Did You Know?
Common questions about Deafness

Q: Isn't sign language just English with hand motions?
Many people think that “sign language” is basically a gestural form of English, but that’s wrong.  American Sign Language is a very different language with its own grammar rules and structure.  It is the primary language of Deaf people in the United States, and it's growing in popularity with hearing children every year.

Q: Do all Deaf people use American Sign Language?
A: American Sign Language (ASL) is not a universal language.  Although ASL is considered to be the native language of Deaf people in the United States, there are other signed languages (like Signed Exact English) which are taught in some schools.  Most countries have their own national signed language.

Q: Can Deaf people use telephones?
Deaf people didn’t use telephones until the 1960s.  That’s when the TTY was invented. Today there are many more ways for Deaf people to communicate with technology - through the internet, video phones, instant messaging, text messaging on cell phones, video email, video blogs, etc.

Q: When did closed captioning begin?
Closed captioning was developed in the early 80s, but even today many programs still don’t have captioning.  (Dr. Wonder’s Workshop is not only in ASL throughout, but it is also closed captioned in both English and Spanish.)

Q: Do Deaf people think in English?
You think in your primary language.  Just as hearing people “talk” to themselves by imagining the sounds of words in their heads, Deaf people talk to themselves by imagining the signs.  Some hearing people talk in their sleep.  Some Deaf people sign in their sleep.

Q: Some hearing children learn to sign as babies. Is that because sign language is easy?
Hearing children can learn to sign much earlier than they can learn to talk.  It’s not because sign language is less complicated than spoken English.  It’s because every aspect of the language is right there to be seen.  No guessing about where the tongue is placed behind the teeth to form certain words, or how the voice is used differently to make different sounds.

Q: Do all Deaf children have Deaf parents?
About 90% of deaf children grow up in hearing families.  Most of these children learn sign language in pre-school or school.  But only one out of ten hearing parents ever learn enough sign language to have meaningful conversations in the native language of their child.

Q: What make Dr. Wonder's Workshop so special?
Dr. Wonder’s Workshop is the most accessible weekly TV series ever created for children.  Every line in every episode is available in four languages: American Sign Language, spoken English, captioned English, and captioned Spanish.  Cool, huh?

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