I, Too, Am a Minority Deaf Blogger (by Carl Schroeder)
This post is written by my most frequenst Guest Blogger, Carl Shroeder, who has a blog of his own at http://carl-schroeder.blogspot.com/.
I, Too, Am a Minority Deaf Blogger
by Carl Schroeder
I do consider myself a minority Deaf blogger because I was born Deaf and Dutch
in The Netherlands. Both my parents are also Deaf, and they have siblings who are also Deaf. I have Deaf sister and brother.
Gebarentaal and the Dutch language were my first language because I grew up there for the first ten years. I knew nothing about English and very little about American culture. To me, the United States was the land of Donald Duck (a favorite character in the country of my birth) and Mickey Mouse. Indians and cowboys, too! And also Hawaiians wearing little clothes and climbing up palm trees for coconuts.
These were my initial concepts of the American life. They all were changed when the U.S. President John F. Kennedy gave his directive to the American Embassy in The Netherlands to assist my parents in moving to the United States. It was the first time I began to experience language change and cultural shock. From Gebarentaal to American Sign Language and from Dutch to English was no easy feat.
My maternal grandmother was very upset about my parents decision to go to America. She warned that the English language is very difficult to learn and that many Americans have guns. We were to watch out and not to challenge any American or we would be shot. My paternal grandmother, on the other hand, was telling us about her frequent travels to the United States to visit my Deaf uncle and his family here. She was very excited about our future, and told me that I could learn to master new languagesAmerican Sign Language and the English language. She told us about Gallaudet, too. (She was a Montessori directress, okay!)
In my school, Effatha School for the Deaf where my parents met years before, I learned that we the Deaf must depend on our hearing families and friends because they had first hand information. We were taught also to appreciate our hearing neighbors because they would help us when we need them. When my parents told my sister Meriam and me to make an announcement to the school that we were to move to the United States, the entire school was upset and confused. The school principal was called in our classrooms to compare notes. They even sent a social worker to check with my father at work only to have our story confirmed. It was my first time to realize that we the Deaf did have first hand information.
My first year in the United States was quite interesting. It was completely different from where I grew up. My first American teacher at Maryland School for the Deaf, Miss Sarah Quinn, had Deaf parents and she also had a Deaf brother with cerebral palsy. Together we worked on my new languages, both ASL and English. My classmates throughout my school years were college bound, and I was very much blessed for adapting and adjusting well into the American way of living and thinking. I became Americanized.
I graduated as a class co-valedictorian with Warren Coryell (Michigan) from the Model Secondary School for the Deaf in 1971, and I graduated as a Thomas J. Watson Fellow from Gallaudet University in 1983. Having studied the Hawaiian and Hebrew languages, right now I am about to start my dissertation at the University of Hawaii. Although Ive done many good things in the United States, I am still basically Dutch. Yes, I am a minority Deaf blogger, and thank you!
[End of Carl Schroeder’s guest blog.]
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