Bit of my background before I get into the question. For those who don't know what SEE is. It is short for Signed Exact English for language. Bear in mind SEE and ASL (American Sign Language) are different language in both how dialect, expression are used, sentence are structured, and etc... Keep in mind although I can't hear myself speak but can talk verbally just fine plus writing and read English.

Sometime I see that business allow you to fill in American Sign Language as a second language which is nice. Sometime they let you say Other language and fill in detail yourself.

The trouble is sometime application requires you to select ONE as your "first/primary" language otherwise it will not let you finish it. Strictly speaking I learnt both SEE and spoken/wrote English at the same time (similar to preschool bilingual education). I eventually picked up ASL later on and can use all 3 languages with minimum effort.

So what should I put down as my first/primary language?


So what should I put down as my first/primary language?

Which is your primary language? At work, how do you primarily communicate?

That's what you should "put down as [your] first/primary language". There's no trick question here.

  • It can become complicated because for meeting I might have either SEE or ASL interpreter. Although it is far more common to find an ASL interpreter. But employee to employee definitely English via e-mail, skype, IM, etc... I always went with English when ASL/SEE isn't an option anyway. – Vyndicu Oct 30 '16 at 21:55

I would argue from utilitarian principles. If you put English as your second language, how will potential employers react? I suspect you risk being put in the "if we can't find a native English speaker" bin early on.

But if you put "English" as your first language and "I am deaf, I rely on SEE/ASL at times" you're more likely to make it through the "native English" filter and into the "diversity" stage of the process.

I have seen comments from a couple of deaf folk that this is a real problem, although a secondary one compared to "no disabled" or "no accommodation" barriers. So it does depend a lot on your employment prospects as a non-hearing person - the more supportive your society is, and the more competent and employable you are, the more likely this is to be an issue.

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    I have a Bachelor major in Computer Science in Texas, USA. I have meet other deaf people who are in different kind of Engineering job. It is just finding the right job and I have struggle for a few years to find the right one. – Vyndicu Oct 31 '16 at 0:38
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    This is a very good answer. Job applications are not scientific papers and some looseness in diction is useful, expected, and often necessary in order to best explain your qualifications in a way that can be practically understood. Honesty is the key element that binds everything together - if you say "My native language is English. I am deaf and can communicate in SEE and ASL", no reasonable employer would be deceived into thinking that you can hear English. – Columbia says Reinstate Monica Oct 31 '16 at 0:45
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    @Vyndicu if it's any help, I worked with a blind programmer for a while. Was in a major bank, so there was a whole raft of support available. – Móż Oct 31 '16 at 0:51
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    Normally I work in smaller companies where it's much more dependent on how the few co-workers react. Which can be good as well as bad, with co-workers who will go out of their way to defend their team-mates against outside stupidity. I have a friend who's legally blind and uses a big monitor in high-contrast mode with the brightness set to "solar flare", and he quite happily works as a designer for a small company (I have no idea how "I make things look pretty" goes with "I see vague blurry things if the light is bright enough"... but that's what he does) – Móż Oct 31 '16 at 0:51

Put English as your primary language unless you're applying for a job where everyone uses SEE. It's the verbal language and the one you will be communicating in writing in, so it trumps SEE (which is a form of English anyway, it's a communication method rather than a language).

You speak English, read and write English, or sign in English. So while it is acceptable to put SEE as a secondary language (which it isn't really). I wouldn't put it as a primary one. I would actually list it as a skill for a normal job application, in the same way that I know First Aid.

  • English isn't the same language per se as SEE. Because in SEE we skip words like "the, an, and, etc...". We use meaning of the word instead of having sign for every possible permutation of word with the same meaning. IE: carnivorous, carving, famished, "could eat a horse" all of those are signed as simple "hungry". Although I do get where you are coming from. – Vyndicu Oct 30 '16 at 21:50
  • Yes, I know how it works, but it's a method of communication rather than a language. A bit like Chinese writing, it transcends a verbal language and can be used for communication between two people who don't speak the same language at all, because it's based on concepts rather than phonetics (although it has some phonetic elements) – Kilisi Oct 30 '16 at 22:04
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    Or, encoding schemes for English like Morse Code, Braille, and Leet sometimes drop, or even add, minor elements but cannot be described in any meaningful sense as separate languages. – Columbia says Reinstate Monica Oct 31 '16 at 0:43

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