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Science Communication


September 18, 2021 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 99, Issue 34


Letters to the editor

Sign language in chemistry

“Growing Sign Language’s Scientific Vocabulary” (C&EN, July 5/12, 2021, page 26) is an excellent article and can easily stimulate further productive discussion in the interest of outreach, understanding, and the development of scientific talent. American Sign Language (ASL) can be considered to be a scientific language between scientists.

Chemistry lecturers have the normal human tendency to speak with their hands. Accurate use of expressive and iconic ASL signs for scientific terms and concepts could be beneficial to hearing as well as deaf scientists and deaf science students.

ASL is a source of utilities (such as the American Manual Alphabet, numbers, and basic word signs) that can help hearing and deaf students in academic study.

Leigh Krietsch Boerner was wise to include a sidebar about Deaf and deaf. Although there are support groups (such as the Hearing Loss Association of America), lip-readers (that is, speech readers) and the hard of hearing can be less organized and in some ways less supported than the Deaf community. Deaf culture should flourish and never be persecuted again. Also, speech readers and the hard of hearing should not be deprived of ASL-based (simplified, practical) signed English, which in view of the ASL-based baby sign language explosion may be, in concept, an actual, natural, intermediate language that can accomplish good will between the hearing, hard of hearing, speech readers, and deaf people.

Robert J. McGuane Jr.
Wellesley, Massachusetts

After reading the article on the use of sign language for the instruction of deaf students in the July 5/12 issue of C&EN, I was left with the following question and suggestion. Have the lectures that include a signer, mentioned in the article, been videotaped, and could a subtitle be added to those recordings? This would combine a written, standardized interpretation of the visual (signed) message in a concise and reviewable package.

I recall using audiotapes in a general chemistry class (1970s), which allowed the student to rewind and review complex concepts as often as required to transfer the information or concept. Adding subtitles to a video of the signed message with ASL signs would provide the same learning opportunity.

Keith Albyn
Madison, Alabama



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