Literature and art

Speak in ASL: candid videography

The student project Speak in ASL (2005) by Jolanta Lapiak (myself) is a hilarious candid video, depicting a compromise of communication between two worlds in which two native ASL speakers approached a hearing person in public and conversed with them in American Sign Language as if they were on Eyeth rather than on Earth.

One day in 2004, I came across a line that struck me in the book No Full Stops in India by Mark Tully. In his book, Tully noted, "It has often been said that if you want to destroy a people, first destroy its language."

Based on this quote, my video work Speak in ASL (2005) inspects colonialism and hegemony of a speech language and culture over a sign-language and its culture. The video reflects on this subject as follows:

"Whenever a hearing person talks in English to a Deaf person, some Deaf people responded that they don't hear. This behaviour indicates that Deaf respond in submission to the hearing world and/or to fit the hearing world. It evokes an unconscious lack of self-respect and identity of their culture and language.

Rather, a growing number of eyeing Ameslan people now respond in their own language Ameslan. In this way, hearing people would recognize a different language and they then typically feel being the Other or a foreigner rather than the way around.

An English-speaking person and an Ameslan-speaking person encountered a mid-point equality of human right and difference as an individual to individual.

Fiften years later, a wonderful video above is somehow politically the opposite from the earlier video. Everyone speaks a signed language to a naive Deaf person rather than the other way. This implies a positive, open-minded step toward equality and diversity.

However, one thing remains in ignorance is the inappropriate term "hearing impaired" in this video. This term is not accepted by Deaf people in North America.


Although this Speak in ASL by Jolanta Lapiak was made humorous, it's the reality for Deaf people. We communicate with hearing people all the time by pen and paper. I think Deaf people got a laugh out of the video; it made me feel good about myself. While humorous, it does reflect the lived experience of Deaf people who are put in the position of communicating with hearing people using tools of pen and paper. I noted that this video clip portrayed male characters, not female; perhaps this reflects the male dominant society. This vignette, based on humour, has been efectively done to show cultural and gender differences on a program called, "Laugh Gaps" CBC Quebec." -- Teresa Fleming, 2005.


Lapiak, Jolanta. Speak in ASL: candid video (2005). Photographs and statement at

Related posts

For more stuff like this, see Eyeth.

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.