Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Misadventures in American Sign Language

I was looking through my ASL dictionary today and it got me thinking about some of my early experiences in trying to communicate via ASL. I took an ASL I class when I was a junior in high school (way back in 2002-2003) but my first experience using the language as the only mode of communication with somebody wasn't until the summer of 2008, more than five years later.

I had just started working at Camp Sertoma, and it turned out that eight or nine of the people I was working with were deaf, and after a few days of staff training I was really eager to be able to communicate with these people and get to know them. One day I was talking with the Desiree (who is deaf) and Maggie (who is a CODA, or a Child of a Deaf Adult, so essentially she's bilingual) and Maggie was forcing me to try and sign the conversation myself. I wasn't aware of this at the time, but CODA's are often treated as built-in translators and they aren't always in love with that fact.

Anyway, I was getting to know Desi when I tried to sign "I had ASL class five years ago" but instead I signed, literally "I had ASL class five fuck ago" Desiree immediately started laughing, and Maggie said "Dude, you just said five fuck ago." Needless to say I was embarassed.

Another good story happened several weeks later. I had been teaching an astronomy class, and I was heading back to the main building on camp for my hour off. On my way I crossed paths with my group of campers and my partner, Juju. I tried to sign to him "my hour off" but I was carrying something, and my signing was unclear. Juju saw what I signed and his eyes got all big, turns out he thought I had said to "fuck off." But fortunately Juju and I got along great as partners and he probably knew that I would never knowingly tell him off like that, so I corrected myself and no feelings were hurt.

I'm not sure why it is that a lot of my experiences with messing up my signing involve me signing the word "fuck." Maybe I just have a crude mind like that.

1 comment:

absent.canadian said...

Great story! At least the "recipient" had a good sense of humor. :-)