with music that goes beyond vibrations.

Below are links to ASL music videos and D-PAN website. The controversy of the signs can be viewed in the comments:

Deaf Performers:



ASL Music Videos: Controversy

ASL Student Performer:

Miley Cyrus “Wrecking Ball”

ASL Student Music Videos: Controversy




 This blog post represents the opinion of the author and not necessarily the views supported by The Deaf Dream.

Ignorance Isn’t Bliss

 Mariam Janvelyan

Junior Intern

“Yeah, but that’s not a real language. It doesn’t count.” “What do you mean they have a culture?” “Wait, so he can’t hear anything at all? How sad!” “Ohhh, tell him I said…” If I had a dollar for every time I heard any of those statements, I don’t think I’d worry much about paying off my school tuition. I’ve heard it all; from family members, coworkers, bosses and friends, to people I’ve just met. For some reason no one can pinpoint, there’s a stigma attached to Deafness. Hearing people tend to shy away from the Deaf world, keeping it at an arm’s length, yet at the same time they are fascinated by Deafness.

I have yet to come across a single hearing person who doesn’t openly gape at Deaf people painting incredible stories through the air with their hands, evoking emotions from their audience with their facial expressions, and captivating them with their body movements. I’ve seen the moment of understanding light up a person’s face as I explain the rich history, culture, language, and oppression that is woven into the fabric of the Deaf world. I’ve seen the walls of ignorance crumble as they realize that sign language is a true language with linguistic validity, and customs that are passed down through generations, along with community, values, and a mutual understanding through language, are what make a culture.

What hearing people need to realize is that differences between the two worlds shouldn’t be a reason to maintain distance, but an invitation to explore them. And once that happens, I look forward to seeing those individuals struggle to cover up their baffled expressions and inevitable smiles as they realize that after years of fighting through oppression, ignorance, and to be honest, downright absurdity, the Deaf community is anything but silent.





This blog post represents the opinion of the author and not necessarily the views supported by The Deaf Dream.

Mandela Memorial Interpreter: The Same Old Oppression

Destiny Yarbro

Founder & CEO

In the tumult of this week’s news, many may wonder why a fake interpreter at Nelson Mandela’s memorial was such a big deal. After all, the memorial wasn’t for Deaf people, it was for Mandela. Right?


Why did millions, perhaps even billions, tune in to watch the memorial this week? Nelson Mandela wasn’t just a good South African. He was a symbol to the world. He represented FREEDOM. Freedom from OPPRESSION.

How ironic, then, that a fake interpreter would attend.


The thing is, Deaf are very familiar with oppression. We have been fighting an apartheid of our own. Braam Jordaan from the World Federation of the Deaf Youth Section, was the one to ask for an “end [to] communication Apartheid”. [Read more here.]


So when a fake interpreter stood before a worldwide audience and made up gestures, he was saying the following:

1. Deaf aren’t smart enough to recognize the difference between gestures and sign language.

2. Deaf don’t deserve equal access.

3. Deaf don’t have the guts to stand up to this kind of subtle oppression.

4. Deaf don’t deserve to fully take part in honoring this incredible man.

5. Deaf are still oppressed, despite Mandela’s efforts to overthrow oppression.

What a slap in the face to Mandela and all he stood for. My only joy has been to see the Deaf community stand together to say “No More!” Thousands of newspapers and online news sites have shared this story and the impact could be huge for the worldwide Deaf community.


If you want to read more, check out these:

The Telegraph [My personal favorite video/article.]

ABC News

CNN News




The Independent

Interview with Marlee Matlin

[This blog post represents the opinion of the author and not necessarily the views supported by The Deaf Dream.]


30 Minutes in the Shoes of a Deaf Person

Kim Livingston

Junior Intern

 For thirty minutes try to be in the shoes of a deaf person, just thirty…not much. It is the amount of time you can wait on hold on the telephone, spend watching a sitcom on TV, or waiting for your table at a restaurant. Just thirty.

Bet you can’t do it. How do I know? Because I have watched how uncomfortable hearing people are when they are in this position for even a few minutes. Watched them look at a few gestural words that, if they would open their eyes for just a moment, they could understand the meaning of. Watched them be unable to communicate for even a short time with others and seen the frustration on their face, their refusal to adapt.

In an effort to teach about and practice ASL and to build a Deaf Community for newcomers to the language and culture, there is a monthly deaf event, open to students and adults who are interested. The only rule? “Voice off”. The event lasts 30 minutes; the amount of time that people have for a typical lunch “hour” from work. No one has made it the entire time without using their voice yet.

Why is this? They know the rule. It is reminded when they come into the room. Yet, every time someone finds a point where they are talking to get their message across. It is almost humorous to watch people “cheat” by whispering, thinking that somehow this doesn’t count. At one of these events even a Deaf woman was found to be mouthing words and vocalizing. When jokingly reminded that she too had to follow the “voice off” rule, she fingerspelled simply, “Colonization”? When asked what she meant by this she explained that for so long she had become used to adapting to assist hearing people in understanding her that she at times forgot that she was doing this.

ASL is a powerful language, perhaps more expressive than spoken English. The gestures, the facial expressions, the meaning is clear. Yet for 30 minutes hearing people can hardly stand to be in silence. Not even silence, because a room of Deaf people using ASL is a noisy place. There is laughter and table pounding, sound effects that match actual sound far closer than most hearing people can imitate. No, it isn’t a period of silence. It is a period of keeping ones words silent, of communicating in a different way. Watching non-ASL users struggle to understand the language is agonizing for hearing people who know it. Often the hearing person will rescue the struggler by whispering the correct word. Why? These same “helpful” people are also sometimes the first to “rescue” a Deaf person in the hearing world by supplying the language necessary, whether they are asked to intervene or not. This is a form of oppression, the need to rescue, or belittle a person’s right to struggle independently.  Who are we to decide that something is too difficult a challenge for someone else?

So spend thirty minutes struggling to do something challenging, or letting someone else do it. And while you are at it, do it silently, observing the world around you.

“There’s a lot of difference between listening and hearing.” ― G.K. Chesterton





This blog post represents the opinion of the author and not necessarily the views supported by The Deaf Dream.

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