I recently told you all about learning ASL, okay time to confess:
I have been watching ASL videos almost nonstop the past three weeks. I’m talking about every single day.
And those of you ho have tried to learn a new language know, it can make your head ache.
But when you do it that much, you will either have so much in your head it can’t compute, or if you’re like me and already are partially familiar with ASL, you will start thinking, breathing, even dreaming in sign language.
There will be moments when instead of spoken words coming first, sings will come to your mind.
You won’t be able to sing without using motions.
yeah, someone out there knows what I mean.
Or, in my other language of study, Spanish. Sometimes I voice things in Spanish. I do have to think about it and the grammar.
Probably everyone knows about the effects of having a second or third language. One thing I’m particularly proud of is being able to sign while speaking Spanish. Or even another language. So long as I thoroughly know what the other words mean, I can sign it too.
But actually that’s not so difficult. Other Signers have talked about being able to speak two languages at once. The hard part is singing and talking, not really what language you’re talking in.
I know talking about this isn’t my typical subject matter, but it is something I’m interested in, and I think other folks are interested too.
Actually there’s a growing interest in deaf culture. A lot of young people ware interested in it.
I’m fortunate to have discovered some good YouTube channels and a Deaf Center not too far from where I live, but for years I had neither of these. (One of the Channels has only been around for a couple year to begin with, I started learning before then.)
Deaf people no longer consider their lack of hearing to be a disability, but most hearing people do. And many even treat deaf people like they’re stupid. Or make fun of sign language.
Even I have heard the jokes about knowing sign language…followed by getting the finger. I mean, seriously?
What’s worse is that I found out to be an interpreter you need five years of training at least, and that is for legal or medical signing.
I can’t sign legal or medical terms extensively, I don’t know how I would learn that unless I got involved with some program for it. It’s not everyday speech for the most part. (I mean, deaf people talk about that stuff of course, but they wouldn’t to someone they didn’t know well anyway, most people don’t do that.)
I am more interested in interpreting at a Church, or some other organization that would be less formal and involve more friendly interaction. But when I was assessed, I was assessed only on News/political and medical categories. (Plus speed and accuracy, which I did poorly.) Naturally I hadn’t studied either of those much.
As important as those things are, there’s everyday situations that I would probably learn to handle a lot more quickly and would come up a lot more often. What I’m not sure of is if interpreters are used for that.
So you see, I know very little myself about the culture.
But since I’ve been studying it more, I’m convinced the gap does need to be bridged.
A lot of the Deaf are convinced that the Hearing community can’t understand them, and that overall it doesn’t want too. In my experience that’s not always the case, but I have limited experience.
A person like me, who has no deaf family and has not been to school and studied ASL there, and who is still interested, is rare. There are not many who just want to learn without having any personal contact with the deaf world.
I’m unique in that way.
For me it started with the language and then eventually I started being more interested in the speakers of the language.
Anyway, here’s the thing about the cultural difference:
What I hate is when people assume I can’t possibly understand them because I was raised differently. It always makes me determined to understand.
The way I see it, I don’t know what it’s like to be deaf, or blind, or even Hispanic. It’s true, that’s not my culture.
And they don’t know what it’s like to be me, in my culture. No one knows what’s it’s like to be me, except me.
So it is silly to say that having the ability to hear or not hear puts any more of a barrier between people than just having different lives and backgrounds always does.
What I feel, only I know. I and God. What they feel, only they know.
My point is that we’re all human, I happen to believe that humans beings can understand each other as much as they wish to. They just don’t usually wish to. And that goes for any relationship under any circumstances.
If anything, being bilingual will help you appreciate someone’s choice to try to communicate with you at all, instead of being resigned to awkward silence.
I have a feeling we all have had that experience too many times for comfort.
I would rather not be put in a box. I would rather not have anyone assume I feel one way because I’m hearing; because I’m white; because I’m middle class (barely’) because I’m young; because I’m a Millennial; because I’m a Christian; because I’m a conservative; because I’m from a two-parent home; because I’m homeschooled.
All these things shape who I am. Only one of them defines it. (You can guess which.)
No one should assume I think a certain way or feel a certain way until they know me beyond the labels. No one should put me in a box.
And that goes for deaf, blind, special needs, and any other thing you can think of.
It’s not what category I’m in but how I act and believe that will make me what I am.
And that transcends any disability and any difference that’s only on the surface.
So, that waxed very poetical towards the end, but I think I made my point. Until next time–Natasha.