I have had a long history with ASL, a sort of off-and-on interest. My mother tried to teach me some sign language when I was young, but I was not motivated enough to care.
My revived interest began this summer. A near relative was involved in a car accident that left her mentally fully functioning, but unable to speak. Her inability to communicate left her frustrated. She still had motor skills, and if she and I had known sign language we would have been able to communicate.
I determined to learn ASL when I went to college, even taking my book with me, but lost track of my plans in the hectic schedule that is sophomore year. I had forgotten all about my idea until I ran into the idea of ASL in a place I least expected to.
One of my interests is reading, and while in the past that mostly meant novels, I started this year reading comics. A friend had recommended a series for me, Matt Fraction’s new version of Marvel’s Hawkeye, and I was enjoying them very much. I was reading through one issue when the main character is deafened and all of the dialogue is written in sign language. I was completely lost, and I realized that if I’d been learning ASL all along I might have been able to understand some of what was being said.
That’s how I finally got around to learning American Sign Language. I’ve done a lot of research and realized that this is not an easy language to learn. I will have to spend a lot of time and energy learning not just signs, but the unique ASL grammar, facial expressions, and body language that are all a part of speaking ASL properly. I will also need to learn more about the unique Deaf culture and how sign language fits into that.
All in all, this is going to be much more of a challenge than I had originally anticipated when I picked up a sign language book written for middle schoolers. But this is no challenge compared to what a deaf person lives with on a daily basis. By making the effort to learn to communicate with the Deaf in their own language, I can show that I respect these people and am not treating them as a lesser person just because of a physical disability.
The end goal of this is that I will someday become fluent enough in ASL to be certified as an interpreter, which will be a real possibility since I am majoring in Communications. It will take a long time for me to reach this stage, and I feel that this blog will be a motivator to keep working so that I have something to post every week.