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Bilingualism and Bilingual Deaf Education$

Marc Marschark, Gladys Tang, and Harry Knoors

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780199371815

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: August 2014

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199371815.001.0001

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Navigating Two Languages in the Classroom

Navigating Two Languages in the Classroom

Goals, Evidence, and Outcomes

Chapter:
(p.213) 9 Navigating Two Languages in the Classroom
Source:
Bilingualism and Bilingual Deaf Education
Author(s):

Marc Marschark

ChongMin Lee

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199371815.003.0009

Abstract and Keywords

Issues associated with bilingual education and with language in deaf education more generally have a long and complex history. The research literature with regard to outcomes—both linguistic and academic—however, is limited and contradictory. This chapter examines the existing research base regarding the use of two languages—one signed and one written/spoken—in educating deaf students, whether or not that occurs in a setting formally described as a bilingual program. It also seeks to distinguish the effects on academic outcomes of deaf children having early, effective access to language as opposed to their early use of a particular language modality. Of interest will be evidence from studies that explicitly have involved bilingual programming for deaf learners (even if its definition varies), as well as those involving other sign systems and other populations. Possible implications for the future of deaf education are considered.

Keywords:   bilingual education, deaf children, deaf education, language modality, deaf learners

This chapter concerns bilingualism among deaf students in academic settings. As will become evident in this discussion, this is not meant to be synonymous with or limited to bilingual deaf education insofar as the latter is associated with a more specific meaning. But whatever mode of communication is used in an educational setting with deaf and hard-of-hearing (DHH) learners, its primary goal is the same as it is in a similar setting with hearing students: effective communication between student and teacher as well as among students. In terms of the students, both of those will have specific, long-term effects on cognitive development and social development as well as learning. In terms of the teachers, they also will have implications for classroom management and teacher-student relationships, thus feeding back into their students’ cognitive development, social development, and learning (Knoors & Marschark, 2014).

When considering DHH learners, communication in the classroom also has to take into account the fact that most of them come to the classroom not fluent in the language of instruction, whatever it is. Hard-of-hearing students, including those who are hard of hearing by virtue of using cochlear implants, may have better speech and hearing skills than their deaf peers. Nevertheless, the fact that they typically do not have the speech and hearing skills of their hearing age-mates (see Walker & Tomblin, Chapter 6 of this volume) means that they, too, will need special accommodation in the classroom if they are to reach their academic potentials (Marschark, Shaver, Nagle, & Newman, 2014).

Bilingual education is often touted as an effective strategy for addressing the academic, linguistic, and social-emotional needs of DHH students. It frequently is unclear, however, what various educators and investigators mean by bilingual deaf education in practice, and whether it is as effective as is frequently claimed. For DHH youth who primarily use sign language, there clearly are advantages to having fluency in (p.214) the written/spoken vernacular as well. The importance of the latter for reading and academic attainment is most obvious. Having sufficient spoken language to support interactions with hearing individuals for social, academic, and eventually commercial (e.g., retail interactions, employment) purposes also has advantages, even if it is not a necessity. Nevertheless, many bilingual deaf education programs marginalize spoken language in favor of the written vernacular (see Swanwick, Hendar, Dammeyer, Kristoffersen, Salter, & Simonsen, Chapter 12 of this volume; cf., Lange, Lane-Outlaw, Lange, & Sherwood, 2013).

Knoors and Marschark (2012) pointed out that universal newborn hearing screening, early intervention, digital hearing aids, and cochlear implants have led to an increasing number of deaf children growing up using spoken language. For those who cannot use spoken language or simply do not for whatever reason, sign language provides a fully appropriate—if not exactly equivalent (Marschark & Knoors, 2012)—mode of communication for personal, social, and educational purposes. Sign language also plays an important role in the lives of many deaf individuals who use spoken language but who also desire to be part of the Deaf community and/or interact with deaf individuals who sign. This chapter is not the place to consider either the evidence or the emotions associated with growing up using primarily one language modality or the other. The focus here is limited to the use of sign language and the written/spoken vernacular in the classroom and the extent to which explicit use of both influences achievement among deaf youth. Before considering the evidence with regard to academic outcomes, however, it will be worthwhile to consider several related issues associated with bilingualism, bilingual education, and bilingual deaf education.

Bilingualism and Deaf Learners: The Big View

Bilingualism for DHH children receives support from at least three quarters. One of those emphasizes the importance of a natural sign language (e.g., American Sign Language, ASL) as a potentially important part of deaf children’s identity as a member of the linguistic-cultural minority that is the Deaf community (Gregory, 1986; Padden & Humphries, 1988). Beyond recognizing the value of signed languages and the Deaf community, notice that this view represents advocacy for sign language rather than bilingualism per se. Support for DHH children’s acquiring two languages generally comes from two more practical perspectives. One is the viewpoint emphasizing the potential for deaf children’s acquiring sign language earlier than spoken language. Even if the vernacular (written if not spoken) will be needed at some point for schooling, earlier access to language provides greater opportunities for formal and informal learning as well as language, cognitive, and social development (e.g., see Marschark, 1993, Chapter 5, for (p.215) a review). The other viewpoint argues that bilingualism per se (e.g., in ASL and English) will support greater academic outcomes for DHH learners with regard to literacy (e.g., Johnson, Liddell, & Erting, 1989) as well as later personal and employment success, what is often referred to as added-value bilingual education.

The sociocultural view of the importance of bilingualism for DHH children, in what typically is referred to as bilingual-bicultural education, seems altogether fitting and proper from both psychological and humanitarian perspectives. Yet we can find no evidence that anyone has investigated the bicultural part of bilingual-bicultural education to evaluate the social-emotional effects of providing DHH children with instruction in either sign language or Deaf culture (but see Hintermair, Chapter 7 of this volume). In a survey of educational programs for DHH students in the United States that describe themselves as bilingual-bicultural programs, LaSasso and Lollis (2003) emphasized both the bicultural and reading components of program curricula. Yet, of the 19 programs they surveyed that described themselves as bilingual-bicultural, only 6 reported that they had a bicultural component in their curriculum.

Although apparently neglected, the social-emotional and social-cultural aspects of bilingual education for deaf students could turn out to be important for language acquisition and academic outcomes as well as for social functioning (see Knoors & Marschark, 2014, Chapter 7). Examinations of bilingualism in hearing children by Lambert (1977) and Cummins (1984), for example, argued that emphasis on acquiring the language of the linguistic majority can place linguistic minority children at a disadvantage in educational environments. Cummins emphasized that attempts to suppress children’s use of their first language can lead to feelings of shame and embarrassment that generalize to values and behaviors of their family’s linguistic-cultural heritage. Use of the second language (L2) and avoidance of the first language (L1), combined with the associated social-emotional responses, frequently lead to academic difficulties. He therefore argued that it is the school itself, rather than bilingualism, that leads to observed low levels of achievement for children from linguistic minorities, and he emphasized the value of instruction in the child’s first language. Of course, there are a variety of issues surrounding a deaf child’s “first language” involving both linguistic questions (e.g., whether deaf children’s L1 skills theoretically or functionally are equivalent to hearing children’s) and minority status (when the majority of deaf children’s parents are hearing). However interesting and important they are, these issues, too, are beyond the scope of this chapter (for further discussion of Cummins, see Holzinger & Fellinger, Chapter 5 of this volume; Tang, Lam, & Yiu, Chapter 13 of this volume).

With regard to deaf children, we have identified only a single published study that focused explicitly on bilingual-bicultural (p.216) programming. Andrews, Ferguson, Roberts, and Hodges (1997) reported a study involving seven children attending a bilingual-bicultural program from pre-kindergarten to first grade, all of whom were reported to be functioning at grade level when they reached first grade. The description of the “deaf culture component” of the program (p. 20), however, cited only the availability of classroom technologies (e.g., strobe fire alarms), books and posters containing sign language, and an annual pizza party for deaf children and their hearing families at which deaf adults told stories. The impact of this “deaf culture component” was not evaluated.

We will return to the need for a broader approach to research on bilingual education later. Meanwhile, we will focus on the bilingual aspects rather than the bicultural aspects of educating DHH learners and, in particular, issues associated with having two languages in the classroom. In this regard we consider academic outcomes associated with bilingual education for DHH students as they relate to factors intrinsic and extrinsic to the learner. This will include discussion of research concerning their print literacy, an essential L2 for educational purposes. Questions of whether bilingual programming has demonstrated that deaf children acquire fluency in a signed L1 is a very different matter, and one that we fear has been neglected almost as much as deaf children’s acquisition of cultural identities (but see Dammeyer, 2010).

Wherefore Art Thou, Bilingualism?

Regardless of whether one is examining specific outcomes of DHH children’s bilingualism, for example in cognitive development or print literacy, or bilingual competence per se, it is essential to distinguish bilingualism in educational settings from the use of sign language in the home. Most studies that have reported positive associations between younger DHH students’ sign language abilities and academic achievement have focused exclusively on reading, and many of those have involved deaf children of deaf parents (see following discussion). While it seems likely that linguistic and cognitive benefits to deaf children by virtue of having sign language available from birth generally would be facilitative for formal and informal learning, there are two caveats related to the research on reading achievement among those deaf children with deaf parents.

The first caveat concerns deaf parents as academic mentors/models for their deaf children. While the US National Center for Education Statistics (2003) reported that 14% of adults in the United States were functionally illiterate (typically defined as reading and writing at the fourth to fifth grade level), Qi and Mitchell (2012) documented that since 1974 at least 50% of DHH 18-year-olds have continued to score (p.217) at or below the fourth grade level on the reading comprehension subtest of the Stanford Achievement Test (SAT). Other studies have shown that this situation persists into adulthood (Albertini & Mayer, 2011; Parault & Williams, 2010). This means that many deaf parents will be less than optimal academic models and less able to assist their DHH children with homework or to read with/to them. If deaf children of deaf parents really achieve at higher levels than deaf children of hearing parents, perhaps the use of sign language in the home rather than bilingualism per se might be the key.

That brings us to the second reason for caution in interpreting academic achievement in deaf children of deaf parents as a reflection of bilingualism at home. Simply put, the causal relationship between the two has not been established. Several studies have demonstrated positive associations between early sign language fluency and reading ability (e.g., Padden & Ramsey, 2000; Strong & Prinz, 1997), whereas others have demonstrated a negative association or no relation (e.g., Holzinger & Fellinger, Chapter 5 of this volume; see also Moores & Sweet, 1990). Further, there is also a positive association between early spoken language and reading ability in deaf children (Goldin-Meadow & Mayberry, 2001; Holzinger & Fellinger, Chapter 5 of this volume; Perfetti & Sandak, 2000). It thus appears that when deaf children of deaf parents are observed to read better than expected, early access to language may be a more likely explanation than either sign language or bilingualism per se.

Mayer and Akamatsu (1999) further made the point that while a strong foundation in L1 is necessary for the transfer of skills to an L2, it is not sufficient (Holzinger & Fellinger, Chapter 5 of this volume). In particular, there is no reason to expect skills in a signed L1 to be effective in acquiring print literacy in an L2, any more than oral skills in an L1 benefit acquiring print literacy skills in an L2 (Cummins, 1991). One cannot simply acquire a sign language like ASL, skip the learning of English, and expect to be able to read English. This is not to say that “learning English” means learning to speak English. Mayer and Akamatsu, however, emphasized that whether one likes it or not, spoken language typically provides a bridge to written language that does not have a parallel in sign language. Whether or not intelligible speech is essential for that bridge (see Lichtenstein, 1998) and whether or not there are other routes that deaf learners can take to print literacy are matters we will leave to others. For the moment, we also will leave aside the issue that many, if not most, deaf children do not have a particularly “strong foundation” in their L1, whatever it is and however it is acquired. We will return to the issue later in the context of school learning. First, let us consider some of the cognitive and linguistic advantages bestowed by bilingualism and the extent to which they might benefit deaf learners’ educational attainment more generally. (p.218)

Bilingualism and Cognition

Because most contemporary treatments of bilingualism among hearing individuals are written in support of its implementation in educational settings, they typically refer to the cognitive benefits resulting from bilingual mastery. Lee (1996) and García and Náñez (2011) noted that studies from the first half of the twentieth century, in contrast, tended either to report negative relationships between bilingualism and cognition or to find no significant relation between them. In their view, those studies generally lacked experimental rigor and were influenced by an anti-immigration sociocultural perspective. More recent studies have indicated that at least among balanced bilinguals, having two languages is associated with greater verbal and nonverbal IQ scores and problem-solving skills (Náñez, Padilla, & Lopez-Máez, 1992), attention (Bialystok, 1999), executive functioning (Carlson & Meltzoff, 2008; see Bialystok & Craik, 2010), and working memory (Bialystok, Craik, Green, & Gollan, 2009).

Peal and Lambert (1962) were among the first investigators to demonstrate the cognitive benefits of bilingualism in children. In the context of French-English bilingualism in Canada, they were interested in the effects of second language learning on verbal and nonverbal intelligence. They found that bilingual fourth graders consistently scored significantly higher than monolingual peers when confounding variables were controlled. In particular, bilingual children’s visual-spatial processing and concept formation abilities led Peal and Lambert to conclude that code-switching between languages bestows on children greater mental flexibility and concept formation skills (Bialystok & Craik, 2010). Importantly perhaps, their demonstrations of bilingual advantage rather than disadvantage involved balanced bilinguals, children who were equally fluent in both French and English. Some investigators have argued that the Peal and Lambert sample thus was biased toward children with greater language and cognitive abilities. Nevertheless, studies by Barik and Swain (1975) with children in a French-English bilingual program and Diaz (1985) of children in a Spanish-English bilingual program both showed increasing nonverbal intelligence and metalinguistic awareness over time.

Balanced bilingualism among deaf children likely is harder to come by than it is among children in French-English or Spanish-English immersion programs. And, given the demonstrated cognitive differences between those two populations, as well as between them and hearing individuals (Emmorey, Borinstein, Thompson, & Gollan, 2008; Pisoni, Conway, Kronenberger, Henning, & Anaya, 2010), it is likely that at least some findings from studies involving unimodal (spoken language or sign language) bilinguals will not generalize to bimodal bilinguals (spoken language and sign language).1 However, bimodal (p.219) bilingualism—having both a signed language and a written/spoken vernacular—might be expected to carry its own advantages, particularly in the visual-spatial domain. Capirci, Cattani, Rossini, and Volterra (1998), for example, found that teaching Italian Sign Language to hearing children increased their scores on both the Corsi Blocks and the Ravens Progressive Matrices, the latter one of the nonverbal intelligence tests used by Peal and Lambert (1962). The elementary school children in the Capirci et al. study received signed language instruction only 1 hour per week for 7 months during the first year of the program and for 8 months during the second year. Subsequently they showed significantly higher scores on both visual-spatial cognitive tasks than a comparison group of children from the same classes from whom they did not differ at the beginning of the program. Together with findings indicating that some cognitive advantages of being in bilingual homes become apparent as early as 7 months of age, even before a child is producing those languages (Kovács & Mehler, 2009), it would appear that linguistic balance is not a necessary prerequisite for cognitive benefits of bilingualism. Do the languages have to be in the same modality?

Emmorey, Luk, Pyers, and Bialystok (2008) compared (all hearing) bimodal bilinguals, unimodal bilinguals, and monolinguals on a test of attentional control (flanker tasks). The unimodal bilinguals surpassed the other two groups with no apparent benefit to the bimodal bilinguals. Emmorey and colleagues argued that it is experience with the difficult task of dealing with two languages in the same modality that confers the bilingualism advantage (see also Marschark & Hauser, 2012, Chapter 6). Most research into the possible cognitive advantages of bimodal bilingualism, in contrast, has focused particularly on cross-modal language activation (see Ormel & Giezen, Chapter 4 of this volume). Such work suggests the possibility that exposure to signs and their corresponding spoken/written words leads to potential benefits in vocabulary learning. Hermans, Knoors, Ormel, and Verhoeven (2008), for example, conducted a study involving 87 deaf children, 8 to 12 years of age, enrolled in Dutch bilingual education programs where either Sign Language of the Netherlands or Sign-Supported Dutch (see later discussion) was the language of instruction. They reported that the children found it easier to learn written words when they already knew the sign for a concept (see also Andrews, 1988; Wauters, Knoors, Vervloed, & Aarnoutse, 2001). Hermans and colleagues suggested that when a word is encountered repeatedly, the link between it and the sign is strengthened by automatic activation of the latter and, over time, the need for conscious lexical lookup declines. Although the nature of this word-sign activation apparently has not been compared to word-word activation in unimodal bilinguals, it might be that different modalities reduce the possibility of bottlenecks in lexical processing. This, in turn, might help to avoid one of the cognitive disadvantages of unimodal (p.220) language bilingualism: the slower retrieval of information from long-term memory (Bialystok & Craik, 2010).

With regard to the education of DHH students, we have yet to see studies explicitly examining bilingualism and related cognitive effects in the context of academic learning or achievement (but see discussion of possible implications in Ormel & Giezen, Chapter 4 of this volume). Of particular interest in that regard would be the benefits to executive functioning (Bialystok & Craik, 2010) and metalinguistic skills (Peal & Lambert, 1962), domains in which DHH students’ weaknesses have been demonstrated to adversely affect classroom learning (Borgna, Convertino, Marschark, Morrison, & Rizzolo, 2011; Hauser, Lukomski, & Hillman, 2008; Marschark, Sapere, Convertino, Seewagen, & Maltzan, 2004) as well as reading (Banner & Wang, 2011; Kelly, Albertini, & Shannon, 2001). We therefore now turn to bilingualism in deaf education.

Bilingualism, Learning, and School

Issues associated with bilingual education for hearing students do not necessarily transfer well to discussions of bilingual deaf education. In part, this is related to unimodal versus bimodal bilingualism differences discussed earlier, but there are other potentially important differences as well. Most notably, delays in language development likely to affect DHH children’s learning begin to emerge early in life (Knoors & Marschark, 2014, Chapter 3). Although balanced bilingualism may not be a necessary component for educationally relevant advantages, most DHH children come to school lacking language fluencies (in any modality) comparable to those of hearing peers. We have noted the potential benefits of L1 abilities in the acquisition of an L2, according to Cummins’s linguistic interdependence hypothesis, but that transfer requires fluency in L1. It was precisely such issues that led to the move toward bilingual education for DHH children in several countries (Leeson & Sheikh, 2010).

Bilingualism in Scandinavian Deaf Education

Proponents of bilingual deaf education frequently point to Scandinavia, and Sweden in particular, as potential deaf education models for the rest of the world. Sweden was one of the first countries to offer “universal” bilingual education for deaf students, starting with formal recognition of Swedish Sign Language and the adoption of bilingual programming following the 1980 revision to the Curriculum for Compulsory Education (Heiling, 1998). Bilingual education became the primary approach to educating deaf students in countries such as Norway, the Netherlands, and Denmark, and one option in an array of educational placements in countries like the United States and the United Kingdom. (p.221) Swanwick, Hendar, Dammeyer, Kristoffersen, Salter, and Simonsen (Chapter 12 of this volume), however, note the decreasing popularity of bilingual education in Scandinavian countries and the United Kingdom to the point where it now is found primarily in schools for the deaf, which also are experiencing decreasing popularity. In their view, the decline of bilingualism in mainstream deaf education was partly the result of the bilingual deaf education model emphasizing sign language and writing as primary routes to language competency while de-emphasizing spoken language. As many more deaf children gained the potential to acquire spoken language, its marginalization in many deaf education settings clearly sent the wrong message to parents of deaf children, over 95% of whom are hearing. As Swanwick, Hendar, Dammeyer, Kristoffersen, Salter, and Simonsen note, “The emergence of these boundaries around language, policy, and approach seems to work against a concept of bilingual education by constraining choices and provision rather than opening up bilingual and bicultural educational environments for all” (Chapter 12 of this volume).

Swanwick, Hendar, Dammeyer, Kristoffersen, Salter, and Simonsen (Chapter 12 of this volume), Knoors and Marschark (2014), and others have pointed to the positive findings with regard to deaf children’s sense of identity and psychosocial well-being in schools and programs designed for deaf children in Scandinavia as well as the United States (e.g., Dammeyer, 2010; Stinson, Whitmire, & Kluwin, 1996). The extent to which those benefits are specifically attributable to sign bilingualism as opposed to deaf children’s being accepted in social interactions with similar peers is an empirical question that, as we have seen, remains to be explored (see Antia & Metz, Chapter 17 of this volume). The impact of bilingualism in Sweden with regard to academic performance, however, has been investigated for over 20 years.

Heiling (1998) described a group of deaf eighth graders she had studied in the late 1980s who had started receiving signed communication in preschool. She reported that “[w]‌hen the children left compulsory school, all were fluent in sign language. Some had been able to develop a relatively good oral language as well, but their interpersonal mode of communication was sign language” (p. 143). Importantly, those students had been exposed primarily to simultaneous communication (speech and sign together, see later discussion) in primary and intermediate school, and it was only in secondary school that “some teachers used sign language exclusively.” So, those students would have had only limited access to what is usually considered bilingual deaf education. That limitation notwithstanding, Heiling reported that the students demonstrated higher levels of academic achievement in terms of word knowledge, reading comprehension, and mathematics relative to a 1960s cohort that had been educated exclusively through spoken language. Heiling (1997, cited in Bagga-Gupta, 2004), however, reported (p.222) that those advantages were not found among students she tested in the early 1990s, students who would have had even more exposure to (true) bilingual education than her earlier sample. Following up on Heiling’s studies, Bagga-Gupta (2004) reported that school assessments and evaluations indicated that Swedish deaf students’ literacy skills continued to lag behind hearing peers, despite their immersion in bilingual education.

In a more recent investigation, Rydberg, Gellerstedt, and Danermark (2009) examined the educational attainments of more than 2,100 deaf individuals in Sweden, including cohorts educated before and after the initiation of bilingual education. They found that although educational attainments of deaf individuals had increased since deaf education in Sweden became bilingual, the educational attainments of hearing individuals had increased even more, so that the disparity between deaf and hearing achievements remained. Hendar (2009) reached similar conclusions in a government report, concluding that it is difficult for DHH students to achieve high levels of academic achievement, regardless of whether they are enrolled in mainstream or special schools. Overall, Hendar found that students in special schools (those more likely to receive bilingual programming) generally scored lower than their peers in mainstream settings. In a similar study of deaf education in Norway, Hendar (2012, cited in Swanwick, Hendar, Dammeyer, Kristoffersen, Salter, & Simonsen, Chapter 12 of this volume) found that significant numbers of deaf students simply were excluded from the Norwegian student evaluation system apparently in expectation of their low performance.

Bilingualism and Reading Achievement

The apparent lack of support in the research literature for bilingual deaf education in any broad sense derives in part from the relative lack of research beyond that focused on the acquisition of literacy skills, with much of the latter focused on vocabulary (e.g., Hermans, Ormel, & Knoors, 2010; Hermans, Wauters, De Klerk, & Knoors, Chapter 11 of this volume; Hermans et al., 2008; Kreimeyer, Crooke, Drye, Egbert, & Klein, 2000). This limitation is somewhat puzzling given the emphasis that commentators have placed on the potential benefits of sign language in domains like science and mathematics (e.g., Harrington, 2000; Lang, 2002; Marschark & Hauser, 2012, Chapter 4). Nevertheless, the focus on literacy is perhaps understandable given its importance for academic attainment and eventual employment, as well as the overarching concern alluded to earlier about bilingual deaf education essentially requiring deaf children to learn to read in their second language.

In their review of the literature, Mayer and Leigh (2010, p. 177) argued that “there is no data to suggest that, as a group, students in bilingual programs are achieving at the age-appropriate language (p.223) and literacy levels that were predicted when bilingual models were first implemented.” In their view, there are two primary issues that have impeded the promise of bilingual deaf education with respect to print literacy. First is the fact that acquiring print literacy as a second language requires proficiency in a first language, something we have noted that most deaf children do not have. Johnston, Leigh, and Foreman (2002) made the same point, arguing that most deaf children and their families begin acquiring sign language too late, and rarely do families and schools have the resources to appropriately immerse them in a sign language environment. Leigh and Johnston (2004) found that among children between 3 and 11 years of age enrolled in a bilingual (Auslan-English) program, only the children with deaf parents demonstrated receptive sign language skills within the normal range (cf., Knoors & Marschark, 2012).

The second impediment to deaf children’s acquisition of print literacy in their second language, according to Mayer and Leigh (2010), is the relative inadequacy of their exposure to it. Unlike immigrant children who might use their L1 at home but are surrounded by the L2 in school and community, most DHH children—including those with cochlear implants—will have limited access to the vernacular, at least relative to hearing peers. Mayer and Leigh pointed out that efforts to make the vernacular more accessible to DHH learners through speechreading, fingerspelling, cued speech, and visual phonics have had some success, but none of them has been sufficient to provide DHH students with adequate linguistic information to support age-appropriate literacy (perhaps because they are functional only at the levels of phonemes or words). For proponents of bilingual deaf education, in contrast, the demonstration of significant relations between sign language skills and various measures of reading ability frequently are taken as equivalent to demonstrations of the benefits of bilingual education.

DeLana, Gentry, and Andrews (2007, p. 74) noted that “[i]‌n the past decade the profession’s three national [US] journals . . . have published only one article . . . providing any empirical data specifically on the issue of dual language methodology.” They reviewed 16 studies, only four of which were published in peer-reviewed journals, reporting relations of varying strength between ASL skill and English literacy measures. Whether or not the locus of any of those relations can be placed in bilingual programming per se is unclear, but in all but one of those studies (some including the same children), various comparisons indicated positive associations of ASL and literacy-related measures. Possible relations of English language skills and literacy-related measures were not considered.

So how important is it that the L1 of children’s bimodal bilingualism be sign language rather than the other way around? First, it is important (p.224) to re-emphasize the difference between studies purporting to demonstrate better literacy skills among deaf children of deaf parents and those purporting to demonstrate better literacy skills among deaf children who receive bilingual education. As we already have suggested, early sign language skills may be related to reading achievement for the same reason that early spoken language skills are related to reading achievement: Children who have stronger language foundations and linguistic abilities are likely to have better reading skills. The extent to which such abilities derive from early access to effective language versus bilingual education really has not been considered. Demonstrations of simple associations between sign language skills and reading fluency among deaf children of deaf parents, however, likely are confounded.

An early study by Jensema and Trybus (1978) is frequently cited as indicating that having deaf parents leads to stronger reading comprehension. Table 21 of that report indeed showed increases in SAT reading comprehension scores from having no deaf parents, to having one deaf parent, to having two deaf parents. Interestingly, that is the only table in the entire document for which the authors did not indicate whether the differences were statistically significant. In fact, the students with two deaf parents were reported to rely primarily on sign language, while those with one deaf parent relied primarily on spoken language, and both groups scored somewhat higher in reading comprehension than the students with no deaf parents. The authors therefore concluded that “variables other than communication method are operating to give both of these groups a performance advantage over children with hearing parents” (p. 19). Further, Jensema and Trybus’s Table 19 shows a significant positive relationship between reading comprehension scores and the amount of spoken language used between parents and students and a significant negative relationship to the use of sign language from student to parent (that from parent to student was not significant). This finding supports the notion that whatever the reason that deaf children of deaf parents might show reading achievement beyond that of deaf children of hearing parents, it is not a simple consequence of the use of sign language or sign language/written language bilingualism.

Other early studies reported finding deaf students of deaf parents to be reading at higher levels than deaf students of hearing parents, but still well below grade level. Stuckless and Birch (1966) examined reading comprehension as well as other literacy- and school-related abilities in more than 100 deaf students with deaf parents as compared to more than 300 with hearing parents. The deaf students with deaf parents were found to be reading above the level of the students with hearing parents. Yet their average reading level was 4–5 years below grade level. Vernon and Koh (1970) also tested a large group of deaf students and matched smaller groups with deaf versus hearing parents (p.225) on a variety of relevant factors. Again, the deaf students with deaf parents were reading at levels beyond those with hearing parents but well below the levels of the hearing students.

Brasel and Quigley (1977) explicitly examined the influence of parental hearing status and early linguistic experience in deaf students 10 to 18 years of age with severe to profound hearing losses and minimum IQ scores of 90. The students comprised four groups, a Manual English group of students with deaf parents who had good command of English and who used English-based signing with them from infancy, an Average Manual group with deaf parents who used ASL but were not fluent in written English, and Average Oral and Intensive Oral groups, all of whom had hearing parents and used only spoken language. On both the Test of Syntactic Ability (TSA) and the reading comprehension and language subtests from the SAT, the students who signed outperformed those who used spoken language. In addition, the Intensive Oral group outperformed the Average Oral group, but the Manual English group outscored all three of the other groups.

More recently, links between sign language skill and literacy have been described in conference presentations, published proceedings, and chapters, and have been cited as manuscripts in preparation in works like Chamberlain, Morford, and Mayberry (2000). As noted by DeLana et al. (2007), however, papers in refereed publications remain rare. Strong and Prinz (1997) examined the relationship of ASL skills and English literacy (with IQ controlled) in a group of 160 deaf children with either deaf or hearing mothers, all of whom attended the same school. They found that among 8- to 11-year-old children, ASL skills were not significantly related to English literacy skills for the ones with deaf mothers, although they were for those with hearing mothers. Among 12- to 15-year-olds, skills in the two domains were significantly related for both groups. Information was not provided concerning the relationship of spoken language to literacy scores or the age at which the children with hearing mothers acquired sign language.

Padden and Ramsey (2000) reported a similar study involving 31 deaf children at two grade levels and split between a special school and a mainstream school. Overall, ASL skills were found to be significantly correlated with reading comprehension subtest scores on the SAT, a finding that held for deaf students with hearing parents as well as those with deaf parents (see Rinaldi, Caselli, Onofrio, & Volterra, Chapter 3 of this volume). Results were not reported separately for the two groups or for the two groups in the two settings. Nevertheless, together with the earlier studies, all of these findings support the conclusion that DHH children with better foundational language abilities are likely to be better readers, whether or not they have deaf parents and whether or not they are truly bilingual. The (p.226) extent to which reading ability might be differentially related to one language mode or another in bilingual children or whether bilingualism per se is the key remains to be examined.

Finally, we are aware of only two studies that explicitly reported educational outcomes of formal bilingual programming for deaf children education in the United States (but see Hermans, De Klerk, Wauters, & Knoors, Chapter 16 of this volume; Holzinger & Fellinger, Chapter 5 of this volume; Tang, Lam, & Yiu, Chapter 13 of this volume). An unpublished report by Nover, Andrews, Baker, Everhart, and Bradford (2002) summarized findings from a 5-year program emphasizing bilingual language planning in one school for the deaf. SAT reading comprehension scores were reported for 168 students aged 8–18 years, 35% of whom had deaf parents. Nover and colleagues found that students between the ages of 8 and 12 years scored significantly higher than the national norms for deaf and hard-of-hearing children. Those scores differed by only 5–25 points (1%) from the norms, and older students scored below the SAT norms (attributed to lesser staff development). Knoors and Marschark (2012) reported that scores on the same test for students of the same age and the same birth years enrolled in another US school for the deaf that applied total communication philosophy scored even higher, exceeding scores of children in the bilingual program in all but one of the five age groups.

Lange and colleagues (2013) reported on the reading and mathematics achievement of DHH students who had been enrolled in a bilingual program incorporating ASL and both spoken and written English. Their achievement growth was compared to a group of predominantly hearing students with the same starting points in achievement and grade levels in reading and mathematics (DHH students with lower levels of achievement were excluded from the study). Although the DHH students’ initial progress in the program was behind that of the comparison group, their academic growth in reading exceeded that of their peers after 8.2 years in the program and in mathematics after 2.5 years in the program. Initially, 28% of 61 of the DHH students in the reading study group were at or above average and 19% of 64 students in the math study group were at or above average, according to national norms (overlap between the two groups is unclear). After at least 4 years in the program, 41% of the reading study group was at or above average, and 55% of the students in the mathematics study group were at or above average. The authors concluded that “[w]‌hereas some groups are lobbying for a one-size-fits-all model to deaf education, research demonstrates a variety of paths for D/HH students to develop academically. Students and parents need educational choices to be available to them and researchers and policy makers need to continue collecting data and monitoring these educational options” (p. 543). (p.227)

Simultaneous Communication, Bimodality, and Bilingual Education

Any discussion of navigating the variety of language paths available to DHH students must include simultaneous communication, or sign-supported speech, as it is referred to outside the United States, if only because of its frequent use in DHH classrooms as well as other situations. Signed and spoken languages do not share the same phonological code, thus making simultaneous, equivalent output impossible, but simultaneous communication, in which signs are produced with the grammatical order of the vernacular with accompanying speech (i.e., code-blending), is not uncommon among bimodal bilinguals. Philosophies aside, today’s reality is that the majority of both “oral” deaf individuals (often with cochlear implants) and signing deaf individuals (with or without cochlear implants) are likely to function as bimodal bilinguals—using both sign language and written/spoken language—to some extent, at least as young adults if not as children. For example, of the 249 deaf students at Rochester Institute of Technology who were using cochlear implants in the spring of 2013, 74% of them rated their sign language skills as fair to excellent; only 12% said they did not know sign language.

Marschark and Hauser (2012) suggested that simultaneous communication and other vernacular-based sign systems often are used by individuals who are not fluent in a natural sign language, but that fluent teachers might use such sign systems to teach new vocabulary or to support reading. There is no doubt that many individuals who use simultaneous communication do so poorly (Johnson & Erting, 1989) and that teachers who are good users of simultaneous communication usually are good signers as well (see Caccamise, Blaisdell, & Meath-Lang, 1977; Cokely, 1990; Newell, 1978). The interest here is on this educational use of simultaneous communication and its potential for deaf education.

All of the published studies we are aware of that have examined the impact of using simultaneous communication in the classroom have shown that students from 10 years of age to university age learned just as much as they did with other forms of communication (including ASL and Auslan) when teachers were highly skilled in simultaneous communication (e.g., Caccamise et al., 1977; Cokely, 1990; Hyde & Power, 1992; Marschark et al., 2005; Marschark, Sapere, Convertino, & Pelz, 2008; Mollink, Hermans, & Knoors, 2008; Newell, 1978). Mollink, Hermans, and Knoors (2008), for example, found that hard-of-hearing 4- to 8-year-olds remembered more word meanings when words were presented in both spoken Dutch and SLN as compared to signs when they were trained using only spoken Dutch. (p.228)

In an investigation involving almost 800 DHH college students, Convertino and colleagues (2009) reanalyzed data from several previous studies of learning in mainstream classrooms. Various communication skills, including ASL, spoken English, and speechreading, were assessed using a self-report instrument that had been shown to be valid and reliable for that population. The investigators found that the only language variable to significantly predict learning in mainstream classrooms when other communication, family, audiological, and academic factors were controlled was receptive simultaneous communication skill. Importantly, none of the previous experiments evaluated in that study involved simultaneous communication; all included mainstream instructors with skilled interpreters providing the deaf students with either ASL or English transliteration. The investigators therefore concluded that receptive simultaneous communication abilities reflect language flexibility, an important factor in the profile of persons who are considered bilinguals.

Mayer and Leigh (2010) also raised the possibility of using simultaneous communication to provide access for deaf students to English as a second language, suggesting that such an approach “has the potential to play a significant role not only in bilingual education, but in the education of children who have cochlear implants” (p. 182). Knoors and Marschark (2012) made a similar argument. They pointed out that gestures accompanying spoken language frequently facilitate comprehension (Habets, Kita, Shao, Özyürek, & Hagoort, 2011; Kelly, Özyürek, & Maris, 2010) and suggested that simultaneous communication could be an effective “backup code” for children with cochlear implants. Humphries and colleagues (2012) also provided arguments in favor of signing for children with cochlear implants based largely on the large individual differences and the continuing difficulty in predicting linguistic outcomes following implantation. In essence, this suggests that in the United States, for example, ASL and simultaneous communication might provide a better approach to English literacy than ASL alone. Which DHH students might benefit from such programming in which contexts remains an issue to be explored, but let us consider one possibility a bit further.

Signing for Children with Cochlear Implants?

The suggestion of using any kind of signing with children who use cochlear implants will seem anathema to many. Spencer, Marschark, and Spencer (2011) reviewed evidence relating to language development in deaf children and found a consistent if small advantage for children using cochlear implants in spoken language programs compared to those in sign language programs. At the same time, however, there is also evidence that early signing can support the development of spoken language by children with cochlear implants (e.g., Connor, (p.229) Hieber, Arts, & Zwolan, 2000; Spencer & Tomblin, 2006; Tomblin, Spencer, Flock, Tyler, & Gantz, 1999; Yoshinaga-Itano, 2006). What about its impact on academic achievement?

Spencer, Barker, and Tomblin (2003) examined the reading, writing, and language abilities of 16 deaf students with an average age of 9.8 years. The students had received cochlear implants at an average age of 3.9 years, quite late by current standards, and had an average of 5.9 years experience with them. All were enrolled in mainstream schools where they were supported by sign language interpreters, and all were reported to use simultaneous communication to some extent. The deaf students’ reading comprehension scores were only about 10% below those of the comparison group of 16 hearing age-mates (90.1 and 99.5, respectively); they were reading at an average grade level of 3.3 years compared to 3.8 years by the hearing group. The deaf students also lagged behind their hearing peers in writing, which was reliably correlated with language scores for the deaf students but not their hearing peers. Spencer and colleagues emphasized that access to English through cochlear implants provides DHH learners with opportunities for enhancing their language and literacy skills, but the role of sign language and simultaneous communication in supporting those skills was not discussed. Spencer, Gantz, and Knutson (2004) conducted a study with 27 deaf high school students from the same program. They had received cochlear implants between 2 and 13 years of age and had used them for an average of just under 10 years. Despite the relatively late age at implantation, students who used their cochlear implants consistently were found to be reading on par with hearing age-mates, and the group as a whole scored within the normal range. This is a remarkably high level of performance for late-implanted users (cf., Geers, Tobey, Moog, & Brenner, 2008).

Finally, Blom and Marschark (2014) conducted a study involving 40 deaf college students who used cochlear implants. Each student saw two classroom lectures (presented by video), one in which the instructor only spoke and the other in which she used simultaneous communication. There was no difference in scores on a subsequent multiple-choice test for the easier of the two passages (8th to 9th grade level), but the students scored significantly higher with simultaneous communication than with spoken language on the more difficult of the two passages (9th to 10th grade level). The authors concluded that the redundancy offered by simultaneous communication might be helpful for cochlear implant users not only when material is more difficult but also in the classroom and other less than optimal listening environments.

Taken together, the above results suggest that having access to two languages can benefit the language and academic achievement of at least some deaf students with cochlear implants. A similar argument might be made with regard to students with mild hearing losses who hear about (p.230) as well as those with cochlear implants. Marschark, Shaver, and colleagues (2014) found that such students scored significantly lower than those with moderate hearing losses on the Passage Comprehension, Mathematics, and Social Science subtests of the Woodcock-Johnson III Achievement Tests, while not differing significantly from the students with profound hearing losses. Blackorby and Knokey (2006) obtained similar results with elementary school students.

Navigating Two Languages in the Classroom: Bilingual Education as Safe Harbor?

Over the past 30 years, bilingualism and bilingual education for DHH children have gained international attention as means of providing them with the linguistic skills necessary for academic, personal, and eventual employment success. As we have seen, however, the limited research available about such programming is devoted almost exclusively to literacy outcomes, with relatively little attention to how they might influence and be influenced by cognition, learning, or social-emotional functioning (but see Antia & Metz, Chapter 17 of this volume). Understanding the connections and interactions among these domains in bilingual deaf individuals will lead to better understanding of their language abilities, as described by both formal theories (e.g., relating to structural linguistics) and functional theories (e.g., relating to social communication), as well as the impact of such abilities on learning.

With regard to the functional aspects of language, the bilingual experience is quite varied, a situation magnified by the large individual differences among deaf learners. That is, for both hearing and DHH people, the bilingual circumstance of each individual is associated with a different set of social, cognitive, and personal factors that mediate bilingual balance as well as the effects of bilingualism. It therefore is important to recognize that generalizations concerning the outcomes of bilingualism for any population will always be tentative. And, yet, the consequences of bilingualism for educational policy, teaching, cognitive science, and social processes (Bialystok et al., 2009) are just now coming to be explored with regard to DHH individuals.

Meanwhile, a central assumption underlying the placement of DHH students in regular classrooms is that we are able to educate them in that environment as well as or better than we can in separate settings. Success for DHH students in mainstream classrooms, however, requires that information communicated by a hearing teacher for a hearing class is both linguistically accessible and consistent with the knowledge and learning styles of deaf students, that is, that the material is readily learnable. Until recently, there has been little question about the viability of mainstream educational placements, but growing (p.231) recognition of the generally poor quality of educational interpreting (Napier & Barker, 2004; Sapere, LaRock, Convertino, Gallimore, & Lessard, 2005) and cognitive differences between hearing students and deaf students (Marschark & Knoors, 2012; Pisoni et al., 2010) have forced a re-examination of educational placement for deaf students. The issue has become even more complex with recent demonstrations of unexpected lags in reading achievement by both younger (Nitrouer, Caldwell, Lowenstein, Tarr, & Holloman, 2012) and older (Geers et al., 2008) deaf students with cochlear implants and greater achievement among older students with access to sign language in the classroom (Blom & Marschark, 2014; Spencer et al., 2004). Indeed, studies over the past several years have demonstrated a variety of cognitive differences between hearing students and deaf students that may put the latter, with and without cochlear implants, at an academic disadvantage in the mainstream classroom compared to settings designed for them (Marschark & Knoors, 2012). Unfortunately, even in separate settings—bilingual or not—instructors may be unaware of such differences and thus may be unable to appropriately adjust their interventions and instructional methods.

Bilingualism and bilingual deaf education are based on the assumption that once communication barriers in the classroom have been removed, teaching and learning processes for deaf and hearing students will be much the same (Seal, 2004; Stinson, Elliot, Kelly, & Liu, 2009). Similar assumptions are made with regard to the education of students learning English as a second language. In the case of deaf students, (high-quality) sign language interpreting and real-time text have been assumed to provide them with access to classroom communication comparable to that of hearing peers (see Sapere et al., 2005). Yet recent studies examining deaf students’ learning have found that from middle school through college they do not learn any more through sign language than they do from reading, an area in which their difficulties are well-documented (e.g., Borgna, Convertino, Marschark, Morrison, & Rizzolo, 2011; Marschark, Leigh, et al., 2006; Marschark, Sapere, et al., 2009; Stinson et al., 2009). Given the frequent claims about the benefits of sign language in the face of reading challenges (e.g., Johnson et al., 1989; Nover et al., 2002), we expected to find explicit support for bilingualism and bilingual deaf education. The fact that the evidence base is so weak does not mean that they do not have considerable potential (see, for example, the co-enrollment results reported by Antia & Metz, Chapter 17 of this volume; Hermans, De Klerk, Wauters, & Knoors, Chapter 16 of this volume; Kreimeyer, Crooke, Drye, Egbert, & Klein, 2000). One has to be concerned, however, about whether the relevant research simply has not been done or has been done but has not yielded positive results and thus has not been published. If parents, schools, and school systems are going to be asked to embrace bilingual (p.232) education for DHH students, they need to be provided with evidence of its effectiveness.

Where do We go from Here?

It has been somewhat disconcerting to find that the literature relating to bilingualism, bilingual deaf education, and bilingual-bicultural deaf education is not to be as comprehensive or conclusive as we had expected—and others claim. A number of studies cited earlier compared deaf students who have deaf parents to those who have hearing parents but not to hearing students or hearing norms. On the basis of studies from Sweden (e.g., Rydberg et al., 2009), we need to know whether observed benefits in these domains are incremental or demonstrate the closing of the achievement gap between DHH students and their hearing peers. Older studies frequently found academic advantages for deaf children of deaf parents over their peers with hearing parents, but the differences were small, and the achievement of those students rarely matched that of hearing age-mates.

More recent studies have demonstrated positive relations between sign language skills and literacy (although not other areas of academic achievement), but have failed to distinguish the benefits of early sign language from the benefits of early language. Nevertheless, sign language is easier/earlier acquired than spoken language by at least some deaf children, and thus is available earlier to facilitate the acquisition of further linguistic and cognitive skills necessary for learning. Sign language also may be facilitative for those DHH students who do not have receptive and expressive spoken language skills, or sufficient skills, to fully support their learning in formal and informal settings. Findings suggesting that sign language can benefit both language development (Connor et al., 2000; Tomblin et al., 1999) and academic outcomes (Convertino et al., 2009; Spencer et al., 2004), even for deaf students with cochlear implants, would suggest that the potential academic benefits of sign language or at least signed communication for specific subgroups of DHH students are in need of further investigation. Similarly, it is important to discover what elements of co-enrollment programming are leading to the observed positive outcomes (e.g., Tang, Lam, & Yiu, Chapter 13 of this volume; Hermans, De Klerk, Wauters, & Knoors, Chapter 16 of this volume).

Even if bilingual education is not the best approach to educating all DHH students, it remains an alternative among the broader array of academic approaches to deaf education (Knoors & Marschark, 2012; Lange et al., 2013). Yet the lack of empirical support for bilingual deaf education (let alone bilingual-bicultural deaf education) makes it difficult to argue for the expansion of explicit bilingual education programming for DHH students in any particular form. One likely reason for the (p.233) lack of strong support for bilingual deaf education—or any other aspect or method of deaf education—is simply the complexity of the issue. DHH students vary more widely than hearing age-mates for a variety of reasons that both contribute to and reflect qualitative and quantitative differences in learning (see Knoors & Marschark, 2014, Chapter 2). Differences between DHH and hearing students as well as among DHH students, particularly with regard to language and cognitive development, make studies of their academic achievement more difficult than they might appear. Earlier we noted the importance of factors such as parental involvement and language ability, but cognitive functioning, early intervention, teacher/instruction variables, and social-emotional functioning also are important for learning and achievement. These differ to some extent between DHH and hearing students and vary more widely among DHH students than hearing students. Not only does this make empirical research difficult, but it means that there is not going to be a single educational method or approach that is optimal for all DHH students. If there is one thing that we have learned from the one-size-fits-all spoken language approach to deaf education it is, as Knoors and Marschark (2014) suggested, “one-size-fits-none.”

If the who, what, when, where, and why of bilingual deaf education remain to be fully elaborated, the necessary directions for future research are fairly clear. Most obvious perhaps are the who (which DHH students?) and when (at what age?) questions. Both of these, however, will very much depend on the what question that concerns which elements of bilingual education (or co-enrollment) beyond bilingualism per se will be most important for DHH students’ academic growth. As we indicated earlier, this requires a distinction between bilingualism and bilingual deaf education. There is no doubt that virtually all DHH students will benefit from and need fluency in the written vernacular. The accumulated research evidence also suggests that signed communication will benefit some of those students in some respects (e.g., academic, linguistic, social), but the relative value of natural sign languages versus simultaneous communication (or sign-supported speech) has not been explored.

The relationship between bilingualism at home and bilingualism in school also is in need of investigation. Research into cued speech has shown that its facilitation of print literacy skills among deaf children learning languages such as French and Spanish depend on its use both in school and at home (Leybaert & Charlier, 1996). The difficulties for hearing parents in supporting the sign language needs of DHH students have been broadly discussed, but the likely challenges for many deaf parents to support the written (if not spoken) language needs of their DHH children remains to be investigated. Not unrelated to this issue are the potential benefits of educational programming that is explicitly bicultural. As far as we have been able to determine, the impact of (p.234) the bicultural part of bilingual-bicultural deaf education on academic, social-emotional, and personal effects have not been explored. The reasons for this are unclear, but they may lie in the not unreasonable assumption that DHH children will benefit from an awareness of their culture and community. Many DHH children, however, will grow up outside that culture and community, and it seems important to determine the extent to which earlier versus later (or no) discovery of a Deaf identity influences individual functioning in various domains. It therefore would be worthwhile to examine ways in which hearing as well as deaf parents support deaf children’s acquisition of a Deaf identity and affiliation with the Deaf community and how this is related to the children’s educational programming and outcomes.

Another large area of inquiry would involve bidirectional relations of cognitive development/functioning and bilingualism-bilingual education among DHH students. Research has demonstrated that some cognitive differences observed between DHH and hearing individuals that previously were thought to be related to hearing status more recently have been found to have their origins in sign language ability and use (e.g., working memory, face recognition) or in factors totally unrelated to language and hearing status (e.g., sensitivity of peripheral vision; see Marschark & Knoors, 2012, for a review). Differences in memory, problem solving, and other cognitive domains as a function of an individual’s preferred language modality have been examined in a number of studies, but their impact on academic achievement has not. To this point, it does not appear that many educators or investigators have explored DHH students’ presumed cognitive strengths related to language modality. For example, although some tentative relations between visual-spatial processing and mathematics performance have been documented (e.g., Blatto-Vallee, Kelly, Gaustad, Porter, & Fonzi, 2007; Marschark, Morrison, Lukomski, Borgna, & Convertino, 2013), the potential of that ability as an academic intervention has not been examined. Similarly, DHH students who rely primarily on spoken language have been found to have better sequential memory (e.g., Lichtenstein, 1998), but its potential use in the classroom apparently is unexplored.

While not exhaustive, the preceding examples indicate both the complexity and the potential value of further and broader investigations of bilingual deaf education and of bilingualism among DHH students. Whatever the reasons that such investigations have not been undertaken (or reported) previously, the practical as well as the theoretical implications of such studies are of sufficient importance that they should be driving research agendas both in places where bilingual deaf education is easily available and places where it is less frequent. The extent to which it will be found to benefit particular DHH students with particular backgrounds in particular settings remains to be determined. (p.235) Without such research, however, there is no way to know how quickly or slowly bilingual deaf education should move forward, if at all.

Note

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Notes:

(1) Whether sign language and written language in the absence of spoken language are truly “bimodal” is an interesting question. Here we will adopt the usage common in the field and will refer to the use of both the signed vernacular and the spoken/written vernacular (with or without spoken language) as bimodal bilingualism.