ASL 101

ASL 101

I wanted to learn something totally new during my gap year so I signed up for an American Sign Language class at the local community college, and today was the first day of class.

We’re supposed to get familiar with fingerspelling so for homework, we have to practice identifying names using the link I’m sharing (click on the title “ASL 101”!). I’ve realized that learning ASL is completely different than learning a different spoken language, mainly because it is all visual, but mostly because my teacher is Deaf; unlike other classes in which the teacher can act as a translator between English and the other language, my ASL teacher can’t understand us speaking. Thankfully, there was an interpreter at tonight’s class, but apparently she won’t be coming anymore. It’s intimidating and overwhelming when communication between the teacher and me will be extremely difficult at first, but I hope that this initial barrier will help me learn exponentially throughout the semester.

Something interesting I learned today: ASL is not only spoken through hand gestures, but also facial expressions and head movements. For example, raising your eyebrows can indicate a question and how hard you squint at your thumb and index finger pinching can indicate the degree of smallness. It’s very cool to see how complex this language is, and although I couldn’t understand my teacher at all in the beginning, mostly because the interpreter’s translation didn’t sync with her hand movements, I gradually started to anticipate what the interpreter may say next just by observing my teacher by the end of class.

In the middle of class, my teacher stated that most hearing people would prefer to be blind than deaf and asked us what we would prefer. I thought about that on my way home and even until now but I can’t decide. When I was younger, I felt bad for and uncomfortable around people who were deaf or blind, but I realize now that “Deaf” is a community of its own with its own culture, and we shouldn’t feel bad for them because they treasure and value their other senses even more. Instead of feeling sorry for what they don’t have, we should feel thankful for what we do have. Just something to think about.

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