See What I Mean: Differences Between Deaf and Hearing Cultures Review

See What I Mean

Video Review 
by Richard L. Cohen, M.S.
Nationally Certified Deaf Interpreter
American Sign Language Instructor

© 2002

See What I Mean: Differences Between Deaf and Hearing Cultures
by Thomas K. Holcomb and Anna Mindess
Eye 2 Eye Productions, 2001, distributed by Sign Enhancers  Tape #8M
VHS 45 minutes, ASL, Closed Captions, Voice-over
Overall rating: A+ Recommended for public libraries, agencies, high school,
college and university libraries, and sign language classes.

Watching "See What I Mean" provides an entertaining look at the some of the differences between Deaf and "hearing" (mainstream) American cultures. This video is a delicious experience, giving a serious introductory education with no bitter aftertaste.

The presentation opens with a brief discussion about different definitions of culture. Thomas Holcomb, as narrator, explains that although food, clothing and language are clearly elements of culture, most aspects of culture are invisible. Behaviors and attitudes are internalized without conscious awareness. This video, he suggests, is meant to illustrate different rules of behavior among hearing and Deaf people, giving us attitudinal flexibility to help us understand and "fit-in-with" the values of various cultures. Enjoyable, amusing skits in the video show situations which might cause conflict and misunderstanding.  Each skit is analyzed on three different levels:

    1. First, the source of the conflict is illustrated by adding thought-balloons showing each person's inner reactions to the other's behavior.

    2. Next, "Miss Hearing Manners" and "Miss Deaf Manners" explain the cultural rules represented by hearing and Deaf groups, and which violations of these rules (rude behaviors) might cause cultural shock.

    3. The narrator offers explanations for how particular patterns may have come into existence.

As an example of a cultural difference, a Deaf man asks his hearing neighbor how much he paid for a new car.  The neighbor gives vague responses, but the Deaf person keeps pressing for an exact price. The scene ends in discomfort for both hearing and Deaf neighbors. The Manners Ambassadors explain the protocol for each culture. Brief skits show more "correct" behaviors in similar situations. Viewers are gently nudged to drop negative judgments and move to a new level of comfort with cultural differences.

This video is a pleasure, offering its educational message about cultural values to both Deaf and hearing audiences like a tray of regional foods, flavored to reflect different tastes. Both Deaf and hearing people will learn about culture in general, and have a chance to sample specific behavioral patterns, which should help make unappetizing differences more palatable.

This entertaining 45-minute video simply ends too soon. The narrator acknowledges that the program provides only a few easily digestible appetizers of social patterns among hearing and Deaf Americans. Taste and see. You'll be hungry for more.

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