Last night was week 5 in our American Sign Language course (ASL). It is week 15 if I count the 10 weeks we took back in the fall, then signed up again for a second go in the "Introduction to ASL" course at the Durham Deaf Centre.
It is as tough as any course I have taken, and I do have a few years of college, University, and assorted other endeavors that I have taken on in my academic and "general interest" courses. But I gotta tell ya I have nothing but respect for those who are fluent in ASL!
French, one of this countries official languages was always a bit of a struggle for me, and through out high school I passed by the skin of my teeth. I gave a respectable shot again in my thirties in a College on Saturdays, and seemed to enjoy it more. Fifteen years after the course I am sadly about as bilingual as I was in high school.
I can order a hot dog and get a beer in Montreal, but it pretty much ends there. At least I wont go hungry or thirsty.
ASL is an endeavor of love for me for many reasons.
I do adore the "language" and culture that IS ASL.
There are those,( and count me as one) who love listening to French being spoken. To those of us who love listening to it it matters not if we are lost in translation. It just sounds so beautiful.
Ditto ASL. I love to watch two people having a most animated conversation. There is a sense of awe and about ASL as one watches fingers flying, fists tapping, wrists bending, elbows twisting. But the joy is in the face; watch the deaf community "speak" and you will see what I mean.
In my brief nine months of total and profound deafness, I wandered to the Deaf center to get information. It was a chilly February day as I remember, and I stood in awe and admiration as I watched two older gents on the rickety porch of the Deaf center. By my guessing, one was telling the other a funny story, or perhaps even a joke. I stood mesmerized as hands flew, eyes widened, fists pounded and palms slapped. Laugh? Oh my good God, these two were peeing their pants in American sign language if there was indeed such a thing.
I never forgot that scene.
Without the emotional telltale aspect of ASL, the recipient gets confused. This is what I love about ASL. The emotions. Life is emotion. Life is full of them.
Yet in the hearing world, we hide our emotions for the most part. It's as if it's not right for people to see us cry or something like that.We dare not show the world how we feel for they might sense us as weak and pray on us. So we put head down, don't look up or smile. When we have to we put on our game or clown face to take on the world, but most days we just give a little nod to those who pass us by on our journey through the world. But for God's sake don't show emotions!
Ah but in ASL it is life on life's terms. Cries, laughs, smiles, frowns, stomp feet, slap chest, pound fists. Get excited and show it. Live for life.
Life at the speed of visual glorious sight!
If your happy and you know sign it with a smile!
Smiles and frowns; excited and bored looks; they all are part and parcel of the wonderful art and science of ASL.
I use it more and more, and that drives me to learn more and more. I am deaf, but have sound in my life when my magnet is stuck to my melon. If I go for shower, I am deaf as a bar of Irish Spring sop on a rope, and when I step out of shower it seems someone wants an answer on something.
When I go to sleep my processor is off and I hear nothing. No alarms (yes I have slept in), no smoke alarms should they go off (this scares me) and I wake up deaf until I "strap on" the magnet.
It seems that Mary always has a question about something as soon as I am toweling down after my complete silence in my deafness shower, and she tries her best to squeak out a simple ASL sign that is related to her question of the moment.
"You want Lunch" is one that she has worked on, and I get it as soon as she starts. Eating signs in ASL are easy as eating pie, and I never want to miss a meal!
I hope to carry on and get a diploma of some sort in ASL. I love it to be sure, but it is a dream of mine to use it working with the Deaf/deaf one day. Another reason for my diligence in learning ASL is the fear that my Cochlear will go down for good one day. I have "lost" the use of 3 electrodes which leaves me with just 12 I think. I guess they can always go back in and re-implant the tiny little things, but what IF????
I was going to be bilateral, and was implanted on my right side in September 2008. Activation day produced no sound, so they went back in and did the whole nasty surgery again.
Activation day gave no sound.
The thought is that the auditory nerves on my right side are dead as door nail. My fear is that one day my left side might go as well.
I may be paranoid here, but the cochlear implant has restored me a life that is as close to the real concerto that I had in my hearing days. Nine months in a cone of silence was spooky. I like my CI and want to keep it.
But I also want the back up of knowing ASL. Love to learn it and love to use it as a novice student, but I know it is indispensable when my magnet is off.
My boy Dan signs I love you every night before bed.
My favorite sign indeed.