Apr 8, 2017

Talents Discovered: Connecting Through American Sign Language

What a wonderful world it is to be able to express your thoughts and words through the complexity of hand movements and facial expressions that flow with ease, grace and mastery.  

Image Credit: Pixabay.com - Darelle

American Sign Language (ASL) is a fascinating and beautiful language to watch. My son is taking Advanced ASL classes in high school and I've been very impressed with his commitment to the language and how he is constantly improving his skill level. 

Being able to communicate with someone who is deaf opens up a very intimate and personal connection to people that would otherwise struggle in our hearing world. 

I had the opportunity to sit down with my son's ASL teacher to interview him for an article I was writing featuring Deaf Awareness Day for a community publication called, Town Life Magazine.  

Through this interview, I learned that his ASL teacher has been deaf since birth and communicates and teaches his class through Sign Language, text books, writing, and computer programs. A challenging task, you would think. His years of experience and the talent of being able to teach this language to hearing students is really quite impressive. 

Personally, I learned to fingerspell as a youngster for the only reason that my cousin and I could talk to each other without the younger cousins knowing what we were saying. Kind of a secret code, you might say. We had a Sign Language book demonstrating the finger movements of the alphabet, so we sat down and learned them all. I'm definitely not fluent in signing these, but it's surprising, after all these years, how many I remember. 

However, the fluency with how my son is able to use ASL has been amazing and helpful. Not only did he act as interpreter during my interview with his teacher, but he has also been involved in several situations where he's been able to communicate with someone who is deaf and successfully calm their frustrations. 

Numerous times, he's been able to jump in and help a deaf customer at his job by using Sign Language. Much to their relief, they're overjoyed to find out he's able to communicate in their language. I'm sure this is the case with anyone who speaks a different language. 

If you're wondering, American Sign Language is an accredited language elective in high school. It wasn't taught when I was in school, but it has since been added to most school's curriculum.  Different sign languages are used in different countries and regions. British Sign Language (BSL) is a different from ASL, for example. 

Even though my son didn't know anyone who was deaf, he decided to take it as his language elective because he thought it might be useful one day. 

He was right. 

Not long ago, when he was visiting his grandmother, a situation had occurred with a concerned neighbor who happened to be deaf and she was fiercely trying to write down her thoughts on paper in order to communicate. As soon as my son realized she was deaf, her anxiety was quickly diffused when he was able to use Sign Language to talk with her. The look on her face was of surprise and happiness once she realized this kid knew how to talk the talk

In a world where she might be feeling alienated most of the time, comes a moment of unexpected understanding and bonding with someone that possesses the skill to speak her language. 

If you've ever been in a situation of feeling misunderstood or stuck in a language barrier, then you know that it can be taxing. 

It's having that association with someone when a glimmer of reasoning pokes through to bring joy and warmth of understanding

Image Credit: Pixabay.com - Ollis

Many times things get lost in translation and our impatience to understand people can be disheartening. 

It's interesting how rapidly someone's face and demeanor will soften once you try to understand and relate on their level. In a quick instance, annoyance can switch to happiness and it will truly turn someone's day around. 

Possibly, you don't share the talent of speaking another language; therefore, you can always use the one universal language that everyone understands...
It's a simple smile.

  • Have you experienced a language barrier with someone? How did it turn out? 
  • Were your talents discovered and appreciated when helping to communicate with someone - maybe using Sign Language?

For an extra sample treat...if you know American Sign Language, or even if you don't, watch my son's video as he practices for a school project.  Often, students will video themselves and look back at the footage to see where they need improvement.

Even if you don't understand a thing he's saying, it's still interesting to watch...especially in this video clip! Making a special appearance is a slithering guest star named Gerald....wait and watch for it. If you dare!!!

No animal or child was harmed when making this video.

Put your smile on and unwrap
   A Square of Chocolate,
Laurie O

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  1. You must be very proud of your son, who's obviously a young man with compassion and heart for others. I have tinnitus, and am growing ever more aware of how not hearing well, or even deafness, can be very isolate and frightening. Thank you for this wonderful reminder.

    1. Thank you for your kind reply and, yes, I am a very proud mom. Compassion is so important as we deal with others and it's good knowing our kids are being taught that along with these language skills. I'm hoping it will make our future world a better place. Wishing you positive encouragement in your situation, as well. Take care!

  2. This is so so beautiful and perfect timing for this mom as well. I almost 12-year-old announced to me last night she wants to learn ASL. Seemingly out of the blue. This morning I will start searching for classes

    1. Oh perfect Carla! The fact that she wants to and is interested will be beneficial in the dedication to learning it. Good luck!

  3. I think we should all learn this...I wear hearing aids, but alas they are working as well anymore...

    1. It's such a great skill to have and I think it's great that young students have the option. Thanks for commenting, Renee. :)

  4. Love it! In my opinion he did a very good job signing & displayed good facial expressions. I was able to pick up some of his telling. I have gotten rusty as I have not used sign much lately. Used to be fair at it but as time & the arthritis progressed my skills diminished. My hearing impaired brother one time told me to 'stop mumbling'! Yeah, I am pretty rusty now. Made communicating more difficult. Then, a few years ago I got a phone call where caller ID came up with his name... I figured it was someone doing genealogy research on the name but to my surprise it was a relay service. Don is able to call through a tablet to the service where he signs to them they talk to me. Only took 60 years, but that was the first phone call I had ever had with my brother. Pretty neat!

    1. So cool that you could relate to this story and thank you so much for sharing. I just love to hear people's thoughts and feedback. The phone call from your brother was certainly a bright spot in how technology has helped with communication. Bravo!


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