By Michelle Parker-Armstrong,
office coordinator for CCDHH
In honor of National Sign Language Day, April 15
Caring. Compassionate. Funny. Loves God. Can’t wait until fall when Starbucks comes out with their signature Pumpkin Spice Latte with coconut milk. This person I’m describing is my sister, and she is deaf. She endured a terrible sickness at the age of 1 that took away her hearing, but not her spirit.
My family and I wanted to know her — her thoughts, her needs, her dreams and goals. We needed to be able to communicate effectively with her. In order to achieve this, my parents decided that we would all learn American Sign Language (ASL). Many people assume that learning a new language to communicate with a deaf person will be difficult, if not impossible. However, it is very possible to learn ASL. Regardless of your age, if you are willing to learn, you will discover that your loved one holds all kinds of amazing ideas and plans for adventure. You and your loved one will thrive!
Here are some tips to make learning American Sign Language more successful:
- Start by learning the ASL alphabet. This will allow you to become comfortable using your hands to create words. Eventually, this will become the basis for learning a more complex meanings and hand forms.
- “Practice makes perfect.” By practicing ASL frequently, you will be better able to absorb the signs and acclimate to a new language. The best practice is practical use — in conversation with someone, particularly with a deaf person.
- Understand that is okay to make mistakes. As with learning any new language, you will make mistakes. In turn, you learn from these mistakes and you become better and will improve.
- See a deaf person, not for what can be perceived as a disability, but for the amazing person they are. This will get you excited to learn and will motivate them, as well.