Last evening I headed out to dinner with my ASL class. We were meeting up with the ASL class from our local community college (they were about on par with us knowledge-wise). The dinner had one rule – no talking. Sign language was the only thing permitted.
Er … yikes.
All told though, it went over really well. I know about 300 signs so conversation was possible if a bit simplified. We relied on the basics – names, home towns, jobs, etc. and grew off of that. Nothing terribly complicated. No one was willing to discuss global political ramifications of anything through finger spelling though someone did tell a story about King Kong squishing his lady friend. Trying to explain *why* I wanted to learn sign language was a challenge, especially when I was asked by the instructor of the other class.
It was interesting to see how the other class did signs that I knew. Stay, for example. Our version involves the Y shape coming down in front of the chest whereas theirs involved the same motion but slapping the palm. That slap motion threw me off a bit until someone finger spelled it for me. They knew some signs we didn’t, we knew some they didn’t.
The night did reinforce that I need more practice in reading other people’s signs. I can’t pick up on finger spelling very fast. That’s mostly due to lack of practice but Steph’s offered to learn ASL so given time I’ll get better. I’m thinking about recording myself doing ASL and then finding a way to randomize the videos so that I can watch and figure out what is being done.
I also learned a whole new respect for the way deaf folks have to go through life and the daily challenges they face. For instance, No Talking also applied to dealing with the restaurant staff. That meant we had to point out our orders on the menu. Easy enough. Now try asking for a refill. Or ketchup. Or salt. Or a lemon (as one person did for their fish). Fortunately everyone ended up with what they wanted along with a hearty dose of laughter. The waitress picked up quick and even learned some of our signs. Earned a hell of a lot of tips.
But there was some cheating, I have to admit. We could hear what the waitress was saying and adapt our signs to it. For instance, when it came to asking for condiments, the waitress got in the habit of running down the list – Ketchup? Mustard? Tartar Sauce? and then someone would nod or sign Yes. A deaf person wouldn’t have that advantage (even reading lips isn’t perfect).
I’ve only got one more week fo ASL, then the summer off, and pick up again in the fall if I so choose. I do think I will. Last night proved that it was a lot of fun and very rewarding. Besides, if I can teach Steph, then maybe we can have a private conversation anywhere we go.
And since this whole thing is about ASL, here’s a music video … done in ASL. Enjoy!