Making Literature Accessible for Deaf Students: Ruth Anna Spooner


>>Good morning. Good morning Dr. Segal.>>Good morning.>>Good morning. [ Laughing ] Anyway, I want to welcome you
all to another in our series of talks celebrating
Services for Students With Disabilities
40th anniversary. And this is a very
special talk for us and I’ll introduce our
speaker in just one minute. There’s just a few other
announcements I want to make until we get to sort of the
main show or program as it were. One is I guess in truth
in advertising I want you to all know that
we are being taped. So if you don’t wish
to be put on tape, make sure to duck the camera. Jill was there anything
else I needed to add with regards to that? Okay. Secondly, like I said this
is one in a series of talks. We are actually will be
having two more events. Next month, we will be having
another student talking and that was Lloyd Shelton. If you don’t know Lloyd,
Lloyd is a master student in the School of Social Work
and he’ll be giving a talk on the intersectional
nature of disability. So that will be back,
for those of you who have been following this all
of our talks so far have been in the Hatcher Gallery. For reasons that I won’t go
into, we weren’t able to use that at this particular time and Central Student
Government was nice enough to allow us to use this room. So, but next month that
will be on September 15. It’s a Monday and I’m
assuming that’s at 10:00. 10:00 Gallery Room. We will once again be
having, this is from and you can do a mix and match. Taste all of these goodies. Next month we will be having
goodies from Pizza House and you can make a determination about which is the
better quality food. And then I once again also
want to remind everybody about the big event which
is going to be on Friday, October 17 also in the
Hatcher Gallery Room where we will be doing
an all-day conference. So we are finalizing
the speakers. I can tell you two
of the speakers that we definitely
have, John Greden. John is the head psychiatrist, Director of the Depression
Center, and he will be giving a talk on
the history of mood disorders and the future treatment
of mood disorders. We will have also the
second speaker that we know. He’s a faculty member in
the College of Engineering who is talking on who’s
the lead in a project on the driverless cars. So he’ll be giving a talk
about driverless cars and the implications for people
with different types of sensory and mobility impairments. Another speaker we know there
will be a talk on the history of disability law
in the United States and the fourth speaker we’re
still sort of working on. So that’s in October. Mark your calendars. We’d love you there. It’s an all-day conference. That will be catered
by Zingerman’s. So if that alone isn’t
enough to entice you to get a free Zingerman’s
lunch, I don’t know what is. So we’d like a really big crowd. Tell your friends,
family, and neighbors. Bring everybody out. We want a big crowd and
there’ll be some good speakers. It’ll be a good day. Our interpreters for
today, right I supposed to. I’m not sure which is
which, is Julie Vance and you must be Andrea Richoff. I did that correctly. Okay. One last shout out that
I want to give and I don’t mean to embarrass him,
but I’m going to. There’s somebody in
the audience today who I hadn’t seen
in a long time. He’s been gone for various
reasons and is back with us. Scott Williams I want
to welcome you back.>>Yea Scott.>>It’s great to
see you [laughing].>>Good to be here.>>And those of you who
don’t know Scott should. He’s the guru of accessibility. So Scott welcome. It’s good to see you and
I’m glad you’re here. Alright, now onto
our, today’s speaker. Today’s speaker is
Ruth Anna Spooner. After experienced teaching
high school and college English and literatures at various
levels of American Sign Language and also teaching the deaf, Ruth Anna is currently
pursuing a joint PhD in English and in Education. She is in the process of completing her dissertation
study on how linguistics and translations between
American Sign Language and English might be used
to facilitate the teaching of literature to deaf students. So without further
adieu, Ruth Anna Spooner. Thank you. [ Applause ]>>Hello. Okay. Thank you to the
Services for Students with Disabilities office
for allowing me to come. Last year, I would say around February Jill
Rice, where is she? Okay, back there. She caught me and she says oh
would you do a talk for this? Would like to do a talk? And I said what do
you mean by a talk? A talk about what? Oh she said, you know a talk
about your research work and everything you’re
doing and I said, oh sure, that should be easy. I can do that for an hour,
no problem [laughing]. So it’s not often you have an
audience of people who are stuck and have to listen to
what I’ve been working and what I [Inaudible] about
so I hope I will be able to fascinate you
with my research. So I’m Ruth Anna. I was a graduate, I am a
PhD student for English and Education and I’m
in my fourth year now and I just finished my
[inaudible] research for my dissertation. And that was about
the last month and so I’ve been doing a lot of
you know transcripting of that of videos, and it’s
a very slow process. So my brain is fried for this
last month so [laughing]. I’ll be happy to take
it slow today [laughs]. Alright. Can everyone hear okay? Does the interpreter
need to speak louder? We okay? Alright. Okay, now one thing I want
to start with a little bit of background information,
because often I’ve noticed in the last few years
what happens is that if I meet a person and
they say oh what do you do? And I explain that
I’m a PhD student. They say, oh. So what’s your research
related to? What’s your topic? And then I say I’m looking into
translating English literature, stories, and plays into
ASL for deaf students. And I thought that
was a pretty clear and simple explanation
[laughing]. But then they looked at
me in a puzzled look. Very polite of course
and very nice, but still what is
the point of that? If they already have the
book anyway, why do you need to translate it into ASL too? It seems you know redundant. Then I realized oh my gosh I
need to explain it more clearly so people understand it. So to help you understand
what I’m doing for this translation I wanted to give you some background
information about deaf students and the challenges they have
as far as reading and writing. And once you understand
that, then you’ll be able to appreciate better
the work that I’m doing and that’s what I’m
hoping at least. Okay? So now I’m going to start and
I’m going to ask you to partner up with you know two or three
people hanging, you know just around you, and if you
look around and you don’t like the people sitting next
to you, fine [laughing]. No problems. Okay so and in your
group I really want you to brainstorm a list of as
many novels and plays, poetry, short stories that
you remember reading in your English classes
back in the day, middle school and high school. You know and you’ve got to go
so far back you can’t remember, that’s fine [laughing]. Just throw in things that you
see your kids reading at school, in middle school
and high school. For example, I read Shakespeare. I read Poe, things like that. So make a list and
you know you can put down authors if you know them. Just brainstorm. You don’t have to write it
down, there won’t be a test or anything [laughing]. You cannot fail, okay? I’ll give you a few
minutes to pass in your form and
then we’ll talk. [ Audience Talking ] Okay! Everyone let’s come back. Let’s come back to me. [ Audience Talking ] Okay, hello. Hello. [ Audience Talking ] I know you’re having so much
fun chatting and talking, but now we need to move on. Okay, so what are some of
the titles that you thought of that you remember
reading back in middle school
and high school?>>Catcher in the Rye.>>Catcher in the Rye.>>Silas Marner.>>To Kill a Mockingbird.>>Yep.>>Mmm.>>To Kill a Mockingbird.>>Grapes of Wrath.>>Jane Eyre.>>The Great Gatsby. [ Audience Talking ]>>Grapes of Wrath.>>The Scarlet Letter.>>Of Mice and Men. [ Audience Talking ] Awesome. Great. Great you actually
remembered a lot [laughter]! Good, you passed high school. Okay, so now the reason
I wanted you to think about those things is
because the sad fact is is that today a high
percentage of deaf students that graduate high school, they’ve never read
any of those novels. Maybe some students
have, but most have not. I could safely say
around maybe 70, 75% of them have never read
any of those, Grapes of Wrath, Silas Marner, Frost, none of
those, Shakespeare, nothing. So what I’m going to talk
about today is access, equal access to literature. Because these students,
they’re smart. There’s nothing wrong
with their intelligence. They can communicate fluently. There’s nothing wrong
with their communication, but many of them struggle with learning English
as a second language. It’s because they don’t
have complete access to hearing English. So their learning process for
English is completely different and it brings with it
special challenges. So many of them graduate
high school with an average reading
level of fourth grade. Some students have a
higher reading level, some have a lower reading level. The high school I graduated
from was a deaf school and I was the only one at grade
level for reading unfortunately. The closest person was at an
eighth grade reading level. And then several were
both, were in fifth or sixth grade reading
level, but some were at first and second grade reading level. It really varied and for
various reasons depending on if they had early
exposure to language. It’s a complicated
discussion as far as that goes. But it’s very interesting
if you want to ask later, but we don’t have a
lot of time to talk about those accessibility
issues. But my point is that fourth
grade reading level you can’t have access to the kind of
stories and plays and poetry with that reading level. So they don’t read well.>>Mmm.>>They don’t have
access at all. So in order to understand
this, when I was a senior in high school, I’m going
to tell you a story. I like stories so. I was a senior in high school
and I was in AP English class, and I took it at
the public school. They had a partnership with the
deaf school and so since I was at the higher reading level, I went and it was a cooperative
type of thing at the school. So I would go to the public
school, an AP English class, I had an interpreter, and that
year you are reading Hamlet. How many of you have read
Hamlet in high school? Yes? Most of you. Most of you, okay. Good. Good I’m not the
only one who worked through that my senior year. [ Laughing ] So when I was reading that
play I stayed at the dorm for the deaf school and so there
was some students that stayed at the dorm too because
they lived too far away. So, and I was in sports
and so I had late games and early morning practice, so I
stayed at the dorm pretty often. So when I arrived at the dorm
in the afternoon with my Hamlet. You know this, that
Shakespeare book was huge. It was a monster of a book. So when I went in the
dorm and I was sitting at the dining table getting
ready to do my homework and to read the first
part, Act 1. I started reading it and
working my way through it, and then someone
walked in the room and was tapping me
on the shoulder. I looked up, it was
one of my friends. She was a junior and her name
was Hannah and she looked at me and she said, what
are you doing? I said I’m doing my homework. Come on, yeah, you
know what does it look like I’m doing [laughing]. And she said, no I mean what are
you doing with that big book? Oh, and I said you know
this is Shakespeare. It’s for my English class. And she looked at
me, Shakespeare who? I thought she was
joking at first. I said, come on you
know who Shakespeare is. He’s a famous writer of
the English language. And she looked at
me blank faced. She didn’t know it. It was an awkward
moment, like no okay. So I said, you know it’s
just a play called Hamlet, whatever, it’s no big deal. And she looked at me and she
said, well what’s it about? So she really wanted to know. And I said, well you know
it’s a story about a prince from Denmark and his father
is the king and he dies and then his uncle all of
a sudden marries his mother and becomes king and you know. And then there’s a ghost
and you know the story, you know this story. So she looked at
me and she said, there’s a ghost,
what happens next? And I said I don’t know. [ Laughing ] Oh, she said, okay
fine, so and she left. I thought whatever, you know. So I kept working, reading
through the literature, and then again I was in
the dorm and I went back, I started reading again
and then someone came in the room, and guess who? And this time she had a friend. It was Hannah and she
brought her friend Marcy. And the two of them
came in and they said, oh there’s that book again. Did you read anymore? I was telling Marcy about
it so, and she wanted to hear the story too. So I went back to the beginning
and told them the story, you know the first act pretty
much and I explained it. And then they said, oh what
happened next [laughing]? I said I don’t know [laughing]! I don’t know yet. So okay they left and
they left me alone. And then the third
afternoon they came back and I was in the dorm. I was in my bedroom and I
was opening up my backpack and I swear they had some
kind of radar [laughing]. I don’t know how they
knew, but they showed up in my room whenever
I pulled out that book. They came in. Are reading anymore today? Did you read any more of it? So every day for a few
weeks they would find me when I was doing my
homework and they wanted to know what happened
next in the play. And then one night
after the part where Hamlet has a huge fight
with his mom and is accusing her of being involved with
the murder and everything. It’s a very dramatic part. Both the girls started talking about you know I think
the mother’s guilty, you know I think
she was involved. And Marcy said, oh
no, no, no, no, she didn’t, how could she know. She didn’t know. And they started
fighting about it. They started fighting
with each other you know, they’re like remember when the
ghost said this in this part of the play and they were
really arguing about the plot. And I was looking at them and it
was like that’s the same exact like conversation I was
having in my AP English class. And those two girls who
really couldn’t read well, who I would guess they were
about fifth grade reading level and the other one was maybe
third grade reading level, but they were having a very
intelligent deep conversation about the story and
I thought wow. And when that discussion
finished they looked at me and they said, what
happens next? [ Laughing ] So when we were all finished
with the play, Hannah looked at me and she said,
you know it’s not fair. And I said, what do
you mean it’s not fair? She said, you know you get to read all the fun
stuff in your class. It’s not fair. And I said, wait a
minute, wait a minute. I, have you seen
this [laughing]? Does that look fair? Does that look fun to you? And she said, well yeah
it’s hard but it’s fun. You know I mean look at what I
have to do for my English class and she pulled out a book,
and it was a picture book. I can’t remember what
picture book it was, but it was a picture with
a duck and rain boots on the cover, I do
remember that. So it was probably a second
grade reading level book. She said look at
this it’s so stupid. That’s my English homework. There’s no point, I
don’t want to do it. Yours is better. So that story has been with
me ever since that happened. It’s influenced why I started
doing what I’m doing now. They both struggled
with reading. One was hard of hearing,
she could hear some sounds, but her reading level was low. And they never really
read anything that I read in high school. And that was the moment I
realized all of the books that I read, all of these, they
probably will never experience. They won’t know who
Shakespeare was. To this day I don’t think Hannah
will know who Shakespeare is. Until that event
had happened, right. It made me pretty sad. Just because they couldn’t read
written English well enough to do, to read all
of these books, they would have no access to it. So that’s the experience
that really motivated me and pushed me to do
this, what I’m doing now. And that’s not the
only experience. There’s been a lot
of experiences like that for deaf students. They are limited
to minimal reading and basic readers,
the basic readers. You know what their juniors and seniors there are
reading books like this. So imagine yourself as
an awkward 15 year-old or 16 year-old teenager trying
to impress everyone and you want to fit in and you want to me
normal just like everyone else. You know how that
is as a teenager. And you want to be grown up
and you want to be independent and then this is
what you have to do for your English class homework. No wonder they hate
English and hate reading, and they dislike it if that’s
the only thing they are able to do. And the problem with printed
literature affects them and follows them
into college as well. Many students who read well
enough to get into a college or university still struggle
a lot because they have to pass the college
freshman writing class. And then do a lot more
writing in various classes for whatever major they choose. So three out of every
four deaf students when they begin college
tend to drop out. And the problem with
the English reading or writing that’s
a big part of it. It’s not all of it, but it’s a
huge part of the dropout rate. Access is the problem
all over the board. We have excellent services,
we have interpreters, we have note takers,
we have an FM system. We have a lot of different
technology we can use, but right now we
don’t have anything to give the students access
to the literature itself, to authentically experience
the reading and writing. I have nothing against
books like this. I love these books. They are wonderful books. But I loved them
when I was a kid. Then I grew up. I think they’re cute
and wonderful, but they are not for teenagers. So the stories have no
appeal for teenagers. Teenagers want stories
that they can connect with, that have deep ideas and themes
related with life and death, and love and hate, and family
and friends, relationships. All of these things are
in literature like this. Ideas that they can
connect with and challenge. Not books about ducks
that get new rain boots. So limited or no access has
caused quite a few problems for deaf students while they
navigate English classes during school. Like I already said, their reading becomes
boring, pointless to them. They’re just looking for
the right answer to answer on the test because these type of books they usually ask
questions of what happened, what happened in the story? What happens when you
give a mouse a cookie? And the right answer is he wants
a glass of milk [laughing]. It’s not oh the mouse
took the cookie and said thank you
and then went to bed. That’s not what happens. The answer is this or
that, right or wrong. There’s no ideas that require
opinion, that require any type of debate or discussion,
or any type of analysis. So for students they just
look at the book all right, ah what was the question? Okay let me find, yep
there’s the answer. That’s not what reading is. That’s not what reading
should be at least. It’s more than just that. There’s, I guess there’s
two challenges many deaf students have. One being they can read
and decode every word on the page, they can, many can. But they can’t tell
you what it means and I know it’s probably hard,
it’s a hard concept for people to understand because
you can look at words and easily understand them. You don’t have to think about
it for a very long time. So I’m going to show
you a sentence up here. I’m pretty sure you’re
intelligent enough. You can handle all of the
words that are in the sentence. But I want you to
tell me what it means. Try and figure out what
the intended sentence is and if you have a
linguistics background, be quiet you may seen
this before [laughing]. So everyone has, you can read
every single word, right?>>Mm-hmm.>>There’s no complicated words
or advanced vocabulary here. But does it make sense? Some of you are nodding or
some of you, nobody wants to commit to a yes or no. [ Laughing ] Alright, I will explain
what this means. Our brain tends to read
through the sentence and think that raced is a, is the
main verb, but it’s not. It’s actually the horse fell. That’s what it means. So which horse? The horse fell, the horse
that was racing past the barn. So when you go back and reread
the sentence again with that in mind, it makes
complete sense. Does it? Kind of? Some people are nodding. The sentence every
word you can decode and understand what
the words mean, but to picture what actually
happened is it a barn fell or the horse? I’m not sure, you’re not
sure what’s going on. Another sentence to try. I mean so what does
this even mean? It’s not sarcastic, I mean
it’s grammatically correct. It’s not nonsense. Your brain is trying to make
sense of some colorless ideas that are green, or
you’re not sure. It’s not an impossible sentence. I mean the reason I show you
those two sentences I want to give you just a taste of
what deaf students experience [Inaudible] normal
English sentences. They can read every word. They can understand
the vocabulary but they don’t understand
what it means. The horse, they can’t
picture everything together and what it actually means. So even if they can
sign all of those words, they still cannot
connect the meaning with a picture in their head. All right. And then there’s some deaf
students who handle that better, that can read an
English sentence and understand what it means, but their challenge
is the vocabulary. Because the English language
is a [inaudible] mess. [ Laughing ] I mean we have tons of
words and vocabulary that mean almost the
exact same thing. So for example, so
with your friends from the group this morning,
new friends if you want to find some new friends,
I want you to brainstorm as many synonyms of this word
that you can, angry, mad, furious, and so forth. See how many that
you can come up with. Alright? Go. [ Audience Talking ] Alright, stop. Okay so how many total do you
think you came up with about? Estimate how many you
think you came up with.>>Eight.>>Ten.>>Seven.>>Ten, eight.>>Five in the back [laughing]? Wow. Smart group
in the back there. Alright, so here are
some that I came up with. I’m just, I mean there’s plenty
more than just this list. And this is the English
language. There’s tons of vocabulary,
almost more words than any other language
out there. So there’s a lot of
vocabulary to learn. Now for deaf students
the vocabulary and grammar is very
difficult to learn because they don’t have the
auditory access to that. How did you learn English? Do you remember learning
English?>>No.>>Probably not. You were babies. You just listened. Soaked it all in. People were talking to you and
people were talking around you, and you were able to
pick up that language as your parents talked
to each other, you heard your siblings talking. You had that language around
you and it becomes part of you. It’s automatic. You don’t even think about it. But deaf kids have none of that
incidental learning around them. They can’t just pick up
language vicariously. Unless they are directly
taught this word means that, they won’t know it. So if they learn angry, then
a little later they see livid. How were they supposed to know? They’ve never heard
someone some time, some place before say
livid like you maybe have. So they look at that and they
say that’s the first time that I’ve ever seen that word. So they have to learn
each word one by one, which is a huge task,
thinking of how many thousands of words there are in
the English language. Same goes for grammar. Now some deaf kids have
some residual hearing with hearing aids or cochlear
ear implants, FM systems, some type of technology they
are able to hear something’s or they’re just hard of hearing. But even those kids miss
a ton of information that goes on around them. Through lip reading or trying
to hear, they only hear half of the word or half a sentence. Maybe some people can
hear high-pitched sounds, but they can’t hear low pitch. And they can hear consonants, but they can’t catch
those vowels. They can’t hear the
silent sounds. I had a hard of hearing
friend in high school who had completely no
idea that there were “Ss” at the end of plural words. She never heard them. And then a teacher sat
her down and said no, you have to put an S
on the end of something that there is a plural of. But she said oh,
that was news to her, because she completely missed
that S. She could hear the word, but she couldn’t hear an S. So her grammar was slightly
messed up because of that. And sometimes they have
partial information and it just makes
it a lot harder, or they just don’t
hear anything at all. Because you can completely
misunderstand information and get confused and there’s
conflicting information. It’s happened to me recently. I have no hearing whatsoever,
but I can lip read better than I will admit [laughing]. But I was in a classroom and
two interpreters were sitting in the back of the classroom
and a girl walked in the room. It was before class,
nothing was really happening, and the girl arrived,
walked past them, and partly or partially blocked,
I was partially blocked in viewing the interpreters
talking and one said, oh, I could see them signing,
this is what she said, oh I really like her
motorcycle boots. But I couldn’t see their sign
because the girl walked right in front of the conversation
and all I saw, I could see their mouth
and this is what I saw. I really like her
ponytail boots [laughing]. So I’m like what? So I’m looking at the
girl’s boots [laughing]. What is a ponytail boot? I was so confused. Is there like hair or
something [laughing]. I kind of said ponytail
boots, what? No, motorcycle boots. It looks exactly the
same on the mouth. Think about it, motorcycle,
ponytail. They look exactly the same. So completely misunderstood
and I was completely wrong with what they were
talking about. And I’m pretty good at English. I’d like to think I am. But many deaf students don’t
even have any type of access with English, so they struggle
with the English anyways. So they’re getting
very confused and very, a lot of wrong information. So that’s the challenge for them
and for us to try and figure out how to navigate
written and spoken English and have the vocabulary and
the grammar correct as well. Does that make sense?>>Mm-hmm.>>Mm-hmm.>>Okay. And another problem is students
have never read anything that you’ve read in school. The kind of books and stories that are what people
expect everyone to read, you know like Hamlet. 90% of you raised your hand and said yes you
read that in school. You know Catcher in the Rye. If you didn’t read it,
you know about it, right? So all of these that
we are expected to know and at least have
superficial knowledge about it, they don’t have. So when they graduate
high school and go out into the world, they
meet someone and they say, oh yeah you know Shakespeare,
and they say Shakespeare who? What’s that person
going to think? They’re going to
look down at them. Oh you’re an idiot. You must be simpleminded
or dumb, but they’re not. They’re a normal
intelligent individual, but they just have had
no exposure at all. And so it’s the socialization within our culture
that they’ve lost. And it’s not because they can’t, it’s just because they were
never exposed to those books. They never had the
chance to read them. They never had the
chance to read that and say oh I hated
that, you know. [ Laughing ] So. And then one question
I’m often asked, why don’t you just
make it a movie? They can watch a
movie of it you know. That solves the problem, right? Why do you need to translate it? You know, I mean let Hollywood
do the job for you right? Well movies can be great
if they’re done well. But that’s true for
any movie right? So it can be gritty. It can really help
because you can see that picture, visualization. You can see that moving
picture and what’s happening in the plot, and that can help. However, you still have
to read the captions. So, still and I think
many students that will go over their head. It helps, but it
doesn’t fix everything. Okay. So after all of
that we got caught up. Now you know why I’m doing
these translations [laughing]. Okay. It’s not something
oooh, you know cool to add to the curriculum or
anything like that. It’s something to provide access
to curriculum that they have, that the students
don’t have right now. Okay? Alright. Now American Sign Language, ASL,
it’s a wonderful rich tradition of storytelling and poetry
already within that language. It’s very visual, very dynamic,
it’s a beautiful tradition. And people tell stories, you
know it’s nothing new as far as literature, but
translating English literature into ASL is new. We already have ASL poetry and
storytelling and maybe some of you have never seen that. Have you ever seen
ASL poetry before? So I brought two videos
I’m going to show you. One is a story and
one is a poem. The first one, this
is the story. Princess Bellybutton and
Karma the Dog [giggling]. Before you start watching, I
want to tell you a little bit about what to look for so you
can understand what I mean. And there’s subtitles, so you
won’t be lost, don’t worry. But I want you to
understand what’s going on with the hands as well. ASL tends to have a
spacial, it’s a 3-D language and everything is set up in
space, and then it’s moved. For example, there’s a tree. This is the sign for tree. That means there’s
a tree right there. And there’s a tree to my right. And then there’s a man and
the man is coming along. This is the man and
he is walking. He’s walking by the tree,
in front of the tree, or is he walking
towards the tree? You can see that’s different. Now he’s climbing the tree. He’s climbing the tree,
oh he’s way up, now he’s. [ Laughing ] Oop, he fell. So I just, I didn’t
use any signs at all. That was just handshakes
representing different things in space. So you understood it and
you didn’t know anything about sign language. So this story you will see
the man uses many different handshakes and gestures
within to describe people within a community
and within a space. And that’s how ASL
storytelling works. It’s a lot of things
going on at the same time. Okay? Alright. [ Laughing ] Okay you can’t watch the
whole story sorry [laughing]. Sorry, I don’t want you to fall
asleep, but it is a cute story. And I have the link if
you really want to see it. [ Laughing ] So you saw that the man there
he had set up the space, he set up the city
with the towers. You can see all the people
walking around in this kingdom. We can see the fence, the
wall, the beautiful girl with her wavy hair and
her fluttering eyelashes and her cute rosy cheeks. You saw all that and
everything was a visual. And he wasn’t, you saw the
signing really he each had girl in space, he showed the
people, and the kingdom, but most everything
was visually described. So now this is a poem. This is an ASL poem. It’s very short and we’ll
watch the whole thing. Now this man uses, he uses
repetition in the poem, rhyming. And rhyming in ASL you
use the same handshake over and over again. You can’t just use anything,
so you have to use the shape, like this is the five handshake
and this is the one handshake. So, and that tends to happen
in almost all ASL poems. Sorry there isn’t
captioning on this one, but really you don’t need it. So just look at the title, the two faced friend,
you can get an idea. You’ll be able to understand
without the subtitles. [ Laughing ] Okay, so you saw the five
handshake and the one handshake? Except for that one time when
he was a little mischievous and he did that. But that you know
is [Inaudible]. So that’s an example
of ASL literature, as far as playing
with the language. And deaf students do
this all the time. They do storytelling. It’s been a tradition in telling
children stories, poetry, and using the handshakes in
the language and composing. So now I’m going to show
you two English texts. One is a story and
one is a poem. Now when you read it, this
is your first language. Most of you English is
your first language. So when you read it, I want
you to think in the back of your mind how
is it different? How is it the same
from what you just saw in the signed representation
of it? And what a different
process it is for you, okay? Alright. Here’s just
a short snippet of this story, just a part. Okay. Most of you finished? Done? Alright. I started to see
people look around and I realized you were
done, probably done so. So this is a very descriptive,
very visual part of the story. You can see the house
on the highland right? You can visualize that you know. You don’t picture this pretty
cute little beach house, right? You’re kind of a
little bit intimidated and have trepidation about it. So now I’m going
to show you a poem. This is from The Raven by Poe. It’s the first section
only, stanza. You’ve read it before
I’m sure, right? Okay. Now that you’ve
finished reading that, and you’ve seen the poem and the
story in English, now I want you to think about how
it’s different compared to what you just saw
in the ASL literature. Compare it, think about the
techniques that you can compare as far as the visual
language compared to an auditory language. Because many of you
hear the words in your head while
you’re reading.>>Mm-hmm. And the spatial, compared
to a spatial language and this it’s very flat. It’s just on the page. And English words are
in English word owner. So this passage describes every
time there’s a new word you know there’s a new picture
in your head, right? You see the house and then
you go like oh it’s dark. So then your picture
changes in your head as you process the words and
the word order through time. But in ASL, it’s a
spatial language, so everything is going
on at the same time. You would see the tower
and you’d see the window and the girl coming
in the window. So, and there’s layers
within the language, and it’s already moving. The characters are
interacting with each other. You see the poem, you
saw the gentleman move. He did a body shift and
he waved back and forth, no and the characters
were talking back and forth to each other. So sign becomes where every,
all the characters are involved, the personification of
the characters in ASL. So you role play each character and you see the facial
expression and you see them move,
and you know the tone for each character. In comparison to
this, in English, we have to pick the words
and connect it to the meaning and figure out the
tone, and then put it into a big picture in your head. So this is two-dimensional
and ASL is three-dimensional. So, the English is static and
the ASL is a dynamic language. And so most deaf students,
well many deaf students, tend to use sign language
and they’re very visual and they’re used to that. And all their information
comes through their eyes. And then when they
go into school, they’re given these words,
this flat English on a page, and there’s no movement, there’s
no expression, and they read it, and it’s a different process
to pick out those words, connect it to a meaning
and then make a picture in your head compared to
something that is already there in 3-D, and then being able to
understand that in their head. It’s a different kind
of reading so to speak. So deaf students see the English
and they think what can I do with this versus seeing
the story in sign language. So with all of that said,
let’s talk about translations. Now there have been in
the last 10 years or so, there’s been awesome
technology with YouTube, technology within
the cameras, iPhones, flip cameras, iPads,
you name it. A lot of people are making
videos of books for little kids in sign language,
which is great. Very popular thing to do
right now, which is fantastic. But for middle school and
high school aged students, there’s virtually nothing
available and I have searched and scoured the Internet
just to find maybe a few. So and they’re not available
for teachers to use, yet. So what I’m doing
for my dissertation and research right now, one
is developing translations of some stories and poems. I cannot do Shakespeare
yet [laughing]. I don’t have the
time and funding to do that huge of a play. But short stories, poetry I’m
translating those into ASL, and then I’m taking
them to a deaf classroom and see how teachers use
them, see how students react and absorb that information. I’ve interviewed the students about their attitude
towards readings, toward written English before and after they experience
that translation. That’s what I’m doing. And I just spent the last
five months doing that, gathering that data,
interviewing the students. So I will show you a
couple translations if you would like to see. I mean you don’t have
to, but I’ll show you. So you just read The
Raven, the first part, so I will show you the
translation that I did for that. Fair warning. It’s a work in progress. All the translations
are a work in progress. So ASL, I’m trying to mimic
the rhyming through repetition of the same sign, so it
will be the same handshake over and over again. And you’ll see these hands
just like this a lot. And you’ll see this
shake as well a lot, and I use that to try to mimic
the rhyming within the poem. Start with the introduction. I have to set up the main
signs and certain symbols with the story, so
I explain that here. Now the poem. Again, can’t watch it
all the way through, but I hope you’ll notice
some of the rhyming within there and repetition. It’s a challenge to translate
poetry, because rhyming in one language is never
the same in another. Now Emily Dickinson, that’s
a whole different flavor of poetry. I will show you three
short poems there. There’s no rhyming within this. There’s not a lot of rhyming
in her poetry anyways. It’s slanted rhyming, so kind
of rhyming but not really. You probably all notice
that more clearly in this. Okay, so that’s Emily Dickinson. It’s a different type of poetry. You can see the difference between the rhyming
poetry and hers. The last one is brief. It’s a short story
from O. Henry. You only see the
first few minutes. I cannot show you
the whole thing. It’s 25 minutes, so. Okay. So those were short story
translations that I have done. On this project, the goal
of it is to have access to the literature, because
translation is nothing new. Translation, French,
Italian, Spanish, into English and then English into those
languages that’s nothing new. I mean read the Brothers
Karamazov in, it’s Russian, obviously I do not
know Russian language, but I read the English
translation of it, and most of you have
read that as well. It happens, quite common,
there’s a lot of translations between many languages, but with
ASL, that hasn’t happened yet. This project will be
one way to validate ASL as an equal language, because it
is deep enough and rich enough to handle translations. You can do this. And also to validate
deaf students as well. The language that they use every
day and provide them access and ways that they’re used to,
ways that they already know and use their language. And also I’m not suggesting that
we should take a short story and translate and
put it in English, put it in an English class
and replace the text and throw out the English itself. No, just use the ASL as a bridge to help the students practice
different reading skills, different analytical skills,
work on their language, and use the language that
they prefer and bridge them over to eventually read
in English themselves, because it is crucial. They need to learn English to be in this culture and
be in this world. So use it as a bridge
to access the language, not to replace, alright. So right now, the research
question is ongoing, how do students’ attitude
change towards English? Does it change? Are they more motivated to
engage with stories and engage with the text if they have
the translation available? Because there’s a
lot of research that education is based on,
students’ motivation to read, and how to boost their
reading motivation. Motivation is a huge factor
in reading for students. If we can help the students
become more engaged, then they’ll maybe more want to read English and
read more books. So it’s all about access. So the question people
often ask me, so what is the point
of the translation? You already have
the text in English. If they were born here,
they grew up here, they should be able to read it. Duh. But that’s isn’t the case. The text is there, yes. But they do not have
access to it at all. That is the problem. So the translations in the
project that I’m working on hopefully will be a beginning
step of a new thing to come in the future of new ways to
provide access to something that they’ve never
had access to before. So that’s all that
I have for today. I’m open to questions,
comments, if I wasn’t clear about something and
you want to know about something,
feel free to ask. Yes, in the back.>>It’s a wonderful project. I’m really in awe. I wanted to say that and
you probably know this, that most English
speaking people who are not deaf don’t
realize this at all. They have no idea. I didn’t realize it myself
until fairly recently when I read Andrew Solomon’s
“Far From The Tree” on deafness that this is a completely
different thing. I think most people and I’m sure
you know you already know this as I said, think it’s just
a word for word translation of the English language. So I think there’s a lot
of education that has to reach the general
public you know to kind of carry this along. Thank you.>>Yes, it is a challenge. It’s a challenge for
hearing people too, because they have no
idea if it’s right. You know and it’s
not their fault. We’re not blaming them. You know you assume that
everyone’s the same. That they have the
same experience as we go through school. You know oh give them hearing
aids and an interpreter, we’ve given them support
services, they should be fine. But it’s a lot more than that. It has a lot to do
with access to language and how they perceive the world. Because that gives
experience everything certainly that they do. I was explaining to
someone, I was speaking about how we can experience
the exactly same the same thing as my brothers and sister, but my experience
is totally different because I’m deaf
and they’re not. So for example, recently
I had a family thing. My family we all came together
and for them it was fantastic. They talked with aunts and
uncles, and all of that, but because my uncles and aunts
and cousins all live far away, I don’t see them often and I didn’t see them
often growing up. So they’re not as good at
signing as my immediate family. So for me, those get
togethers are boring because it’s only people
that I can really talk with and that’s easy for me
is my immediate family. But those distant relatives
you know we write notes back and forth and gesture
and things, but it is a very
different experience for me. But it’s the same experience,
the same family reunion, we grew up together, we
experienced the same experiences but my perspective
is totally different. So family reunions,
they’re like oh it’s Dawn, I’m so excited, and I’m like uh. [ Laughing ] So and I love my family a lot. I do, I enjoy them. I enjoy get togethers. They’re wonderful people. But after about an
hour, I’m done. So. Yeah, it’s a different,
it’s the same experience but different perspective. And I also I talked with some
other people about this before. Many words and that if I
don’t know what they mean when I saw them for the
first time, I had no idea. But everybody else knew what
they meant and I was like oh, try it, but it’s maybe
words people would say, but they wouldn’t write. One word was frankly. Frankly. Somebody, it’s
not in print much, right? So I have never ever read it. And then I saw it in a movie and
I was like what is that word? Something to do with the
name Frank [laughing]. So I was so confused. But you hear that within you
know conversations out and about and same with the
names of people. I’m really bad with
remembering names anyway. So, but I don’t I
have the benefit of hearing someone calling
you know, calling someone. Bob, you know, Bob, someone will
say Bob and I’ll turn around and then I’ll know that’s Bob. And they can pick up
people’s names just by someone’s calling out Bob. So that oh that blonde guy over
there, you know that’s Bob. But me, that goes
straight over my head. I don’t have that exposure. So I meet Bob once,
I forget his name, and then I have to [Inaudible]. [ Laughing ] Who is that guy? Okay, Bob yeah. I got Bob. So you have the benefit of
information that’s coming into you all the
time, all the time, and I am constantly searching
out information myself. So it’s a very different
experience. Yeah. Yes.>>I wondered have you ever
noticed the difference in humor in your research of
young deaf students. I read an article about students
with learning disabilities and about the age 12 when
the general population moves into more sophisticated
humor, that students with learning disabilities
have a hard time with that. And I linked it to, yes I
see that among deaf students. I had a party and
invited a bunch of high school deaf students
and they each had a joke to tell around the circle, and I
don’t know, 10, 12 people. And everybody laughed. All the jokes were connected to
deafness and years later here at the university the students
came to visit from time to time. Everyone said they didn’t
get any of the jokes, even their own personal
joke that they told. And I was shocked by this.>>Yes, yes, it’s definitely
different in related to humor. It’s definitely related
to culture, because ASL has its own
language and culture, and so sarcasm does
not translate well. They’re very blunt. Deaf people say it
as it is period. But describing part, to
describe part of the culture, they would say oh that woman’s
a little bit large, you know. And so the very first kid, the
deaf person would sign this and you don’t mean to be rude,
they don’t mean to be rude, that’s now they describe
a person. That’s what they look like. You know they just
say it as it is. It’s not to be sarcastic. So sarcasm really
doesn’t translate well into the deaf culture. So, and sorry, we don’t really
make fun of you hearing people or anything [laughing]. I just wanted you to know that
we do have a lot of you know, we do have some things where
we make fun of hearing people. [ Laughing ] Do you want one? Do you want a joke
about hearing people?>>Yeah.>>Yeah?>>Yeah.>>Yes? Yes, okay. All right. Okay, okay this is kind
of a classic [laughing]. Okay, I have to try to
think about it, which one. Okay. There’s two poker players, one
is deaf and one is hearing, and they work together in
the same office, big office. They don’t work together,
but they know each other. And so the person signs you know
the hearing people doesn’t know what they’re saying, so then
one day the hearing person’s car broke down at work,
the car broke down. And so they couldn’t get home
and they have a long commute, so oh what I do, what I do? And the deaf person said
oh come on, you know, come with me I’ll drive you. So you know we live
the same way, so fine. So they get in the car and
the deaf person is driving on the freeway and
everything, and then can see that it’s going 80, 75, 85, 90, you know so I’m going
[laughing]. And the hearing person is like,
hey ah you know look at that. And the deaf person says
oh it’s fine, it’s fine, and the hearing person
is like oh okay. Alright you’re going
to get pulled over. I know you’re going
to get pulled over. So, and sure enough, they
get pulled over [laughing]. And the hearing person said, oh
my god I don’t know how to sign. How are you going
to communicate? What are we going to do? They’re going to blame me. Oh my god. What do we do? They’re stressing out and
the deaf person is like oh, shh you just sit right there. Calm down. Calm down. And the policeman comes
up, knocks on the door, deaf person rolls
the window down, yes? The police says, you know boo,
boo, boo, boo, boo [laughing]. Oh and the deaf person points
at their ear and says, you know. Oh and the policeman [laughing]. Doesn’t know what to do. Slow. [ Laughing ] And the police walks
away and leaves. No ticket, nothing. The hearing person is
flabbergasted, what? Okay. So then they keep
going on the drive home and again you know the
deaf person’s 85, 90, you know lead foot, and
again they get pulled over. The same thing happened. Police stop, they
don’t know what to do. They wave, no ticket,
they get excused. After the second stop, the
deaf person says you know, I’m tired, do you mind driving? And the hearing person
said, oh sure, fine. So they switch and the deaf
person puts his seatbelt on, he goes to sleep. And the hearing person is
driving, and driving, hmm, okay. So he puts the pedal to
the metal [laughing]. And he starts going 85, 90, and so then the motorcycle cop
comes over, pulls them over, and the deaf person
is still sleeping so the hearing person
is like I got this. I know what to do. Oh, hello. Yep, roll my window down. Points at, the hearing
person points at their ear and the cop looks inside and the
cop starts signing [laughing]. You would know how to sign. And the hearing person. So [laughing]. You know kind of making
fun of hearing person who don’t know anything. [ Laughing ] Alright, I thought I
saw another hand go up. Is there anyone else?>>Oh I have something. So the students that you’ve
worked with before we came to the program and when they
graduated from high school, what kind of careers
did they choose? I mean since language would
always be a barrier for them? What opportunities?>>Yes. Well it’s very varied. There’s you know no one
deaf student is the same. They all have various
interests and goals. Some students are fascinated
working with their hands. So some become mechanics, they work in construction,
carpentry, welding. There’s a lot of
skilled welders, and they make more
money than I do. Then I will ever make, because
they’re so skilled in welding and so many do that
kind of work and a lot of deaf men are really
attracted to that type of work, working with their hands. And some of the students that have higher
linguistic skills and, maybe go into Deaf ED, they
become teachers of the deaf. And some others really
just varies. Some our culinary arts, in
the culinary arts is popular, and also cosmetology, social
work, so really it does vary. It’s all over the map. I do know one student that
become a firefighter and works for that, but it’s really sad
because many students who go into cosmetology school, really
they’re very skilled at doing and doing the hand part,
but it’s the chemistry part as far as having to read. You know there’s a lot
more chemistry involved than you think in
beauty school, you know. And that causes them to
fail and they drop out. Some are involved in
restaurant work, retail. But a lot of them go,
you know it’s limited because of their
level of English. So some maybe they work
in factory type jobs. If they have okay English,
passable I would say, they can have different
type of careers, but really it depends
on the student. Really it breaks my heart
when I see a student who wants something, but
they don’t have the reading and the writing skills to get
that, to get themselves there. You know they have the hands
on physical skills to do a job and it really happens a lot. It’s very unfortunate. Many students you know they
have very successful careers, maybe not the career they want, but they do have
successful careers along many different avenues.>>Mm-hmm.>>One of the things that
struck me was how much, how much more accessible
your work is making poetry and books to students. But I wondered are resources
being made available for novels and for poetry and short stories
to be turned into the types of work that you’re doing, either from publishers
or in education?>>That’s something
I’m trying to work and figure out right now. I was just discussing with someone how can I
publish an ASL translation, you know it’s not a book. That’s obviously
not going to work. So really trying to figure
out you know maybe in a pdf or a YouTube, in relation with
YouTube, working with E-readers. So those kinds of things, working with how we
can best do that. But really, I wanted to make
it as accessible possible. I want it there for the
general public, for teachers, for students to be able to
use because back in the day, some of the translation
problems was with VHS. And that costs a lot of money. And DVDs cost money, so
many schools are either, their budgets are limited
so they can’t afford that. So the best would make it all
digital and that can be sent to as many places as possible. There’s one deaf school in
Georgia and they’re kind of on the same page as me,
they’re starting to work on some translations themselves. Yeah, they had a grant
so that will be free, which is fantastic, you know
and I’ve been able to use some of their resources which
has been wonderful. But I want to sell it
as educational material that is going to be difficult. I still have to figure
out how to do that to make it fair
everyone you know, but not make too costly
and it’s, the importance is to make it as accessible as
possible and cheap as possible, and we have the technology now
with the Internet everything that we can get it out. It’s a lot faster than
we could 15 years ago. Before we had VHS or
DVDs, so something in the process trying
to figure that out. It’s so new, no one
really knows. So we don’t have
a game plan yet. So doing the translations I’m
hoping that we figure out a way to do it and provide it. Other questions? Nothing. Okay, thank you
for coming and suffering through an hour of my. [Applause]>>Before everyone goes,
I want to thank you again. And we got a little gift. And before everybody
goes, please take food. There’s baggies. So don’t go home empty handed. Please come and see
us next month when Lloyd Sheldon
will be speaking and then make sure
again mark down Friday, October 17 for an
all-day conference. So great.>>Nice to see you. Enjoy the rest of the summer.

4 Replies to “Making Literature Accessible for Deaf Students: Ruth Anna Spooner

  1. This IS and was so informative! This is where my heart is in educating our Deaf and Hard of Hearing students, to expand their knowledge of literature, raise their expectations of what they ARE capable of reading and responding to. Thanks you Ruth Anna Spooner – I'm following your work! Kudos!

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