Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Learning Sign Language

Gene, a man who came to my art class, is deaf. He can read lips, which greatly helped communication initially. Over time, as he found out we were interested, he taught simple signs to the staff who also came to art. We learned the colors, craft-y words like "paint" and "paper", and things to draw, like "truck" and "ambulance."

This introduction to sign language inspired me to take a class. I found the local organization Deaf Connect, which offers many levels of American Sign Language classes. This spring I took the beginning level. The class met every week for two hours, and ran much like a college course. We received thick workbooks accompanied by helpful DVDs, but most of our learning was direct from the teacher. She gave us vocabulary sheets each week, which we reviewed at the beginning and end of every class. The rest of the time was devoted to learning how to hold simple conversations, as well as learning a bit about deaf culture.

My ASL teacher was born deaf to hearing parents, so she grew up reading lips, and didn't learn sign language until later in childhood. Her husband was born hearing to deaf parents, so he immediately learned sign language and now works as an interpreter! I thought it was so interesting how they had the opposite childhoods you would traditionally expect.

The course was amazing, but unfortunately the cliche "use it or lose it" applies here - I stopped practicing after the class ended, and now I don't remember much! Certainly not enough to advance to the next level this fall. Thankfully a few of the students in this class were re-taking it, so I know that's an option to ensure my complete understanding.

Gene, the man who inspired me, is actually gearing up to teach sign language at SRVS! We have a deaf man in a class, so Gene will teach signs to that class, who will then turn around and teach another class, etc. I hope having people signing at work will help me brush up on my sign language skills!

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