Emma’s In-depth blog post #4

I am very lucky that my project is one where meeting my mentor, Sandra, online is possible, since I am still able to learn ASL through a screen, although it is not ideal. I have spent this time in the past month learning how to sign leisure activities, such as dancing, watching movies, shopping, and hiking, how to identify people based on their appearance and body posture, as well as learning signs for certain languages and places, like school and university. I also started learning how to sign emotions, how much people remember, and degree of difficulty of activities. To practice all these signs, Sandra gave me a worksheet to fill out with my ‘autobiography’, where I can practice signing everything on the sheet. My ‘autobiography’ includes my name, what languages I know, where I go to school, how difficult I think learning certain activities is, and my likes and dislikes.  


Here is a video of a few signs for leisure activities I have learned


What has been my most difficult mentoring challenge so far?  Why?

The most difficult mentoring challenge so far has been trying to continue meeting while unable to meet in person because of the coronavirus. This has been difficult since I want to continue meeting Sandra to keep learning, but we are unable to meet in person. We have decided to start meeting using Zoom online. This is not as convenient as meeting in person, and many challenges will arise due to this obstacle. Since Sandra is very organized and brings ‘worksheets’ to each meeting to refer to, seeing and receiving those worksheets will be one of those challenges. I have also gotten to know Sandra more than I did at the beginning of the project, and another challenge will be maintaining that connection when we are not meeting in person. I will make sure to do extra research between our online meeting so that I can keep learning at a regular pace throughout the project.  


What is working well? Why?

One element of this project that I feel is working well is the communication with Sandra during our meetings. Even though we are not talking, we are able to understand each other using ASL, or, when I am not able to fully express myself with the ASL I have learned, I fingerspell words or we write things down. ASL largely involves facial expressions, so even if I do not understand what Sandra is signing, I am able to get the idea through her body language.  

I am also really getting to know Sandra, which makes the meeting even more enjoyable. When Sandra was teaching me how to sign leisure activities, such as camping, sewing and cooking, we would ask each other what we liked doing in our spare time. In this activity, I learned a lot about what Sandra enjoys doing, as well as what we have in common.  



What could be working better?  How can I make sure this happens?

Something that could be working better are more regular meetings with Sandra. We have been trying to meet every week, but since it was Spring Break and everyone is very busy because of the virus, we have not been able to meet on a regular basis. To make sure this happens, I will communicate with Sandra and try to find a day and time where we can meet regularly using Zoom online, even if it is only every two weeks instead of each week, as we were doing before Spring Break.

In-depth blog post #3

In-depth blog post #3


Since my last blog post, I have learned more about ASL grammar and a few new signs. My mentor, Sandra, taught me how to fingerspell names with double letters. There are three ways to sign double letters: bouncing your hand when signing, keeping you hand still, or moving your hand sideways when signing the double letter. All the letters are signed in one of these three ways. For example, the letter “B” is signed by bouncing your hand, while the letter “M” is signed without a bounce. “A”, “O”, and “E” are all signed by moving your hand to the side when fingerspelling that letter. I must remember which method of signing is used for each letter, which is difficult at times, but I will continue to practice. I also learned how to ask different types of questions, and how to respond properly using the ASL grammar and facial expressions. Sandra is such an amazing mentor and I am so excited to continue learning ASL with her!


What went particularly well during my mentoring sessions? 

In the sessions I have had so far with my mentor, a few things that went particularly well were our ability to communicate, the rate at which I was learning, and creating a good environment to learn. Even though neither of us were talking, as Sandra is Deaf, we were able to effectively exchange questions and concepts. Sandra always brings papers to our meetings with information on what I am going to learn, and she writes little notes on the paper to clarify if necessary. To learn a new sign or concept, Sandra demonstrates and then gets me to repeat it. Because a huge part of ASL is body language, we communicate using facial expressions just as much as we communicate through sign. It is a really interesting and different experience! Sandra also teaches me a lot each week but gives me time to practice and ask questions. She gives me sheets for me to practice at home before meeting her again each week, so I feel that I am learning a lot, without it being too much of an overload of information. I always feel comfortable at the meetings to ask questions or to get Sandra to repeat something, which creates a positive environment for learning. 


What learning challenges emerged and what did I do to hold myself accountable for my learning? 

A large learning challenge that emerged was communicating more complex conversations without an interpreter. For the first meeting I had with Sandra, another woman came and interpreted our conversations so that we could establish questions like how long we were going to meet for and where. For all the meeting after that, though, it was just Sandra and me. Weirdly, I find that I learn faster without an interpreter because I am forced to pay extra attention to signs and facial expressions. But when Sandra is showing me something more complex or trying to correct me, sometimes things are miscommunicated when we are just relying on ASL. Another challenge that emerged is trying to keep up with the conversation when we are fingerspelling because I still find it difficult to quickly recognize and comprehend what she is saying. To stay accountable for my learning, I make sure to practice the sheets that Sandra gives me at each meeting so that I improve before the next time we meet. I also go back to the things that I learned a few meetings ago to make sure I do not forget information I already learned. I make sure to watch videos on the two sites Sandra recommended to review signs. 


What logical challenges affected our communication and what factors affected our ability to interact effectively? 

The obvious answer to this question is the fact that Sandra and I cannot communicate verbally. Although I am slowly figuring out how to communicate using ASL, I am not used to relying so heavily on facial expressions. Body language is a large part of ASL, and Sandra says that ASL is 40% signs and 60% body language. Also, when we speak out loud, we can hear the tone of someone’s voice to detect their emotions. With my mentor, I cannot hear her tone, and this is something that affects our ability to communicate. Even with these obstacles, we are still able to find ways to communicate our ideas, either by fingerspelling out words, using body language or, when absolutely necessary, writing things down. 


I cannot wait to keep learning ASL with Sandra!


Emma’s blog post #2 for In-depth

In-depth blog post #2

How did my mentor gain her experience and expertise? 

Sandra, my mentor, is Deaf, and uses ASL as her way of communicating. She gained her experience at a young age. She attended a school where they focused on how to read lips, and they tried to teach Sandra how to speak English. This was extremely difficult for her as she was, and is, Deaf. When Sandra was eight years old, she met a neighbour her age who was also Deaf. Her neighbour’s family taught her how to communicate through ASL, and Sandra joined Deaf camps, Deaf sports and Deaf clubs, although she unfortunately remained in the oral school until she graduated. 

What were those experiences like for my mentor? 

Learning how to communicate using ASL was an amazing experience for Sandra. Her Deaf friends were her family, something she could never feel with the others at her oral school as she could not communicate with them very easily. It made her feel alive and fresh because she loves being with her Deaf “family”. After graduating the oral school, Sandra fully embraced the Deaf community. Sandra says she would be lost without ASL, and she prefers to be called Deaf and is proud of it! 

What wisdom have I gained from my mentor so far? 

So far, I have met with my mentor twice, once with an interpreter, and once without. At the first meeting, which was with an interpreter, my mentor taught me some basic phrases such as ‘nice to meet you’ and ‘what is your name?’ Although I already knew how to fingerspell the alphabet in ASL, Sandra gave me a sheet that would help me fingerspell quicker. She also gave me a sheet to help me learn the numbers up to twenty. To help me quickly recognize finger spelled words, as that is a large part of ASL, we played a game. She signed a combination of two letter, and then either repeated the same two letters or signed another combination. My job was to, using the signs Sandra had taught me, tell her if the combos were the same or different. I quickly realized that it is extremely difficult to recognize what Sandra is signing when she signs so quickly! I will continue to work on rapidly recognizing fingerspelling so that I can keep up with Sandra in a conversation.  

Sandra also taught me some of the basic grammar rules for ASL. She explained that facial expressions play a large role in ASL, just as tone plays a large role when you are speaking English. She explained that for questions like who, what, where, when and why, you must furrow your brow and lean your head forward. For yes or no questions, you must raise your eyebrows and lean your head forward. We practiced asking each other what our names were, and we would respond using different finger-spelled names, to practice fingerspelling.  

Strangely, though I learned a lot the first meeting, I felt that I felt I learned even more the second time, when there was not an interpreter. I needed to pay more attention to her signs because there was not a person there to tell me what Sandra was saying if I missed something. This encouraged me to ask more questions and learn more signs. We reviewed some of the signs I learned in the first meeting, and we did a bit of practicing of fingerspelling. Sandra then taught me the signs for the colours. She also gave me another lesson on grammar. In a sentence in ASL, when you are referring to the topic, you raise your eyebrows. We practiced the colours and the grammar I learned by describing people and their clothing around us.  Here are a few of the links that Sandra recommend I use to learn those signs:  

ASL That colours

ASL That clothes 


What have I learned so far, in terms of facilitation strategies, that might contribute to my own development as a mentor? 

In terms of facilitation strategies, I have learned a lot from Sandra on how I could develop as a mentor. Even though we cannot communicate through words, she makes it easy to understand what I am learning, and she always gives me time to practice and to make sure I understand. She is also very organized. She brings a folder to each meeting containing papers she plans on giving me, and extra blank paper in case we must write something down to communicate. I find that the way she facilitates the meeting is really effective and allows me to learn a lot in just one hour each week.  


I will continue to work on quickly recognizing signs and fingerspelling and learning new signs, too. Sandra is an amazing mentor, and I look forward to meeting with her again to learn more!

In-depth post #1

In-Depth: ASL



I love talking with other people. Sharing stories and asking questions. I feel that communication is a huge part of my life. Because I can hear, I am able to communicate orally. For individuals who are Deaf and Hard of Hearing, communicating orally is often not an option. I want to be able to communicate with those who are Deaf and Hard of Hearing, as I feel this would be an amazing experience. 




For my In-depth project this year, I am going to learn American Sign Language. My goal is to be able to effectively communicate with a person who is Deaf or Hard of Hearing by the end of the project. I will use recourses such as YouTube videos, websites and apps to practice fingerspelling, signing, as well as rapidly recognizing the signs I have learned. I must learn ASL grammar, which is very different from English grammar, as well as having to learn a variety of signs. By the end of In-depth this year, I will try to be able to quickly recognize signs, be able to finger spell and sign without hesitations, and know the basics of ASL so that I can communicate with others who are not able to communicate orally.  



To learn ASL, I first emailed a woman who is a Registered Sign Language Interpreter, asking her if she would want to be my mentor. Over email, she told me that the Deaf community has an important culture that goes along with the language. She said that as she can hear, and as ASL is not her first language, it would not be appropriate for her to teach me ASL. Although she would not teach me, she said she would help me contact a person who is Deaf who would be willing to teach me. She also offered to attend our meetings and interpret until I no longer need an interpreter to communicate with the person who is Deaf. We are still emailing to figure out scheduling, but I will attempt to meet with her in the next two weeks to start learning.  

As well as learning from my mentor, I am going to try to meet with others who are Deaf. This will be a good way for me to see where my learning is at, as I will be able to see how well I can communicate with each Deaf person.  



I have not yet figured out where my mentor and I will meet, although we will probably want to meet somewhere quiet and calm because it will most likely be easiest to learn in a peaceful place.  



There are three large components of my In-depth project this year: learning ASL grammar, learning a variety of signs, and learning to speedily recognize signs and fingerspelling. I will learn the basic ASL grammar by April 27, although I will start learning it immediately. Grammar is the foundation for being able to understand and be understood in ASL, so I will need to learn ASL grammar quickly. I will work on learning signs throughout the project. I will learn numbers and fingerspelling by January 20. After that, I will start learning more complex signs discussing family, time, animals, places, and much more. I will practice recognizing signs quickly as I learn them. By May 25, I hope to be able to rapidly recognize all the signs I have learned, be able to sign a variety of common signs, and be able to understand and use ASL grammar.  



There are a variety of ways I hope to reach my goals. Here are a few of the recourses I have already found that will help me learn and recognize ASL:

“100 basic signs” 

This YouTube video shows some basic signs that cover family, places, time, temperature, food, clothing, health, emotions, questions, quantities, colours, money, and animal signs.  

“Beginner ASL Lesson”

This YouTube channel contains many different basic ASL lessons teaching simple vocabulary that is commonly used in conversations.  

“An intro to ASL Grammar Rules” 

This website explains some of the basic grammar rules for ASL. There is also a video to help you understand how grammar in ASL works.  

How to Structure Sentences in American Sign Language

This website talks about how to structure your sentences in ASL. 

ASL Sign Language Dictionary 

On this website, you can look up a variety of words and phrases, and the website will automatically bring up different videos that will teach you how to say the word or phrase you looked up in ASL.


I will use these YouTube videos and websites to learn signs and practice recognizing them. I will also practice having conversations with my mentor. I will also try to meet with other Deaf and Hard of Hearing people to practice having conversations, as well as see what I need to improve on to be able to fully communicate with someone in ASL.