ASL/Deaf Awareness Quiz: discussion

On the first (or second) day of every ASL 101/111 class at a post-secondary institution, my ASL students take Signing Naturally's ASL/Deaf Awareness Quiz. No grade, just for fun.

There are different ways of presenting the quiz. One is to hand out copies of the quiz for the students to fill out. Another way, saving the trees, is to present a powerpoint on the projection screen and have the students write down their multiple choice answers on their blank papers. Then we go through each of the questions and discuss the answers.

In a closing note, I explained, "The majority of you come into your first ASL class with some misconceptions about our language, culture, and people. After this quiz discussion, this is only a scratch of the whole thing that there is much more to learn and understand in the coming months and years. By the end of ASL 112 (level 100) or 212 (level 200) if you go further, you might look back and probably think, 'gosh, I was so ignorant back then, thinking I knew pretty much back then.' You will observe some ignorance in the hearing world from here."

At the end of the first class, I asked the students to write their reflection paper about the awareness quiz. Here are some handpicked and/or blended excerpts from some students.

Reflections on the awareness quiz

One of the most common responses is "I'm surprised...", "to my surprise...", and so on. Many were surprised by their answers to be incorrect. "A few of the answers to the questions were shocking, as well as interesting." "...very interesting and informative."

"I had a wall of ignorance." "I realized that there is an immense amount of ignorance. ... It was satisfying getting an answer right in the quiz from previously watching a show 'Switched at Birth'." "Taking the quiz made me realize just how little I actually knew about the deaf community."

"... feel privileged to be given the opportunity to increase my awareness of both the culture and language of ASL."

Reflections on the language

"One of the most shocking facts that I learn about ASL is that sign language is not universal." "I simply viewed sign language as a form of commmunication. However, it is much more than that." "Another surprising thing is that ASL is most closely related to French SL. ... never thought that different countries would have their own sign languages."

"coming across some readings and videos of signed poetry have made me more driven to learn how to sign. ... the idea of incorporating other languages into my writing is important because I really love the fluidity of languages and the way sometimes the overlap for multilingual people."

"Being a linguistics major, I have come across ASL in a number of my classes. ... However, getting only nine of the fifteen questions correct lead me to realize that my understanding ASL is far from complete."

Reflections on communication

"One of the biggest misconceptions that I had is that lipreading is an effective way to communicate."

"...I do find English to be very indirect form of communication... I really appreciate direct communication, so I'm excited to see the way other languages, specifically ASL at this time, nagivate that."

Reflections on the culture

"... interesting that the deaf community valuding collectivism over individualism..."

"Possessing a linguistic understanding of a language is only a smal part of the full picture. There are a number of other social, cultural, political, and historical factors to be as well... Since language is so closely tied to culture..."

More to add later.


Lyn Wily wrote in response to "You take your first ASL class and learn many contradictions to what you thought you knew." She wrote, "That is such the truth for all new students of ASL. And it's wonderful you tell them that (early on) because that way they will realize that what they are experiencing in that respect is normal, predictable and OKAY." (June 2015)