American Sign Language

Last fall, a remarkable thing happened in our church. We welcomed a deaf congregation into ours. Now this may now seem too remarkable, but if you know much about deaf culture, then you know that often the deaf remain isolated. When our pastor shared with us about joining with this congregation, he stressed over and over that their members were to be our members. He wanted real relationships, not a “deaf ministry”. So here we are six months later and I’m taking an American Sign Language class.

I am so excited about this! All I’ve ever really known before is finger-spelling and a few signs we used with the boys regarding mealtime, please /thank you, etc. Now I get to learn it all. It is overwhelming! In case you know little about ASL, it is not just signing what you are speaking. It is learning a whole new visual language with new grammar, syntax, cultural norms, etc. Things that are rude in our speaking culture are normative in a deaf culture. For example, it is acceptable to “eaves drop” on a signed conversation. If those involved in the signed conversation want privacy, they will sign with small hand movements or seek a private area. Also, signing involves a great deal of facial expressions.

Several of the families who have started attending our church have small children. I have smiled and nodded, mouthed “hello” in the nursery hall, but as of yet, I’ve not really extended myself to communicate with them. Tonight I learned to get over my foolish pride of looking stupid or making them uncomfortable. These women are patient and kind, ready to make new friends, too.

I’ve seven more weeks of this first ASL class. Then, hopefully I can advance on to the other advanced classes. Oh, one more thing. JD is actually taking this class with me! Missie is keeping the boys for us so we can learn together.

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3 thoughts on “American Sign Language

  1. Hmm…I have to question the whole “acceptable to eavesdrop” thing. My degree is in sign language interpreting so I’ve spent MUCH time around deaf people socially and professionally. Maybe it’s just those at your church who don’t mind their conversations being watched because I can tell you that the deaf community views “eavesdropping” as extremely rude. It’s a major taboo.

    That being said, I am so glad you’re learning! I think everyone should learn sign language, personally. It’s such a beautiful thing to watch and it’s a great way to communicate in places where noise is restricted. Good luck! And remember, you’ll retain more the more you practice, so go talk to those people!! ๐Ÿ™‚

  2. Wasn’t Monday night fun? I was graduated to ASL 2, which definitely was a lot more stretching for me than ASL 1. I had a couple of panicky moments when I tried to search my brain for signs that had once been used, but have since fled my brain. I’m excited to learn more!

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