Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Love Of ASL

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.
Never will.

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.




Vixbil said...

Hey, it is one of those things on my list. I have always wanted to learn sign language.

Tom Hannon said...

Fingers waving in air with mouth saying bravo!

Dianrez said...

You've got the idea and are halfway there already. Cheers, enjoy!

Government Funded Blogger said...

I knew a deaf young lady years ago who was adept with ASL .It was just amazing to watch her.

She could read lips too and watching a hockey game on tv kept her in stitches from what the players were saying to the ref.

Kay Dennison said...

I agree!!!! ASL fascinates me.

Sherry Peyton said...

Dave, thanks so much for helping us understand the world of deafness. I think all of us are intrigued by ASL, many of us wish we could learn it. You are blessed to have coclear implants and I'm sorry the second did not take. Your struggles humble us all, and yet your rich joy in life also uplift us mightily. Thanks for being you.

Anonymous said...

Ditto what Sherry said. I'm so glad you're back! You lift my spirits so much.

I'm thrilled for you to be learning ASL, it has truly been one of the most enjoyable experiences in my life. I've been taking classes for a little over 2 years and it's so wonderful to have the confidence to converse with all the wonderful deaf people at Ethan's school. My world has just been opened and it's magnificent!

Annieofbluegables said...

Wonderful! I enjoyed reading your wonderful post.
My daughters learned a bit of ASL. This was a great way to communicate in class without having to pass notes or Church when they were supposed to be quiet, and not get in trouble. It was before cell phone texting. They learned the alphabet first and just spelled everything, but later began to learn other signs. I love you was the first thing I taught them, when they were tiny.
Now my daughters teach sign to their babies who seem to pick that up before they learn to speak. It is so sweet.
But my first experience with ASL was at a General Conference for our Church in the Tabernacle in Salt Lake. I sat up towards the top of the seating area, and there roped off was a group of deaf with the interpreter sitting with her back to the speakers, facing the deaf group. As I listened to the talks, and watched the beautiful expressions on her face as she spoke of God or the Spirit, I too was mesmerized. I got more out of watching her and listening the the talks than if I had just watched the speaker, who was a tiny speck behind a lectern.
I loved how her face expressed the word as much as her hands, and I was in LOVE with this new way to communicate. I have never expressed this to anyone, and have never seen it addressed until your post, but that is exactly how I feel. You hit a soft spot in my heart with this post. Thank you.
ps. we have a blind lady in our choir, who used to belong to the Mormon Tabernacle Choir for 20 years. Likewise it is amazing to watch her "read" braille while she sings. She is able to memorize her musical alto part, then reads the words, which all appear as a bunch of bumps on a thick piece of paper. She has limited sight, she can see the director as a shadow, and can see his arms waving. She is one of the best altos in our section. To me it is profoundly amazing.

Anonymous said...

I have loved the beauty of ASL since I first saw and experienced it when I was 12 years old, so I "get it" when you describe the animation and ALIVE-ness of an ASL conversation.
Becoming fluent is a wonderful goal.
Having a son who says "I love you" each night is an incredible blessing.

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Jan D-M said...

My love affair with ASL started as a camp counselor in high school when I met Julia, a 9 y.o. deaf girl. Later,I took an ASL class for personal interest after hours while in college and ended up teaching it the next year by happenstance. I'd always been intrigued and wanted to learn. As an RA (Resident Assistant) in the dorm, I had two deaf men, Mike and Tim, on my floor. They taught me a few signs I probably should not have learned, but as my son is taking ASL in college now, I am tempted to teach them to him. :) I am far from fluent, but it amazes me how opportunity has come my way to use what I know.

Spent a week at an Audubon camp in Maine and found out the assistant cook was deaf. It took me two days to get up the courage to "talk" to him. Once I did, he was at my side all week. In the four years he'd worked there, I was the first person to talk to him other than the man who hired him. Can you imagine the loneliness of that? He later became my square dance partner. I couldn't believe the comments that "Clark can't dance, he's deaf." We showed them he was deaf, NOT stupid. Sheesh.

Another time I attended a college friend's wedding. The best man was deaf. After getting my nerve up, my husband and I struck up a conversation with him and we made a buddy for the day. My husband only knew the little I had taught him.

Once on a plane headed from Tucson to Maine, we made an emergency landing in Phoenix. There was a deaf couple on the plane who had no idea what was going on. The flight attendant had no clue they were deaf until I told her. How'd I know? They were signing when I walked by and I tried to "eavesdrop" to see if I could understand. They thought they had landed in their destination city of Cincinnati, so I had to explain what was what in my limited ability. They'd had a small argument before I explained. He said they were in Cincinnati. She argued they weren't. She finally won the argument when she signed "There are no palms trees in Cincinnati!".

I know this is a long comment. Sorry. But I want to say two things: First, don't ever be afraid to sign to someone regardless of how little you know because they are eternally grateful that someone will just try. It's not fun to feel isolated. Second---one of the most beautiful things I love to watch is someone 'singing' in sign language. If they are really good, it is like watching ballet with their fluid and expressive motions of hands and face. Stunning, moving and mesmerizing.

Sarah Lulu said...

Aaah yes the excesses of Vegas ...I can barely imagine it!

Strangely enough ...I rarely SO rarely see anyone sign ...but today I happened past a couple of women in a fabulously animated conversation ...I DID look in envy and think ...how much I loved the emotion of it.

I did learn Auslan for a while (Australian Sign Language) ..because I was a counsellor in a rehab and I had one deaf client. Of course now I've forgotten most of it ...having no-one to sign to.