My Sign tutor recommended I watch the following video. It offers a unique insight into Deaf culture and the problems associated with intercommunication between our two languages, English and ASL. I had hoped to embed the video, but the original publisher blocked embedding on their YouTube page. Below please find the link to watch it on YouTube.
There are a number of obstacles a Sign student must overcome in order to master the language. Classes, DVDs and meetups aren’t sufficient. Like English, to a lesser degree, it’s not just a matter of memorizing vocabulary and learning grammar rules. Sign is a cultural language. Learning it requires learning some of the Deaf experience. A gesture or facial expression that a hearing person would find offensive, may be merely descriptive amongst the ASL community.
Signers touch one another in order to get attention. If I need to say something to a Deaf friend who doesn’t happen to be looking directly at me, it isn’t considered at all rude to take his arm, or tap him on the shoulder. Hearing people would view that as an invasion of personal space, or even a sexual assault. The facial expression used to show someone as big-boned or pleasingly-plump is outright offensive to a larger English speaker. I was with a Deaf friend who was looking for his girlfriend, shopping in a mall. When we came upon an information kiosk, I signed to my friend, “Why don’t we just page her?” His disturbance at my ignorance was palpable. “No good. How hear her?” he signed back, visibly irked at the stupid Hearie. I take paging someone from a kiosk for granted. The Deaf take being unable to page someone from a kiosk for granted.
It’s that cultural schism that necessitates an immersion methodology, if the student truly wants to master this amazing, beautiful and surprisingly expressive language. Oh, and if you don’t think ASL is expressive, get a Deaf person angry. I think it may in fact, be more expressive than English.
Northeastern University offers an immersion based boot camp in ASL. The program lasts one week, during which a) the student attends classes and lectures given in Sign, with no English interpreter, and b) the students aren’t allowed to fall back on English when speaking to one another or the faculty member. It’s a week long voice-off Sign marathon that would make even the strong second-language Signer quake in his boots. Students do not have to be members of the N.U. Deaf Studies program, or even enrolled in the school, but there is a diagnostic assessment that you must pass in order to qualify.
Here’s a link to the page.
Last year’s event took place in June, but as I understand it – and I could be wrong – this year, 2016, it is scheduled to occur in April. Several friends who study ASL have told me that the event is well worth the price, and most people sign up for the next year, right away. There is a refund policy, but read that carefully. They stagger the amount of your refund based on how early you cancel. Either way, seating is limited and the program fills up quickly. My advice would be to register as soon as possible to secure yourself a place. They do fill up, from what I’ve been told.
Me? I couldn’t imagine something I’d rather do – except maybe compete in the Masters Boxing Competition. But that’s a story for another Blog site.
BitcoDavid is a blogger and a blog site consultant. In former lives, he was an audio engineer, a videographer, a teacher – even a cab driver. He is an avid health and fitness enthusiast and a Pro/Am boxer. He has spent years working with diet and exercise to combat obesity and obesity related illness.