Chaos Attraction

Language

2003-05-23, 7:47 p.m.

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On a cheerier note from yesterday's whine, I had a great sign language class last night.

Our teacher (we'll call him Kevin #1) brought in an ASL teacher from Sac State (Kevin #2) and an interpreter who's an ASL teacher down south. He also brought back his wife and daughter, the latter of which well, did her usual. It was rather funny in a bad way when she'd totally distract the interpreter and he'd have to pause everything.

Now, the interpreter bit was interesting. I spend most of the class usually trying to figure out what's going on usually. Kevin #1 writes some stuff down, acts stuff out, etc., so it's not quite as bad as it sounds. However, with an interpreter there, it's like I didn't even have to think what was going on for the whole 2 hours. I just listened and watched but didn't really "pick up" much. Not that that was really all that possible, since Kevin #2 was giving a pretty sophisticated speech on Deaf culture and history and we wouldn't have known what he was saying for most of it anyway (hence the interpreter). How do you sign "Americans with Disabilities Act?"

It was funny to find out that Kevin #1 is actually deaf- to be honest, we didn't know and thought he wasn't, since (a) all language teachers at this school use the language they're teaching only during class, and (b) he said in his bio for the class that he first learned ASL in this kind of class here, and we all assumed that if he was deaf, he would have learned it before college. Apparently not- he got brought up on oralism and took it up in college. Go figure.

The whole speech and Q&A afterward was fascinating. Kevin #2 is deaf and is from a family where it sounds like about 60% of them are deaf or so, so he grew up knowing ASL first. He talked a lot about the use of ASL versus back when people were trying to emphasize oralilsm (reading lips/speaking) and forbid the use of ASL. His parents (and Kevin #1) were forced to learn oralism, but Kevin #2 managed to avoid it...until he went to New Zealand as a foreign exchange student and found that the school he was booked to go to was all about oralism. They went out to dinner and the school wouldn't let him just point at the menu- if he didn't speak, he didn't get to eat. Sheesh. According to him, you can only pick up about 30% of speech through lipreading anyway.

Huh. I've always thought that should I ever spawn and have a deaf child, that I'd insist that the kid learn both ASL (ASL first, really) and oralism so he/she/it/hellspawn could get along in both worlds, as it were. I didn't know it was THAT difficult.

I felt rather lame later on, after Kevin #1 and the interpreter went out for a break and Kevin #2 was talking to us about stuff. I was having such a hard time picking up on what he was asking, I felt so dumb. Hell, I told him I was a grad student, and couldn't remember what the signs for siblings were (hey, I'm an only child, what do you expect from me?).

I've found out a lot of interesting things taking this class, but I can't say I've exactly learned in a major way when I keep bungling up. I'm going to need to retake it over, I think (since I asked Kevin #2 and they only offer ASL there in the afternoons during work). I really want to learn this, but I'm not sure how to improve. I really need to figure out SOME way that I can learn a language.

In general, I seem to be unable to process another language in my brain. Usually with stuff like French and Spanish, I can remember most of the vocabulary, can kinda wing it on the grammar, can write fairly well (especially when one goes to look it all up), but when forced to speak, I suddenly forget EVERYTHING. I usually attribute this to my generally not being great at learning anything auditorally. (In middle school we had to take that test where they see how you best learn. I'm extremely visual, fairly good touch-feel-wise, and horribly bad on anything you tell me.) I figured that with ASL, my mouth and ears wouldn't be involved so it should be easier, right?

Well, not really. ASL grammar is pretty easy (on the fly), but you don't really write it down most of the time, and remembering the vocabulary is a lot more complicated than I'm used to. Not so easy to study by glancing at a word list. And I STILL go brain-dead and forget everything I've learned when asked a question. It is driving me batshit.

I really need to figure out SOME way to study or learn a language or something that will help me overcome this. I'd really like to learn at least ONE language that isn't English before I croak, and I'd really like to think that I'm not totally incapable of doing so.

I asked Kevin #2 for study tips, and he said basically, hang out with the community and take classes. Kevin #1's suggestion: marry a deaf spouse. Heh.


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