The importance of language

The importance of language
Communication is the very basis of our existence. Without communication we cannot interact with our peers, we cannot learn language and at a very basic level we cannot even think.

“Optimum communication access by children—not just in the classroom—is critical for language competence, cognitive development, social and emotional well-being, academic competence, and ultimately, development as productive citizens.

“When communication access is denied through misinformation, minimization, neglect, stigma, or where there are financial barriers to communication access, then it is likely that children with untreated or undertreated hearing loss may eventually join the ranks of adults with untreated hearing loss, leading to lives of underperformance and broken dreams.”(1)

Language is the centre of our existence, the way we understand our world. We conceptualise all our experiences in language. The importance of being competent in your mother tongue cannot be underestimated. According to Gerrold(2) we are our language. Most of us are unaware how much language drives and defines us. Without good communication skills encapsulating our use of the language and speech, people are judged as deficient and sometimes stupid. This becomes alienating and, as we see with ethnic groups (and the Deaf Community), people withdraw from mainstream culture forming their own sub-culture when they cannot understand the mainstream language.

Opportunities in life are hampered if a person firstly does not have good language and communication skills but secondly if they do not get an education. The Deaf in the past have not had the advantage of learning. While this was due to opportunity, poor language acquisition did not help. According to one recruitment agency in the UK(5) 12% fewer deaf people are in paid employment when compared with the national work force. RNID represents the 9million UK deaf and hard of hearing and they said these were the issues facing deaf people at work.
• 53% reported they couldn’t get work because of the attitude of the employer
• 51% said they were ‘held back’ and deaf people have restricted career prospects
• 34% felt there job did not require them to use their qualifications
• 55% felt isolated at work
• 24% found communication with colleagues difficult
• 75% felt if deaf awareness among staff was made their jobs would improve
• 43% of employers did not provide any training

Deaf and hard of hearing generally earn less than equally educated, qualified and skilled hearing workers. The USA National Association for the Deaf(3) reports that deaf and hearing impaired workers are second last on the pay scale just above those for mentally retarded people. A recent article in a local newspaper in Adelaide South Australia(4) reports that deaf workers earn on average $12,000 less than their hearing peers who wear hearing aids.

When you cannot hear it is much harder to acquire an aural language and this is why many in the Deaf Community have sought to develop foster their own sign language. However, we all live in a hearing world and unless we learn our country’s mainstream language we will be denied access to reading, writing, communicating with other members of the mainstream community as well as much entertainment.

(1) Kochkin, S; Luxford, W; Northern, J; Mason, P; Tharpe, Anne Marie; Hearing Review September 2007: Are a million dependents with hearing loss being left behind? Accessed 6/8/08
(2) Singleton, Paul; 2003; Breaking the Federal Glass Walls Accessed 8/8/08
(3) Hills and Valley Messenger, Adelaide July 23, 2008 p10
(4) Gerrold, D; 2001 Worlds of Wonder ISBN:1-58297-007-6(pbk) p186-
(5) 2006; Deaf and hard of hearing people still face discrimination in the job market. Accessed 8/8/08

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