Quantity of Communication vs. Quality of Communication


One of the considrations, which are invoked in Oral vs. Sign arguments, is the quantity vs. quality issue. Here in quantity I mean the percentage of people from the general population, with whom the deaf person will be able to communicate.

In quality I mean the "depth" of conversation possible using the various communication methods.

Different Levels of Communication

  1. Survival level - emergencies, finding directions on street, ordering food in the restaurant.

    Oral skills, no matter how weak are they, can help in making this kind of communication. However, in such situations, paper and pencil can easily be used to accomplish one's survival level communication goals.

  2. Group conversations.

    Even for some HOH people, oral skills are insufficient for this kind of communication - because lipreading ability alone is usually insufficient to follow group conversations without lots of cooperation and help from the hearing participants. HOH people sometimes have difficulties due to the noise in such conversations.

  3. Ability to lurk (i.e. follow a conversation without the participants having to help the deaf person) - a bit more demanding than group conversations in which the deaf person actually participates.

  4. Intimate talk - needs easy and freeflowing communication to happen. Several normally hearing people don't have this ability. Several hearing impaired people don't have intimate talks and do not feel they miss it. However, those, who need intimate talks, need either excellent oral skills or fluency in Sign (or both) so that they'll not feel deprived.

Mark 'Deffman' Drolsbaugh's experience with quality of communication

(The following article was written at 11 Nov 1995.)

Intimate talks/discussion are a very important but often overlooked aspect of our lives. Sign language, in my opinion, greatly increases a deaf person's chances of being involved in more intimate, deeper relationships which provide spiritual growth, a sense of security and happiness.

There are three people in the hearing world (prior to my discovering the Deaf world) with whom I was able to have deep, intimate conversations with: my best friend in high school, and two ex-girlfriends. All 3 are hearing, and, you guessed it, all 3 of them sign. They made the hearing world so much more bearable for me. Their support meant everything.

After going to Gallaudet in '89, the list has greatly increased. There are many Deaf people (and hearing coworkers who sign) with whom I am very close to and able to talk about anything (on any level) with. The love and support from them (geez I'm getting too mushy here) gave me spiritual strength.

On top of all that, there have been situations in the Deaf world where a GROUP has had very intimate, spontaneous discussion in which deep issues would pop up out of nowhere. I'm sure many of us have had experiences with close friends where in a group situation, we all "clicked" and wound up saying things that made everyone go "whoa, thats deep."

You can't take those spontaneous moments and say "hold it, everyone say that all over again slowly for the deaf guy." They just HAPPEN, and youre either fully involved in it or not. Its a spiritual aspect which is overlooked but essential to all of us. I seldom experienced that aspect in the hearing world, and when I did, it was with individuals. With groups, I would be lost, staring out the window, smiling like an idiot who wanted to give the impression he was enjoying himself... you get the idea.

Yes, I needed speech to be able to communicate with 99.9% of the general population. But it was that other .1%, sign language, which enabled me to learn about myself and to relate to others on a much deeper level (actually in my world, its more like 60%-40%, not 99.9%-0.1%; I'm just playing along with the numbers given in the posting which prompted me to write this article). To me, that big 99.9% is one big ugly rock which doesnt do much for me... and that .1% is a finely cut diamond which has all the value and beauty in the world. I think we all deserve to have that .1%.

The following is up-to-date as of 2007 Nov 21.

Last update date: 
1997 Apr 30