Fostering the Development of ESL/ASL Bilinguals


  • Charlotte J. Evans
  • Kelvin L. Seifert



This article provides a bilingual perspective about literacy development in deaf students and uses the bilingual perspective to recommend effective teaching strategies for this group of students with special needs. In the case of deaf students, however, the bilingualism is not between two oral languages, but between American Sign Language (ASU and written English. The analogy of Deaf education to bilingual education is imperfect, as the article shows, but nonetheless helpful in suggesting educational strategies. One difference from classic bilingual education is the difference in mode of the two languages, with ASL using a haptic mode (signing) and written English using a visual mode. Another difference is the nontraditional nature of Deaf communities. Although ASL communities certainly have histories and traditions, Deaf individuals rarely learn these from family ties or immersion in a kinship-based culture that "speaks" ASL. Despite these differences in language mode and cultural transmission, teaching deaf students benefits from many strategies usually associated with the teaching of second languages, including fostering motivation, developing self concepts, understanding language development, knowing elements of a student's first language, allowing judicious translation,focusing on comprehension rather than syntax, and incorporating cultural values and native speakers-signers as role models.




How to Cite

Evans, C. J., & Seifert, K. L. (2000). Fostering the Development of ESL/ASL Bilinguals. TESL Canada Journal, 18(1), 01–16.