The Sound of Silence: a Deaf perspective

Hearing people tend to view Deaf people as silent and their language as silent. Silence typically is associated with sound. Traditionally, sounds used to be "owned" by hearing people who made a definition of sounds (e.g. noises, burps, etc.). This post deconstructs and redefines the concept of sound and silence.

This is the signature of the performance piece excerpted from the ASL poetry performance "Deconstruct W.O.R.D." (2010) by Jolanta Lapiak.

Hearing people in general view sound as non-visual, non-tactile -- something that is required by ear. On the other hand, Deaf people see sound as a vibrational form that ear is not required. Both hearing and deaf sense sound/vibration in their own mulitsensory ways.

The Sound of Silence: A Zen Parable

Enjoy the video art of the Zen koan "Sounds of Silence" (2005). This video challenges a preconception by telling that signing is speaking as in a non-written form.

English translation

The four monks agreed to meditate silently without talking for two weeks. On the first night, they all meditated in silence. The candle flame began to flicker before it went out.

The first monk said, "Uh oh, no! Hey, the candle went out." The second monk said, "Well, aren't we supposed not to talk?" The fourth monk laughed, "Ha! I'm the only one who didn't speak." Oops! Do it again?


"People sometimes don't practice what they preach."

"A promise, commitment, rule or even silence itself is sometimes difficult to keep."

"Listening is a virtue, and distraction is a challenge."


"This short clip was most enjoyable for me; and I wanted it to continue. It reminded me of a Charlie Chaplin silent movie, not requiring audio, rather taking in the quality of the message and eliciting among viewers a range of feelings." -- Teresa Fleming, 2005.

New to sign language? "Where do I start?" or "How do I start learning sign language?" This ASL Rookie guide lists some selected links to the tutorials for ASL beginners to get started and keep rolling. It may be a useful review for intermediate-level learners and ASL students as well.

Some tutorial pages are a mix of free and premium versions. Access to premium content and links below are available in the PatronPlus subscription. More links/posts will be added from time to time.

Expressing needs and wants

  1. Making commands or requests

Talking about activities

  1. Frequency of time: how often?

Are you able to carry everyday conversations in ASL? Are you a student in the intermediate levels and beyond, who wishes to boost up your signing skills? You've come to the selected tutorial series. (Some premium content are available to PatronPlus membership.)

Stories, poems, performance arts, etc. in sign language.

This documentation project follows a child's language acquisition, literacy development, and phonological acquisition in sign language, specifically ASL, from newborn to age five in a natural native-ASL environment and visual culture.