Date: 2006-01-26 22:40:00
Tags: asl
sign language
Amy and I just returned from our first ASL class at the local community centre. We decided to sign up for this class mostly because we though it would be interesting to learn. Communicating silently between ourselves will be fun too! And who knows, it might come in handy in a practical situation one day.

It was a little bit of a surprise (though it probably shouldn't have been) that our teacher is deaf. She can hear a little bit (was complaining about the loud music in the aerobics class next door), and can speak well enough (though I suspect she prefers not to), but for almost the entire class she did not say anything out loud. She wrote quite a few things on the whiteboard, mostly instructions about what we were going to do next, but the whole class was pretty much an immersion. I found this style very comfortable when learning signing.

So far we have learned the "fingerspelling" alphabet, the numbers from 0 to 15, and a good handful of 30 or so additional concepts and emotions. It's really encouraging to be able to learn so much in the first two hours!
To begin with, most "Real" ASL teachers are Deaf. Notice the use of the capital - there's a difference between deaf (having severe hearing loss) and Deaf (being a member of Deaf culture/society). In my ASL 1 class, we had an interpreter...for the first 5 minutes of the first day. After that, total immersion. It's challenging, and you end up using a lot of body language, but fun.

As far as her preferring not to speak, I won't go into it in detail (You can search around for "Oralism" if you're more interested), but teaching children to speak, and restricting them from signing, is considered very oppressive and bad. Sometimes in oralist schools, the hearing teachers will literally bind the childrens' hands to their desks to prevent them from any kind of sign language. It's a Generic Bad Thing.

ASL classes tend to have a component of Deaf culture/history/etc, so you'll probably get this all in more detail at some point.
That's interesting, thanks. I had previously read a bit about oralism and about binding children's hands. However, the context in which I read it led me to assume that this was something that was done in the past. Is this something that's still done today? I can hardly imagine that sort of repression.

We got a handout that had a page or so on Deaf history, but I had already covered pretty much all that by reading wikipedia. Perhaps we'll get some more material later.
I'm not sure if it's done today. However, there are still oralist schools in existence (although the trend seems to be to push kids towards Deaf schools more often than not), so I don't know. I suspect your teacher knows more about it than me.
Sounds cool. I often thought about learning sign language but never got around to it... Good luck!
I cannot tell you how awesome I think it is that you guys are learning ASL. It really is an amazing thing to be able to meet deaf people and be able to communicate with them. They are almost always so grateful that you've taken the time to learn their language. Especially when you don't have any deaf relatives, etc.

My kids get annoyed with me about it though....we'll be in the grocery store, and if they see a person signing, they try to direct my attention elsewhere, because they know I'm going to find SOME excuse to say hello and make a new friend.

Yeah, I'm really THAT lame.
P.S. Off soon as my engine is loaded up and ready to vroom, I'll be on my way to spend the weekend with you guys! ;o)
Woot! Maybe you'll bring some nice weather with you too. :)
(anonymous) : dashianna
i learned sigh lanuage and i hope u learn it once in a life time so bye and learn somthin from thiz bye freom dashi
That's cute that you were surprised to have a Deaf ASL teacher!! The only ASL teachers are Deaf ones, LOL.
Yes, of course it makes perfect sense in retrospect. :)
Greg Hewgill <>