Category Archives: Language

Saving Languages…Why We Should Care

“Tell me, why should we care?” he asks. It’s a question I can expect whenever I do a lecture about the looming extinction of most of the world’s 6,000 languages, a great many of which are spoken by small groups of indigenous people. For some reason the question is almost always posed by a man seated in a row somewhere near the back.” J. McWhorter, NYT

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post with Answer Key

Pormpuraaw, a small Aboriginal communityin northern Australia. Credit-J. Joyner

Pormpuraaw, a small Aboriginal communityin northern Australia. Credit-J. Joyner

Excerpt: Why Save a Language? By John McWhorter, The New York Times

“Asked to elaborate, he says that if indigenous people want to give up their ancestral language to join the modern world, why should we consider it a tragedy? Languages have always died as time has passed. What’s so special about a language?

The answer I’m supposed to give is that each language, in the way it applies words to things and in the way its grammar works, is a unique window on the world. In Russian there’s no word just for blue; you have to specify whether you mean dark or light blue. In Chinese, you don’t say next week and last week but the week below and the week above. If a language dies, a fascinating way of thinking dies along with it. I used to say something like that, but lately I have changed my answer.

Gu Hangyu, sits with his grandmother Wang Yufang, on Chongming Island near Shanghai. She speaks the Chongming dialect, but not standard Chinese. Credit- Ruth Morris

Gu Hangyu, sits with his grandmother Wang Yufang, on Chongming Island near Shanghai. She speaks the Chongming dialect, but not standard Chinese. Credit- Ruth Morris

Certainly, experiments do show that a language can have a fascinating effect on how its speakers think. Russian speakers are on average 124 milliseconds faster than English speakers at identifying when dark blue shades into light blue. A French person is a tad more likely than an Anglophone to imagine a table as having a high voice if it were a cartoon character, because the word is marked as feminine in his language. This is cool stuff. But the question is whether such infinitesimal differences, perceptible only in a laboratory, qualify as worldviews — cultural standpoints or ways of thinking that we consider important. I think the answer is no.

Yet because language is so central to being human, to have a language used only with certain other people is a powerful tool for connection and a sense of community… First, a central aspect of any culture’s existence as a coherent entity is the fact of its having its own language, regardless of what the language happens to be like. Certainly, a culture can thrive without its own language: No one would tell today’s American Indians that if they no longer spoke their ancestral language it would render them non-Indian. 

Language extinction hits close to home as well -- many Native American tongues are endangered. Credit CNN

Language extinction hits close to home as well — many Native American tongues are endangered. Credit CNN

Second, languages are scientifically interesting even if they don’t index cultural traits. They offer variety equivalent to the diversity of the world’s fauna and flora. For example, whether or not it says anything about how its speakers think, the fact that there is a language in New Guinea that uses the same word for eat, drink and smoke is remarkable in itself. Another New Guinea language is Yeli Dnye, which not only has 90 sounds to English’s 44, but also has 11 different ways to say “on” depending on whether something is horizontal, vertical, on a point, scattered, attached and more…We should foster efforts to keep as many languages spoken as possible, and to at least document what the rest of them are like.”

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post

Level: Intermediate – Advanced

Language Skills: Reading, writing,  and speaking. Vocabulary and grammar activities are included.

Time: Approximately 2 hours.

Materials: Student handouts (from this lesson) access to news article, and video clip.

Objective: Students will read and discuss the article with a focus on improving reading comprehension and learning new vocabulary. At the end of the lesson students will express their personal views on the topic through group work and writing.

Pre-reading Organizer

Directions:  Ask students to examine the title of the post and of the actual article they are about to read. Then, have them  examine the photos. Ask students to write a paragraph describing what they think this article will discuss. Have students use the pre-reading organizer to assist them in finding the main ideas from the reading.

Pre-reading Organizer By McGraw-Hill Company.

Pre-reading Organizer By McGraw-Hill Company.

II. While Reading Tasks

Word -Recognition
Directions: Students are to choose the correct word or phrases from the article. This exercise reinforces students’ attention on words that have been introduced in the reading. Have them skim the article to check their responses. Students should also find the meanings for all unknown words.

The answer I’m supposed/supposedly to give is that each lingua/language, in the way it applies/apply words to things and in the way its grammar works, is a unique/uniquely window on the world. In Russian/rushing there’s no word just for blue; you have to specific/specify whether you mean dark or light blue. In Chinese/China, you don’t say next week and last week but the week below and the week above. If a language die/dies, a fascinating/fascinates way of thinking dies along with it. I used to say something like that, but lately I have change/changed my answer.

Reading Comprehension

True /False/NA-Statements

Directions: Review the following statements from the reading.  If  a statement is true they mark it T. If the statement is  not applicable, they mark it NA. If the statement is false they  mark  it F and provide the correct answer. 

  1. Experiments show that a language can have a fascinating effect on how its speakers think.
  2. The most popular languages are from Asian cultures.
  3. German speakers are on average 124 milliseconds faster than English speakers at identifying when dark blue shades into light blue.
  4. A Spanish  person is more likely than an Anglophone to imagine a table as having a high voice if it were a cartoon character because the word is marked as feminine in his language.
  5. Hypotheticality and counterfactuality are established more by context in Chinese than in English.
  6. The article states that in 100 years only about 600 of the current 6,000 languages may be still spoken.
  7. A central aspect of any culture’s existence as a coherent entity is the fact of its having its own food.
  8. A culture cannot thrive without its own language.
  9. To have a language used only with certain other people is a powerful tool for connection and a sense of community.
  10. There is a language in New Guinea that uses the same word for eat, drink and smoke.

 Grammar Focus

Preposition Exercise

Directions: The following sentences are from the article.  For each sentence choose the correct preposition from the choices presented.

Prepositions:  in, for, of,   to, as,

First, a central aspect ___any culture’s existence___a coherent entity is the fact ___its having its own language, regardless ___what the language happens ___be like. Certainly, a culture can thrive without its own language: No one would tell today’s American Indians that if they no longer spoke their ancestral language it would render them non-Indian.

Second, languages are scientifically interesting even ___ they don’t index cultural traits. They offer variety equivalent ___ the diversity ___ the world’s fauna and flora. For example, whether or not it says anything about how its speakers think, the fact that there is a language in New Guinea that uses the same word ___ eat, drink and smoke is remarkable ___ itself.

III. Post Reading Tasks

WH-How Questions

Directions: Have students use the  WH-question format to discuss or to write the main points from the article.

Who or What is the article about?

Where does the action/event take place?

When does the action/event take place?

Why did the action/event occur?

How did the action/event occur?

Discussion/Writing Exercise

Directions: Place students in groups and have them answer the following questions. Afterwards, have the groups share their thoughts as a class. To reinforce the ideas, students can write an essay on one of the following discussion topics.

1. The following  two  statements were taken from the article. Rephrase each one, then discuss the meaning with the members of your group.

“…a central aspect of any culture’s existence as a coherent entity is the fact of its having its own language, regardless of what the language happens to be like. Certainly, a culture can thrive without its own language: No one would tell today’s American Indians that if they no longer spoke their ancestral language it would render them non-Indian.”

“…languages are scientifically interesting even if they don’t index cultural traits. They offer variety equivalent to the diversity of the world’s fauna and flora.For example, whether or not it says anything about how its speakers think, the fact that there is a language in New Guinea that uses the same word for eat, drink and smoke is remarkable in itself.”

2. Do you speak more than one language?  If yes, do you find that your thinking changes?If no, why don’t you learn another language?

3. In your opinion, should we strive to save the indigenous languages? Provide reasons to support your answers.

3-2-1-Writing

Directions: Allow students 5 minutes to write down three new ideas they’ve learned about the importance of saving aboriginal languages from the reading,  two things they did not understand in the reading, and one thing they would like to know that the article did not mention. Review the responses as a class.

ANSWER KEY

Category: Language | Tags:

What?…Que?…Quoi?…Nani?…

All “Trekkies” know that Captain Kirk and his crew from the “Starship Enterprise” never left the ship without their trusty universal translators to aid in possible communication with any and all alien life forms they might have encountered on other planets. But what was once a popular sci-fi TV series is now a reality (almost). Microsoft and a few other private inventors have created several devices that can simultaneously translate language conversations from language to another.

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post with Answer Key.

Captain Kirk and the Star Trek crew always carried their universal translators! Photo- Koldcast.tv

Excerpt: Conquering babel: Simultaneous translation by computer is getting closer   The Economist

“In“Star Trek”, a television series of the 1960s, no matter how far across the universe the Starship Enterprise travelled, any aliens it encountered would converse in fluent Californian English. It was explained that Captain Kirk and his crew wore tiny, computerised Universal Translators that could scan alien brainwaves and simultaneously convert their concepts into appropriate English words. Science fiction, of course. But the best sci-fi has a habit of presaging fact. Many believe the flip-open communicators also seen in that first “Star Trek” series inspired the design of clamshell mobile phones.

Photo- Claudio Munoz-The Economist.

And, on a more sinister note, several armies and military-equipment firms are working on high-energy laser weapons that bear a striking resemblance to phasers. How long, then, before automatic simultaneous translation becomes the norm, and all those tedious language lessons at school are declared redundant?

Not, perhaps, as long as language teachers, interpreters and others who make their living from mutual incomprehension might like.

 A series of announcements over the past few months from sources as varied as mighty Microsoft and string-and-sealing-wax private inventors suggest that workable, if not yet perfect, simultaneous-translation devices are now close at hand.

Photo- Claudio Munoz-The Economist

Over the summer, Will Powell, an inventor in London, demonstrated a system that translates both sides of a conversation between English and Spanish speakers—f they are patient, and speak slowly. Each interlocutor wears a hands-free headset linked to a mobile phone, and sports special goggles that display the translated text like subtitles in a foreign film.

In November, NTT DoCoMo, the largest mobile-phone operator in Japan, introduced a service that translates phone calls between Japanese and English, Chinese or Korean.

 Each party speaks consecutively, with the firm’s computers eavesdropping and translating his words in a matter of seconds. The result is then spoken in a man’s or woman’s voice, as appropriate.

Though the three systems are quite different, each faces the same problems. 

Photo-BBC Future.

The first challenge is to recognise and digitise speech. In the past, speech-recognition software has parsed what is being said into its constituent sounds, known as phonemes. There are around 25 of these in Mandarin, 40 in English and over 100 in some African languages… Just as important is converting what has been learned not only into foreign words (hard enough, given the ambiguities of meaning which all languages display, and the fact that some concepts are simply untranslatable), but into foreign sentences…

So even when the English words in a sentence are known for certain, computerised language services may produce stilted or humorously inaccurate translations…In the real world, people talk over one another, use slang or chat on noisy streets, all of which can foil even the best translation system. But though it may be a few more years before “Star Trek” style conversations become commonplace, universal translators still look set to beat phasers, transporter beams and warp drives in moving from science fiction into reality.” 

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post

Level: Intermediate -Advanced

Language Skills: Reading, writing, speaking and listening. Vocabulary and grammar activities are included.

Time: Approximately 2 hours.

Materials: Student handouts (from this lesson) access to news article, and video.

Objective: Students will read the article, learn new vocabulary, and improve  their reading comprehension. At the end of the lesson students will demonstrate their understanding of the material through discussions, and writing. The integrated  language skills practiced will be reading, writing, speaking and listening.

I. Pre-Reading Tasks

 Predictions

Analyzing headings and photos

Directions:  Ask students to read the title of the post, and of the actual article they are about to read. Then, have them  examine the photos. Based on these sources,  ask students to create a list of  words and  ideas  that they think might be related to this article.

 

II. While Reading Tasks

•  Vocabulary

Word Inference

Directions: Students are to infer the meanings of the words in bold taken from the article. They may use a dictionary or thesaurus for assistance. Have students write sentences using each word.

  1. Captain Kirk and his crew wore tiny, computerized Universal Translators that could scan alien brainwaves…
  2. …military-equipment firms are working on high-energy laser weapons that bear a striking resemblance to phasers.
  3. …and all those tedious language lessons at school are declared redundant.
  4. Each interlocutor wears a hands-free headset linked to a mobile phone…
  5. Each party speaks consecutively, with the firm’s computers eavesdropping and translating his words…
  6. Microsoft’s contribution is perhaps the most beguiling.
  7. In the past, speech-recognition software has parsed what is being said into its constituent sounds, known as phonemes.
  8. At the moment, the need for the headsets, cloud services and interveninglaptop means Mr Powell’s simultaneous system is still very much a prototype.
  9.  But though it may be a few more years before “Star Trek” style conversations become commonplace universal translators still look set to beat phasers…
  • Reading Comprehension

True / False

Directions:  The following statements were taken from the article.  If  a statement is true, students write (T) if  a statement is false they  write (F)  and  provide the correct answer from the article.

  1. Star Trek” was  a television series in the 1960s…
  2. Captain Kirk and his crew wore tiny, computerized Universal Translators.
  3. Will Powell was  an actor on the series in London…
  4. Each interlocutor wore a hands-free headset linked to a mobile phone, and special sports goggles.
  5. The special goggles displayed translated  ideas like subtitles in a foreign film.
  6. NTT DoCoMo, is the largest video game operator in Japan.
  7. When Rick Rashid, chief research officer at Microsoft, spoke in English at a conference in Tianjin in October, his peroration was translated live into Mandarin.
  8. According to the article, the three systems are quite different, and each faces different problems.
  9. Microsoft’s researchers claim that their deep-neural-network translator makes at least a third fewer errors than traditional systems.
  10. Recognizing speech is only the first part of translation. Just as important is converting what has been learned into foreign words and  into foreign sentences.

•  Grammar Focus

Using Adjectives to Describe Photos

Directions:  Place students in groups and have the study the photos from this lesson. Then have each group choose one or two photos and write a short description of what they see using adjectives.  Students aretoidentify the adjectives words they used.  After, have each group share their descriptions with the class.

III. Post Reading Tasks

 

• Reading Comprehension Check

WH-How Questions

Directions: Have students use the  WH-question format to discuss or to write the main points from the article.

Who or What is the article about?

Where does the action/event take place?

When does the action/event take place?

Why did the action/event occur?

How did the action/event occur?

Discussion/Writing Tasks 

Directions: Place students in groups and have them answer the following questions. After, have the groups share their thoughts as a class. To reinforce the ideas, students can write an essay on one of the discussion topics.

1. Discuss some situations where a  universal translator might  be helpful?

2. Which  groups of people would most likely use a universal translator? (E.g., old,  young, high school or college students, professional). Provide reasons to support your answers.

3. Would you buy and use a universal translator? Explain your  purpose for using one.

Review ESL Voices Modes of Essay Writing.

IV. Listening Activity   

Video ClipSpeech Recognition Breakthrough for the Spoken,Translated Word by MicrosoftResearch.

Introduction: Published on Nov 8, 2012-

“Chief Research Officer Rick Rashid demonstrates a speech recognition breakthrough via machine translation that converts his spoken English words into computer-generated Chinese language. The breakthrough is patterned after deep neural networks and significantly reduces errors in spoken as well as written translation.”

 

Pre-listening 

Listening for New Vocabulary or New Terms

Directions: Here is a list of words and phrases from the video. Have students  find the meanings before they listen to the video.  As students listen, they are to  check off the words and phrases as they hear them.

Words:interfaces, waveform, fragile, statistical, data, robust, significant, arbitrary.

While Listening Tasks

 

Note to teachersThis video begins to show subtitles at about 3:15.

True  /False statements

Directions: Review the statements with students before the watching the video.  As students listen to the video if  a statement is true they mark it if the statement is  false they  mark  it F and provide the correct answer.

  1. One  of the most natural interfaces for people is human speech.
  2. For the last 45 years computer scientists have been trying to find a  way to  understand and recognize human speech.
  3. In the late 1980s there was a major change in the way people decided to do speech recognition.
  4. This was work  being done at Carnegie Hall University.
  5. Speech recognition systems have become marginally better than they used to be.
  6. They still make a lot of mistakes.
  7. So for example in Japan when iI call my bank, I’m talking to a computer.
  8. If necessary the computer can connect me to a real person if  I have a significant issue that I  want  to discuss.
  9. I’m sure you’ve heard of Apple’s Siri product which answers complex questions.
  10. MicroSoft Connect has a robust speech interface that allows you to control the interface.

Post-Listening Tasks

Discuss why a universal translator is a good (bad) idea in general.

After listening to this video what have you learned about the universal translator?

Did  you agree with everything the speaker said?  Discuss which comments you agreed with and which ones you tended not to agree with.  Explain why.

With your group members, make up some questions that you would like to ask the speaker.

ANSWER KEY: 

V. GROUP PROJECTS

Role Play:Students can role play their assignments.  This will force a higher level of thinking skills as student have to dramatize their interpretations for the class.

Visual Creations: Students can create pictures, collages, or models, to demonstrate their understanding of a universal translator.

Comic Strips: Using the pictures from the article as a guide students can create a comic strip centered around the topic universal translators.

Helpful Sites

Here are two very useful interactive online sites that provide students with guidelines for creating their own comic strips!

Comic Creator: Read-Write-Think Educational site “The Comic Creator invites students to compose their own comic strips for a variety of contexts (prewriting, pre- and postreading activities, response to literature, and so on).”

ArtsEdge  “Weave words and pictures together in a comic strip format to convey nonfiction information.”

 

 

Science Progresses in American Sign Language Lexicon

In viewing the charts presented in this post, one can see the difficulty in learning sign language. There are many gestures and  symbols involved. These can also vary depending on the language. In the area of science, researchers are  making progress for students with visual and auditory impairments by developing signs for the science lexicon used in college classrooms and lecture halls.

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post with Answer Key.

The Shodor Education Foundation, Inc.

Excerpt: Pushing Science’s Limits in Sign Language Lexicon, By Douglas Quenqua, The New York Times

“Imagine trying to learn biology without ever using the word “organism.” Or studying to become a botanist when the only way of referring to photosynthesis is to spell the word out, letter by painstaking letter.

Sign language for the American alphabet. Photo- How stuff works.

For deaf students, this game of scientific Password has long been the daily classroom and laboratory experience. Words like “organism” and “photosynthesis” — to say nothing of more obscure and harder-to-spell terms — have no single widely accepted equivalent in sign language. This means that deaf students and their teachers and interpreters must improvise, making it that much harder for the students to excel in science and pursue careers in it.

Japanese Sign language. Photo- Deafjapan.

Often times, it would involve a lot of finger-spelling and a lot of improvisation, said Matthew Schwerin, a physicist with the Food and Drug Administration who is deaf, of his years in school. For the majority of scientific terms, Mr. Schwerin and his interpreter for the day would “try to find a correct sign for the term, and if nothing was pre-existing, we would come up with a sign that was agreeable with both parties.”

Sign language for the Spanish Alphabet. Photo courtsey Xenophilia.

Now thanks to the Internet — particularly the boom in online video — resources for deaf students seeking science-related signs are easier to find and share. Crowd sourcing projects in both American Sign Language and British Sign Language are under way at several universities, enabling people who are deaf to coalesce around signs for commonly used terms.

This year, one of those resources, the Scottish Sensory Centre’s British Sign Language Glossary Project, added 116 new signs for physics and engineering terms, including signs for light-year…The signs were developed by a team of researchers at the center, a division of the University of Edinburgh in Scotland that develops learning tools for students with visual and auditory impairments. The researchers spent more than a year soliciting ideas from deaf science workers, circulating lists of potential signs and ultimately gathering for an intense weekend of final voting… Ideally, the standardization of signs will make it easier for deaf students to keep pace with their hearing classmates during lectures… The problem doesn’t end at graduation.

Sign language for the Russian alphbet. Photo- Deafblind.

In fact, it only intensifies as new discoveries add unfamiliar terms to the scientific lexicon… One general complaint about efforts to standardize signs for technical terms is the idea that, much like spoken language, sign language should be allowed to develop organically rather than be dictated from above…Since at least the 1970s, deaf scientists have tried to address the lack of uniformity by gathering common signs for scientific terms in printed manuals and on videotapes. The problem has always been getting deaf students and their interpreters to adopt them..Making sciences more accessible to the deaf is a priority not just to those with hearing problems, but also to science educators in general.” read more...

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post

Level: Intermediate -Advanced

Language Skills: Reading, writing, speaking and listening. Vocabulary and grammar activities are included.

Time: Approximately 2 hours.

Materials: Student handouts (from this lesson) access to news article, and video.

Objective:Students will read the article with a focus on improving reading comprehension and learning new vocabulary. At the end of the lesson students gain understanding about the challenges that  students with visual and auditory impairments face.  Students will demonstrate their comprehension  through discussions, video responses, and writing.

I. Pre-Reading Tasks

  •  Predictions

Analyzing headings and photos

Directions:  Ask students to read the title of the post, and of the actual article they are about to read. Then, have them  examine the photos. Based on these sources,  ask students to create a list of  words and  ideas  that they think might be related to this article.  Have students use this excellent  pre-reading organizer by Scholastic to assist them in finding the main ideas from the reading.

II. While Reading Tasks

  • Vocabulary

Word Inference

Directions: Students are to infer the meanings of the words in bold taken from the article. They may use a dictionary or thesaurus for assistance. Have the students write sentences using each word.

  1. For deaf students,… Words like organism and photosynthesis… have no single widely accepted equivalent in sign language.
  2. This means that deaf students and their teachers and interpreters must improvise…
  3. …projects in both American Sign Language and British Sign Language are under way…enabling people who are deaf to coalesce around signs for commonly used terms.
  4. The researchers spent more than a year soliciting ideas from deaf science workers…
  5. … the standardization of signs will make it easier for deaf students to keep pace with their hearing classmates…
  6. The problem doesn’t end at graduation. In fact, it only intensifies
  7. …the interpreters were not able to understand the jargon and they did not know any scientific signs…
  8. “We not only want to provide support, we want to raise aspirations, to say to people, ‘you can do this…
  9. Such elegant personifications of tricky scientific concepts leave some deaf students feeling sorry for those who rely on their ears.
  • Reading Comprehension

True / False

Directions:  The following statements were taken from the article.  If  a statement is true, students write (T) if  a statement is false they  write (F)  and  provide the correct answer from the article.

  1. Now thanks to the iphone— resources for deaf students seeking science-related signs are easier to find and share.
  2. Crowd sourcing projects in American Sign Language is under way at several universities.
  3. The Scottish Sensory Centre’s British Sign Language Glossary Project, added 116 new signs for physics and engineering terms.
  4. The researchers spent  less than a year soliciting ideas from deaf science workers.
  5. The standardization of signs will make it easier for deaf students to keep pace with their hearing classmates during lectures.
  6. According to Mr. Schwerin of the F.D.A.,  looking at one thing at a time often meant choosing between the interpreter, the blackboard/screen/material, or taking notes. It was like, pick one, and lose out on the others.”
  7. The problem ends at graduation.
  8. Since at least the 1980s, deaf scientists have tried to address the lack of uniformity by gathering common signs for scientific terms in printed manuals and on videotapes.
  9.  Making sciences more accessible to the deaf is a priority not just to those with hearing problems, but also to science educators in general.
  10. Surprisingly, some deaf students say that relying on sign language gives them an advantage over hearing students.
  • Grammar Focus

Structure and Usage

Directions: The following groups of sentences are from the article. One of the sentences in each group contains a grammatical  error. Students are to identify the sentence (1, 2, or 3 ) from each group that contains the grammatical error.

 

I.

  1. Imagine trying to learn biology without everusethe word organism.
  2. For deaf students, this game of scientific Password isn’t new.
  3. This means that deaf students and their teachers must improvise.

II.

  1. Often times, it would involve a lot of finger-spelling.
  2. Matthew Schwerin is a physicist with the FDA whose is deaf.
  3. Mr. Schwerin and his interpreter for the day would try to find a correct sign.

III.

  1. Now thanks to the Internet…resources for deaf students…are easier to find and share.
  2. Crowd sourcing projects are  in both American and British Sign Language.
  3. The signs were develop by a team of researchers at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland.

IV.

  1. Whether the Scottish Sensory Centre’s signs will take hold remainto be seen.
  2. The problem doesn’t end at graduation.
  3. In fact, it only intensifies as new discoveries add unfamiliar terms to the scientific lexicon.

 

III. Post Reading Tasks

• Reading Comprehension Check

WH-How Questions

Directions: Have students use the  WH-question format to discuss or to write the main points from the article.

Who or What is the article about?

Where does the action/event take place?

When does the action/event take place?

Why did the action/event occur?

How did the action/event occur?

  • Discussion /Writing Tasks

Directions: Place students in groups and have them answer the following questions. After, have the groups share their thoughts as a class. To reinforce the ideas, students can write an essay on one of the topics.

  1. The article states, “Making sciences more accessible to the deaf is a priority not just to those with hearing problems, but also to science educators in general.”  Explain what the importance would be to science educators.
  2. According to deaf students, “… relying on sign language gives them an advantage over hearing students.”  Explain how being deaf helps them. Provide an example from the reading.
  3. What problems do you think deaf students have in learning English as a second language?
  4. Make a list of challenges that  a deaf person might encounter in daily living? For example, hearing the doorbell, or phone ring.
  5. With your group, make a list of  other academic areas where it might be difficult for deaf students to understand and participate.  What about such areas as sports? What might be some of the challenges deaf students would have to over come? Some are mentioned in this article.
  6. Compare the different Sign Language charts above . Describe the differences and similarities that you can see between the symbols.

IV. Listening Activity   

Video Clip: American Sign Language Goes Mobile By Inside Science

Introduction: “Electrical engineers have enabled quality sign-language video chats over ordinary-speed cellphone networks.”

Pre-listening Task

Listening for New Vocabulary or New Terms

Directions: Here are some new words from the video. Have students find the meanings before they listen to the video.  As students listen, they are to check off the words as they hear them.

Words: bit, bit rate, asynchronous, bandwidth, encoder.

While Listening Tasks

True  /False statements

Directions: Review the statements with students before the watching the video.  As students listen to the video if  a statement is true they mark it if the statement is  false they  mark  it F and provide the correct answer.

According to the video:

  1. Researchers at the University of  Colorado College of Engineering have developed breakthrough software.
  2. Cell phones can  now send and receive low-bit-rate video with high-quality images.
  3. The software allows individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing to use American Sign Language for the first time over cellphone networks.
  4. According to Dr.  Riskin, “ It can be really difficult to have a three-way conversation with texting because it’s asynchronous.”
  5. In 2012, Apple introduced Facetime, which enables mobile video chats, but the bit rate is extremely high, and most cellphone networks can’t support it.
  6. Dr.  Riskin notes that their mobile unit quickly detects where the hands and face are and we have our encoder give more information to the hands and face so that they look better.
  7. Dr. Riskin also nots that they really care about the background images.
  8. The result is that Engineering and science is  making mobile communication accessible to all  deaf or hard of hearing students.

Post-Listening Tasks

Questions for Discussion

Directions:Place students in groups and have them discuss the following questions.

  1. After listening to this video what new information have you learned?
  2. Did you agree with everything the speaker said?  Discuss which comments  you agreed with and which ones you tended not to agree with.   Explain why.
  3. Create several questions that you and your group members would like to ask the speakers (or signers).

ANSWER KEY: Science and Sign Language

Group Projects

With your group members visit the following sites, explore the material, then write a paragraph describing each one. Share your findings with the class.

The Scottish Sensory Centre’s British Sign Language Glossary Project   “…With this project, the SSC aims to develop lists of subject-specific terms (called a glossary) in British Sign Language.”

 John Hopkins University Student Disability Services  “Assists the University in compliance with the provisions of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 for full-time undergraduate and graduate students in the Krieger School of Arts and Sciences and the Whiting School of Engineering.”

The Clerc Center at Gallaudet University  “The Laurent Clerc National Deaf Education Center at Gallaudet University provides information, training, and technical assistance for parents and professionals to meet the needs of children who are deaf or hard of hearing.”

Becoming Deaf:10 Things You Should Never Say to a Deaf Person “We all occasionally say things we really wish we hadn’t, especially when meeting new people.  For some reason, meeting a deaf person seems to really bring out those moments in people.  In the hopes of  helping you avoid these embarrassing moments, I’m sharing 10 things you should never say when meeting a deaf person.”

HearingLike Me  “HearingLikeMe.com is an online community for people whose lives are affected by hearing loss. We bring together people from all around the world to share stories that inspire hope in almost any hearing loss situation.”

 

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