What I learned from ASL.

They say third times the charm: But I have failed for the third time at the Driver’s Test.

I blame the system at this point.

Even if I am really just that poor at Driving, there’s nothing I can do about it except try, try again.

Here’s a thing you all may not know about me, I am a language buff.

I am studying three different languages currently. Fluency is slow coming since I am self taught with limited resources, but it’s still fun.

Lately I’ve had the opportunity to expand my knowledge of one language, ASL, by mingling with  both deaf people and sign interpreters.

Here’s some things to know about deaf folks, they aren’t insulted if you use that term. If you use “Hearing impaired” they think it means someone who is only partially deaf. It’s not like with blindness. (I don’t know if it’s the blind or the seeing who decided we needed to say “visually impaired” instead.)

Also, ASL stands for American Sign language. But there’s a few other sign languages used in America. There is English signing. Which it not the same as British signing. English signing is word for word. American sign is supposed to convey the idea of what you’re saying more than the individual words.

When you can’t hear what someone is saying, you have to learn to understand a lot by just watching them. So it’s better to use less motions so there’s time to watch facial expressions too.

Now I’m hearing, and I have no deaf relatives, which a few decades back would have made me a pretty rare anomaly in deaf culture. Only a few hearing people used to be familiar with sign language. But now that it’s taught in school, even hearing folks are becoming interpreters and being part of the deaf community. Which is pretty much the community no one else is aware of unless they’ve known someone who knows someone in it.

Folks are trying to make it possible for the deaf to be a part of regular society. Job-wise anyway.

Anyway, I took a fancy to ASL a few years back and have studied it off and on since, as well as taught a little of it to s couple people. Unfortunately I’ve yet to mean someone else with my passion for language.

You may wonder why I’m sharing this.

Well, for all I know, a deaf person could have clicked on my blog and I never knew it. So hey, if that’st he case, welcome aboard.

But more than that I think that learning ASL has changed me somewhat. Just how much is yet to be determined. If I choose to pursue a real career in it, then it’ll change my whole life. If it remains a hobby, who knows? You never know what might come of something like this.

But even at a basic level, knowing ASL has opened my eyes to the world of non verbal communication.

I have been one of those folks who had trouble looking people in the eye, and picking up on body language. That I should take to signing is somewhat ironic, since it’s made up exclusively of both those things. But I never had a real problem in the signing context with looking at people.

I wonder now if it also improved my ability to perceive people’s body language.

It’s been so long and there’s so many other factors that it’s hard to say for sure. But I do think I see communication differently now.

I think everyone should be fluent in at least one other language if they have any ability to learn it at all. Mentally it will make your brain stronger and give you a better grasp of your own tongue. (And most people who aren’t Americans already know this.)

But I have found a spiritual element in it too.

Trying to learn another language is humbling. It makes you realize how dependent on language we are as humans. And how little you know when you thought you knew a lot.

Also I sometime think of how God knows every single language, and it makes no difference to him.

Honestly, maybe I just feel less different from people of other cultures. Different languages can be intimidating, but once you’ve learned one, you realize that they all have meaning and the people who speak them express themselves just as you do.

Because if humans can’t communicate, what can we do with each other? Nothing.

Which is not to say I don’t get a little fun out of being able to puzzle other people who speak only English, what can I say? I’m human.

But what I really hope is that I’ll make connections because of this hobby of mine. I believe that our gifts and interests are given to us both for our own enjoyment and to help other people. even if helping them starts with just understanding them. I can’t tell you how much that has helped me at difficult times in my life.

Well, that’s all for now, until next time–Natasha.


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