Today I interviewed a young man at my school who is deaf as part of my research for a final paper I am writing on American Sign Language. He has a cochlear implant that allows him to hear, so I was able to conduct the interview without needing an interpreter.
What I took away from this interview was a renewed humility. While many people see the deaf as disabled and even sometimes inferior, the truth is that this young man is a person I look up to and admire.
My interviewee told me that while it is possible for him to have a conversation with someone communicating verbally, he finds sign language easier and more understandable. When I asked him if communicating with people who have a limited knowledge of sign is frustrating, he replied that just making an effort to understand and respect his culture and language more than makes up for the added difficulty experienced.
This interview helped me understand more about why I feel that learning ASL is so important for me. Knowing that Deaf people see even novice attempts to use sign language as a sign of respect for them has made me less nervous about practicing ASL with others I know, and less afraid of making a mistake as a beginner.