Friday, August 12, 2011

Is Braille A Different Language?

A Braille student of mine said that they had a "discussion board" on which this question was debated. From the point of view of Spoken English, Braille is Not a different language. But in terms of a language used for reading and writing, I think it Is.

I was Horrified to learn that those who read print actually have Three alphabets: upper case print, lower case print, And curssive, it's enough to Make one curse.

In Braille all symbols are composed of six dots, numbered one through six, according to their position in the Braille Cell. Want to know what a Braille Cell looks like, get a six cup muffin tin then turn it upside-down. Now turn it so that three muffin cups are sticking up on the left side of the pan and three on the right. Top left, dot 1. Center left, dot two. Bottom left, right, dot three. Top Right side of the pan is dot four, middle is dot five, and bottom muffin cup is dot six. Shrink this pattern Extremely Small and you have a complete Braille cell.

If I tell a student to make the Braille letter D, the dots 1, 4, and 5 will be indicated.

This is Not the way print or curssive letters are made. We only have six dots to work with so each time we want to indicate that a letter is capitalized, we put a dot six in front of the capital letter. If a word or title or Roman numerals are in All Caps, we put Two dot sixes in front of a single word or Roman numeral, or two dot sixes in front of each word in a title.

Braille has three levels, which might be compared to 1. print or curssive writing, 2. short hand writing and 3. sommething like stenography. These are Called grades 1, 2, and 3, though they have Nothing to do with first, second, or third grade in school. What they Are concerned with is the level of contraction of each word and writing words or signs For words together, without spacing between them.

Braille letters and contractions for common Groups of letters (ing, the, of, and, for, with, etc.) look Nothing like Any form of print or curssive writing. Braille is uniform in it's production, so there are No Braille "handwriting" analysts.

A formerly sighted person learning Braille must give up ideas of trying to relate Braille to print letters. Braille is based on a Completely different system and has differing rules oof footnoting and other puntuation than print.

There is Just as much memorization required in Braille as in print. But it is memorization of Totally differing things. While print or curssive students are memorizing shapes and squiggles, Braille students are memorizing the dot formations (1 through six) necessary to make Braille contractions for the shorthand equivalent of Braille in which all non-teaching Braille books are made.

The word "teacher" in Braille is T, (ea sign, dot 2 alone) (ch sign, dots 1 and 6 together) and (the er sign, dots 1, 2, 4, 5, 6, altogether.)

Most college students who take notes in Braille (abreviated as: BRL, in Braille,) use their own combination of grades two and three, often refered to as "grade 2 and one half".

The reason for all of this contracting in Brl is that a person can see Much Smaller things than a person can Feel. A Brl dot might be compared to a small seed bead. Grade Brl runs about three pages to one print page. This is why Brl takes up So much room and Brl books are bulky.

Shapes of Brl letters and symbols for contractions are memorized by Brl readers as they are, Not with reference to Anything in print.

When numerical symbols are used in algebra or advanced math, or Brl music or a foreign language is written in Brl, symbols are often duplicates. Talk about memorization! It could be said that every language has its Own Brl alphabet, Not referring in Any way to English Brl. In this way Brl Is related to its spoken and written counterparts. In the Spanish Brl alphabet, the letter N, with a Tilde is the ER contraction in English. So to learn Spanish Braille it helped to Pretend I didn't know English Brl.

We drove our non-Brl reading housemothers nuts at blind school by Speaking Brl. We would say "After dinner do you want to 1234 123 1 1456?" The word is "play." We were supposed to be studying.

But since no one knew what we were saying, our housemothers only knew we were up to no good. Since Brl can be spoken in this way, although long time Brl readers are the Only ones who might do this, I Do think it is a different language from writing on a page, whether that writing is upper case, lower case, or curssive.

To be as clear as possible I often call Brl my "language of literacy." It is hard to know how to punctuate a sentence, where to begin or end a paragraph, and how to spell similar sounding words (threw and through) without Reading Brl.

For many deaf-blind people, Brl and ASL, including finger spelling, are often the Primary, if not the Only means of communication.

They must learn Two different languages. As I have no one to practice with, I can finger spell, but cannot read the fast replies of professional interpreters. At this time, I can use hearing aids and amplification to hear, Most of the time, but Not always. I need to learn to speak and understand ASL and like most people who lose their vision, when I am forced to by deafness, I will. Since I am totally blind, a cochlear implant is a future possibility.

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