How do people learn a language?
For most people, they learn the language their parents or caregivers speak to them. However, for the vast majority of Deaf people this is not the case. Only 2% of Deaf babies are born to Deaf parents. Most Deaf babies are born to hearing families that do not sign.
So how do deaf people learn sign language?
Deaf schools in addition to teaching academics, have been the place that many Deaf children learn language. When Deaf children go to school at the age of 5, it is when many of them are first exposed to and begin to learn sign language (their first language). However, around the world, there are many Deaf children who are not sent to Deaf schools for various reasons. This means that they are not exposed to a language that they can learn naturally. For these Deaf people, they begin socializing with other Deaf people as adolescents or even adults and begin to learn their first language late in life, if at all.
What happens if deaf person isn’t exposed to language as a child?
This means that they have matured without the ability to discuss their thoughts, ideas, and feelings with another person. It also changes the way that they learn language. Around the world, millions of Deaf people live with this experience. When shown a Bible verse in their sign language, it is hard for them to understand because they do not have the same language abilities as those who started learning a sign language as children. Rachel is taking the time to research how these individuals learn language with the hope of affecting language policy and informing translation work. This is what she will be studying at the University of California San Diego.