(An image of a white man with gray hair dressed in a green shirt and strawberry striped apron using a paintbrush to paint an on a white canvas behind paint glasses)
More than once, sign language has paved the way for great storytellers in the deaf community to express themselves with their hands in no way any other form of expression has. With so many spoken languages, signed languages allow our brains to think of other ways to solve problems. Such as, communicating underwater, talking while eating, and creativing better ways to tell stories. We are so used to expressing ourselves verbally, but sign language can be a benefit if you learn to express yourself through a signed language rather than spoken.
(An image of a small child in a bright red winter coat and yellow skull cap riding a bike being pushed by a man with a bread in a black jacket. Both are being watched by a woman and a baby dressed in red winter coats.)
Learning a language isn’t like riding a bike. You won’t be able to pick it back up where you left off. It’s more like watching a movie/tv show – pausing and then going back expecting to remember everything that you’ve seen but you’ve forgotten several things or everything altogether. Without active use and practice of ASL, you may want to return it a few months later to find your skills are not where they once were. Nobody wants to go backward in progress. So create the opportunity for yourself to stay on point with your skills.
(An image of a person in a black shirt has their right hand out with their left index finger jammed between the space of their right index finger and their right middle finger)
ASL is a vast and complex language that can’t be all learned in one course. Generally it’s very important in ASL classes to cover the foundation of the language. Just like with English, we learn the sounds of letters and recognize what they look like to form words. Thus, if you stop at the very beginning of the language learning process, how will you form and recognize sentences and phrases that are common in ASL? Structure is important. Having information gaps will prevent you from understanding, following, and participating in any conversations you have.
(An image of a woman in a black t-shirt stands between a male in a yellow hoodie and a female in a white sweater, holding a menu between the two.)
Being stagnant in ways you communicate may end up hurting you later on in life when an opportunity to communicate arises. A child or a random stranger may come up to you asking for help from you or to ask a question of you and with your limited knowledge of ASL, you may never be able to help them successfully. Not changing the way you improve makes you a hindrance to those who may depend on you.
(An image of a male in a yellow hoodie has his hands up while conversing to a person in a white sweater with long blonde hair)
The fundamental key to engaging with other signers and expanding vocabulary is practice. Surround yourself with people who are with ASL and capture their expressions, the way their hands move when they sign and how they fingerspell, so you can then absorb it, so when the time for you to talk to another experienced signer yourself you’ll be ready. Repetition is an art form of how we all can learn and improve on studying things that are new to us. It makes it much easier to remember how to form letters using ASL. Also when you fingerspell words, it helps you improve your reception because you’ve seen and used it hundreds of times.
(An image of a opened book with the word “dictionary” being defined)
You won’t always be using ASL in a classroom. Sometimes you will use ASL in public spaces such as at a store, at movies, or even out camping. You will need to expand your signing vocabulary. It goes beyond the basic words like animals and household items. Learning a wide array of signs will allow you to not depend so much on fingerspelling, and it will help you master to the point where you can sign smoother sentences that flow naturally.
(An image of a group of people in front of a fire dressed in winter clothing facing a young child)
The deaf community is the only group of people that use sign language to live a productive life. So when you sign, you’re not only a representative of the community but also a bridge to those that require signing to speak to others. Being someone who can engage and communicate with the community makes you an ally that has embraced the deaf culture. Learning more than the basics allows you to have deeper and more meaningful conversations with the deaf community. ASL classes will help you learn how to interact with deaf individuals, like asking them about their age “Age?” or where they are from-- “From where?” You might not be aware of other questions that you can ask a deaf individual or deaf groups, questions that are related to deaf spaces. You will also learn the kind of content when approaching a deaf individual about their education background like “Mainstream school? Or deaf school?” or slang like for for-- “You go to school for for?”
(An image of a group of three people: a blonde woman dressed in a white sweater stands in the middle of a brown haired man with a beard and a brown jacket, on the left of him stands another woman with brown hair in a red sports coat.)
The more you grasp onto ASL, the more you can articulate yourself in the language. ASL helps further the development of your facial expressions, gestures, and body expressions. That means you can convey emotion, perceive non-manual signs, and other subtle differences in signs. This small change can change a phrase from sincere to sarcastic.
(A image of a black man dressed in an orange sweater standing in front of a room of people in front of a projector image of blue numbers 01 on it.)
Many parents take ASL classes to purposely teach and use the language with their babies. Parents learning ASL for their babies is a great thing, and should be encouraged more often. The benefits of teaching a child sign language far outweigh the negatives. And if you learn it and continue to teach it alongside using spoken language, the child may grow up to be bilingual! That’s pretty cool, isn’t it!
(A black and white image of a group of people sitting in front of a projector image of a Matador bullfighting with a bull)
The more advanced you get in your ASL fluency, the more you learn from different aspects of body language that you can apply to interacting with various types of language/cultural backgrounds who you may not speak the same language as you. Learning from different people will continue to push you outside of your comfort zone and dive deeper into understanding a person and their culture.