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Hindi Words of the Week:

संचार  Sanchaar (sun-ch-arr) – communication

बात करना  Baat Karna (bah-th kʌ-rrr-na) – to speak

I never would have imagined it, and I’m not quite sure where to begin, except to tell you the Sign Language Courses at Montgomery College are wonderful. Supposedly the specific sign language course I attended is an introduction to American Sign Language (ASL). I had assumed prior to the class starting that I would learn some basic vocabulary and call it a semester. Oh, how I was wrong! I’m so pleased.

Those are usually two sentences that do not follow one another, but it’s true. I’ve gained a tremendous amount of knowledge in such a short time. I can communicate more or less effectively in sign language up to a point. I’ve learned about deaf culture (which I had honestly never given a second thought to before), and I’ve learned about deaf history.

For some reason growing up and even as an adult, I assumed deaf people knew and communicated in sign language. I had no idea ‘oralism’ was a whole separate school of thought! I was under the impression that it was a skill most deaf people learned in order to make hearing people more comfortable. Now I know how it was foisted upon them by members of the hearing community who wanted them to conform. I don’t think I’ll ever forget the story of Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet.  He vouched for the deaf community when few would. I don’t think I’ll ever forget how the school he opened eventually became Gallaudet University here in Washington D.C.

There are small moments in life when you know something has changed or affected you. I guess until you take your blinders off, there’s a lot you can miss. One of my gym trainers is deaf; I had no idea. In the very beginning of this semester, after only learning a handful of signs and in the middle of a training session, I asked her if she understood sign language in ASL. I’ve never seen someone’s face light up in quite the same manner unless we were already close. It was like I gave her an amazing present. I on the other hand felt horrible. In order to not dim her light I held my own genuine reaction back.

Until I took this course, I could not fathom what it’s like to live in a world where you can only talk with a few people without difficulty. I felt guilty to a degree for not learning sign language earlier. What I will do is carry this life lesson forward. It is not the person answering a question who should be making an effort but rather the person asking. It doesn’t matter what language or if you get the grammar and the specific words wrong. What matters is the effort.

I never would have imagined it, but continuing to learn ASLP is definitely a new goal of mine. I don’t know exactly how many more people I’ll be able to speak to but it’ll definitely be more than now! I am excited; who isn’t on the lookout for more friends? The more the merrier! And now instead of flailing my hands about while I’m speaking, their movements will have genuine meaning.

Om Tiwari

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This Post Has 4 Comments

  1. Great blog! Some deaf or nearly so compensate by reading lips (as my father did) and to avoid sign language. I never knew the word ‘oralism’ and learned something new. And I wonder why that was – did it make people uncomfortable to see sign language? Of course, in those times, one also had to conform to being right handed! Follow LaTia’s blog because she is in the ASL program and also works in that field, I believe.

  2. Wow! I am so happy to hear that you are being rewarded in your ASLP class:). I have also been interested in taking this class, but haven’t had the chance to. Thank you for sharing a glimpse of what it’s like to be part of this amazing community. I hope to learn ASL one day because I am sure now that I will definitely be valuing the meaning behind communication.

  3. I studied ASL for 2.5 years as well! You cannot learn the language without also learning so much so much culture and perspective about the Deaf community. I am thankful that I had teachers who really strived to make sure we understood the Deaf history and experience, and I hope that everyone will understand some day.

  4. Love the words of the week! I always learn something new after reading your posts! American Sign language is an awesome language. My mother signs for the deaf since my brother is autistic. Sadly, I was never consistent with ASL, however, after reading your post this motivates me to get back to signing.

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