Alberta Association of the Deaf’s Position
ASL-English bilingual education recognizes the value of both ASL and English and encourages interaction between English-using and ASL-using people in the community.
Alberta Association of the Deaf recognizes and encourages support of ASL-English bilingual education for any child, youth or adult regardless of type or degree of hearing loss. This association considers ASL proficiency and training in ASL-English bilingual instruction prerequisites for any accredited teacher of the Deaf.
What being a bilingual means
American Sign Language, Sign Language of Quebec (LSQ), English and French are among the many bona fide languages of the world. Other languages include German, Spanish, Italian, and so on. People know and use one or more of such languages. The human mind knows no boundaries; thus, it is not unusual for people, including Deaf persons, to know and use two or more languages.
English-speaking people who know and use French are considered bilinguals; likewise, ASL-using people who know and use English are considered bilinguals.
English-speaking people who have more confidence and competence with English than with French are considered English-dominant bilinguals; likewise, ASL-using people who have a greater command of ASL than English are considered ASL-dominant bilinguals.
Balanced bilinguals (Kannapel) likely have about the same confidence with both English and French or ASL and English, for example.
Advantages of being bilingual
Bilinguals of either category enjoy many advantages to being able to use either language. Being able to interact with ASL-using and English-using people is one of such advantages; having access to valuable sources of information available in either language is another.
Being able to use ASL to discuss information in printed English is definitely an advantage as is being able to write or print information in English from text originating in ASL; school-associated professionals have a responsibility to nurture this in educating Deaf children. In addition, it is both edifying and entertaining to be able to understand two languages in all their many forms such as poetry, drama, etc.
What unilinguals are and are not
English-using persons who are well trained to use one or another manual methods or codes such as Signed Exact English, and do not know another language must be considered unilinguals, and definitely not bilinguals. Bilinguals are those who know and use two different languages, regardless of whether they are balanced bilinguals or first-over-second language dominant bilinguals.
What language methods or codes are and are not
Writing, printing, speaking, lipreading, signing, fingerspelling, Morse Code, the binary code, any one or more variations of signed English, and cued speech are among many examples of methods or codes which have been created to represent English. These, by themselves, are not languages; English is.
Methods or codes rarely, if ever, adequately represent English, French, Spanish or ASL. English is much more than any combination of such methods and codes; likewise, ASL is much more than just signing and fingerspelling.
What being lingually challenged/deprived means
A person who is restricted to learning to use any one or more of the methods or codes of English may still experience being seriously language challenged, delayed, deprived or disempowered. Being restricted to one of these is like restricting a future carpenter to learning all about a hammer with very little, if any, opportunity to use it to build a house.
What bilinguals likely have
Bilinguals, including ASL-English bilinguals, likely have experience learning and trying to use several different methods and codes. Since they are not restricted to learning the prescribed methods and codes of either language, they likely become more versatile and adaptable with any of the methods or codes of both languages, as well as with either language. It is not unusual for an ASL-using Deaf person to be able to lipread or speak English, in addition to her/his being able to read and write English.
Language and intelligence
Bilingualism (e.g., ASL and English) reflects language versatility and adaptability, a reflection of remarkable human intelligence.