Monday, October 26, 2009

Juxtaposition of Teaching Sign


I often teach sign & seek out opportunities to do so. I just got back from teaching a fun group of RAs (resident assistants) sign at one of the UW dorms.

As always, I provided some quick background information & an explanation of the difference between ASL, English, and PSE (pidgeon) sign as to clue the learners in on that while *I* personally may sign "How are you?", that this is not uniform for ASL. An ASL user would simply sign, "How you?"

I found myself this time, acutely conscious, of how I kept showing BOTH the ASL and English signs. Really, it is better people are educated that the way *I* sign is not the only way and most importantly: ASL is a separate language that has its own grammar structure. It is not just a way to "represent" English although that is the way I choose to use it. If they were to encounter a Deaf person, I want people to walk away knowing that the Deaf person is not "stupid" or "illiterate" when they may write in ASL or "drop" the "is" from "My name is."

They are not even dropping the "is." They are signing THEIR language properly.

Something I've mentioned before is how I tried (and still try, I'll admit) to distance myself from the Deaf culture because of the lack of understanding that Deaf people have their own culture/customs which may come across as ignorance or even apathy to those unaware of it. It is not always a conscious decision and the older I get, the more I understand how "terrible" this choice sounds.

Some Deaf would say it's not their fault, that the hearing need to become educated. But as always, the perennial question here is: How do people get educated when they're UNAWARE they need to be? Of course, the Deaf are the ones who need to educate. Sometimes, this position gets old.

Some hearing would say the Deaf need to learn English (structure), after all, the predominant language is English. But would that solve the misunderstandings that may occur when (any) two cultures interact? I don't think so.

So I try to do my small part in the world to further understanding. The thing is, though? I'll let you in on a secret.

I enjoy it. I really, truly do. I love seeing people learn to communicate in another way. I love people's minds being expanded. I love being in front of crowds. It is a privilege for me.

I'll probably keep English and ASL in a juxtaposition when I teach. I feel I can't rightfully teach JUST one. It is a bit conflicting; these two modes, yet I find people are flexible enough & understand. So, I'll show you how to sign "How are you?" but I will also show "How you?"