Catching up to my classmates with the learning of ASL hasn’t been as much of a struggle as I imagined it to be. I think the most prominent and difficult barrier to overcome is the Deaf or Hard of Hearing community’s standards or expectations. Those wouldn’t really be the right words for it, but there’s no way else to describe it. Like my mentor Tori said, “[she] is not able to teach the signs”, because she herself isn’t deaf or hard of hearing. It would be cultural appropriation for her to teach a language that she isn’t fluent or isn’t her native tongue. This makes complete sense but didn’t click into place for me until it was clarified that ASL isn’tn just English in gestures, it’s an entire language by itself.
As much as the history and background of the language are just as important as the language itself which makes it a little more complicated to use, I agree with my mentor when she said that knowing some background helped her “think twice about how [she] used it”. The language takes much more thought behind it than simply doing it which is a challenge I still need to overcome when it comes down to being fully immersed in understanding ASL.
So far, the signs I have learned are:
- Some of the alphabet
- The first 20 numbers
- “See you/See you later.”
- “How are you?”
- “I am good/fine/bad/so-so.”
- “What is your name?”
- “My name is ___.”
- “How old are you?”
- “I am ___.”
- “Again please.”
- “Sign again but slower.”
- “I’m sorry.”
- “Thank you”
The signs listed above are done in order in the video.
During the meeting I had with my mentor, my classmates in grade 9 and I accomplished a couple of helpful tasks to assist in our learning:
A question-and-answer period
After introducing ourselves, Tori went over and answered some questions we had for her that we had put in a group chat we all shared. The questions that were asked were mostly questions about the process of learning ASL and some of the difficulties we might face while trying to learn ASL. She provided insights such as saying someone who is learning ASL “should never use ASL for a ‘”performance”’ purpose”. Basically, meaning that it shouldn’t be used to show off and impress other people. Because of the struggle and fight for deaf and hard of hearing people to be able to use ASL instead of trying to read lips to fit in with the deaf community, respecting the language is one of the biggest things to be conscious of when using ASL.
Review, discussion, and signing practice
After having our question-and-answer period, our mentor Tori went over and reviewed some of the commonly used signs such as Hello, how are you, I am good/bad/fine/so-so. Tori gave some advice saying that “the opposite of [some signs] is a throwing away [motion] of that sign”. For example, the gesture for good and bad are very similar, but different in the way your palm faces when you are finished the movement is different with bad being palm faced down, and good is palm facing up. Slight differences like this both make it a bit more difficult to remember signs but also help recognize patterns to remember the difference between signs.
Decided and agreed on the next meeting
We closed the meeting by deciding that we would all find signs and resources to compile together into a document and learn them for next meeting to practice and share. We would mostly focus on vocabulary to build before trying to find grammar and sentence structure references. To make the process of mentoring 4 students at once easier, we decided to keep the day and time we all meet the same which is every two weeks on Sunday at 2 pm.
Thank you for reading my blog post, see you next time!