It’s not just for deaf people. Like, spanish is not just for spanish people. And there are tons of advantages, even if you only learn the basics.
The first time I saw ASL was when I was in the back seat of the car, with my HoH sister, Lindsay, and her HoH husband, Vern, up front. With an inquisitive look on his face, he put his hand up to his ear and moved the first two fingers back and forth a little.
“What was THAT?!” I said, from the back, like a 5-year-old who had just heard a curse-word. (The 5-year-old I was sharing the back seat with, Leah, continued sticking her chewing gum on the door handle.)
“He was asking if I heard him,” Lindsay said. “In ASL.”
“WHOA! Cool!” I replied, and repeated the gesture to make sure I got it right.
Now, that’s only one sign. But it can be morphed, using context and facial expression, to mean:
- Did you hear me?
- Can you hear me?
- I can’t hear you
- I can hear you.
Pretty handy when you’re in a noisy place as (or with) a hard-of-hearing person, and want to check to see if you are communicating successfully. If not, you go to plan two….more ASL, wait a minute, I’ll shout louder…get me outta here…whatever. Much better than a pointless back and forth.
Other incredibly-useful (and/or fun) signs:
- No, Yes
- Got it
And they work even from behind the car window, ten yards away, while someone else is talking (so you don’t have to interrupt to just sign “got it!”)
It’s kind of like having a secret language in elementary school….but it really works. A couple of friends and I used finger-spelling in fifth grade. We’d hang our hand down on the side of the desk and spell something to one of our secret pals. Early evidence of a subversive streak.
Think about it.
p.s. just learned that my public library has access (free, to me, anyway) to a language learning site called Mango. The ASL section looks pretty good….basic, slow, with repetition for practice.