In-depth blog post #6
This is the last post before the final in-depth night, which means there won’t be any updates. What’s a little unfortunate about this, is that in about 3 weeks, we will be having a guest join us. More specifically, someone who is Deaf. I am really excited and a little nervous about that. Our mentor was able to get ahold of someone she knew, to come and teach us, and for us to be able to experience what it would be like to have a conversation with someone who is Deaf. We’ve been practicing a lot of words, and even questions, and although we have yet to learn ASL grammar, we still practiced enough questions, to be able to have a normal conversation. I’m actually not so sure if we will end up learning ASL grammar, just because of how complicated it is. I think maybe we should have started to learn about it earlier on, so that we would gradually develop a deeper understanding of everything, rather than just practicing.
The meeting we had this week, ended up being sort of short, mostly because we were all busy and it was my mentors’ finals season, which meant she was extremely busy. We still managed to meet for 1 hour, and still learned a lot. Earlier, during spring break, we missed a meeting because we were all busy, so we decided to meet next week as well, so that we wouldn’t be missing out on so much. We spent half of the time talking about a documentary we were all assigned to watch, and I ended up learning more than what I actually thought, by discussing about it. It was really interesting to see the different points of views my peers had, and it was a great learning experience, especially since we had not been learning much about Deaf culture recently. One question that I had asked was about a conversation that I had with someone, about how Deaf people learn to speak. A lot of people choose not to speak anymore, although when they were forced to, back when sign language was not an accepted form of communication, it was very hard for them to learn. In the documentary, I saw that the children learning had put their hands against the lips of the teacher, to feel the vibrations. I did not know why, so I asked the question. “yea, so the main issue is, that when everyone else learns to speak, right, it’s not based on looking at other people’s mouths and what they’re doing, and then imitating that, right, it’s about hearing those sounds and being like, oh, I need to create these sounds, and you just kind of make a bunch of sounds and be like, hey, that one sounds like the word they said, and learn to make words in that way right. So Deaf people can’t do that obviously, because they can’t hear the sounds that they’re making. So, it’s much more of a deliberate process, like you’d really have to specifically work at it.” This is a long quote of what my mentor said. The reason why I included this entire quote was because of context. What they said really helped me to compare the two ways of learning, and realizing that, they needed some way of recognizing that they’re making the same sound, and that they did that by feeling the vibrations of whatever word was spoken.
We did not end up doing the same practice as we had been doing, by using voice off sessions. Instead, we focused more on learning and reviewing the signs with voice on, because of the variations of signs. Signs have variations that you can use, and often it is used based on context, although some are also because they are outdated or just preference based on what you were taught. That has been something confusing for a lot of us while using voice off, because we would often think that we were doing the wrong sign, and try to fix it, resulting in taking a lot of time. A lot of people also didn’t fully learn the signs, so my mentor thought that rather than making it confusing, we should just explain everything, because they would probably benefit more this way then using voice off. “okay, why don’t we just review the signs together voice on, because it seems like from your updates, some of you have not really learned the signs, and there’s also a lot of variations which might end up confusing.”
For my learning center, I have a general idea of what I will be doing. I don’t have everything organized right now, since I still have a decent amount of time to sort and figure everything out. I am planning on doing a collaboration video with some of my peers who also decided to learn ASL. I thought that it would be really cool for people to view what it would be like for new ASL learners interact with each other. I’m hoping that seeing how much we learned in 5 months may also motivate others to try and learn ASL, which is sort of how I decided to learn ASL. Since I am also having a conversation with someone who is really Deaf, if I get their permission, I will record it, and use the conversation we have as part of my learning center, to further compare interactions with Deaf and ASL learners, as a beginner myself. To make this into something interactive, I plan on asking viewers to translate and sort what I am signing in order, by giving them words that I use in a different order. This is an appropriate way of making this interactive, without being disrespectful, and I think it could be a fun and challenging experience.
How to have a beautiful mind
Our group has not used many concepts over these past months. For the meeting this week, it was a perfect time to try and include thinking about concepts, as we spent a lot of time on discussion. One concept that came specifically to my mind was the concept that Deaf people could not speak, which meant that they were not intellectually on the same level as hearing people. This was more of a negative concept, but it still helped to create a larger and more specific discussion about this concept that is false. Similar to the discussion earlier about how they learn to speak, it is sort of the same practical idea, that they may have a harder time learning, although it does not limit their abilities. Throughout this journey, I have been given many of alternatives, as early on, we decided to just go with whatever we came across during each meeting, and keeping the planning pretty minimal. Part of learning ASL is not just the language, I think it’s also about the culture it comes from. There are also many parts of learning a language, and not just about learning words and putting them together to the best of your ability. Each meeting, while planning to practice the signs we learned on our own, we also come up with alternative ways to practice in an effective and efficient way. Coming up with alternatives is how I think we were able to learn so much. Being given alternatives to your plans can create many benefits, which is what happened to me, as originally, we had not been practicing with our voice off, or much of fingerspelling. We were given many options to us at the beginning, such as learning it the current way, or just using voice on and just sharing what we learned. As we progressed, we came back to the alternative options we were given, and decided to use those, as they were more well suited for our goals, and without the given alternatives, our progress would have been much slower.