Monday, July 15, 2013

The Same Question

People, by their very nature, are curious. They try to figure things out. I know that's why people sometimes stare at Brielle - they are trying to figure her out -- especially children.

What people might assume is that Brielle does not notice or care if they stare. They are wrong.

Once in a while, a brave soul might ask a question. No respectful question is too personal. I'm an open book, literally. After all, I'm writing a book about our lives.

So, what questions are most often asked?

...How did you learn sign language?
...Was it hard?
...How long did it take?

Twice last week someone asked these questions. I love to tell the story of how we learned our first signs one by one starting when Brielle was 18 months old. When she was about two, I took a class at a local community college, which scared me to death. I hate tests. When Brielle was five, a friend of ours started tutoring our whole family in sign language. I attended several weekend and week-long workshops to learn even more. For the last seven years, I've acquired new signs only by teaching myself from my sign language dictionary.

Now, I am fluent in sign, but definitely not interpreter level. I can't sign fast enough, interpret others' signs fast enough, nor have a complete enough vocabulary.

It was tough to learn at first. But, once I had a fairly large base of signs and knew the rules and patterns, it got much easier.

I taught several informal classes at my church and did more in-depth tutoring for another dozen people. These were rewarding experiences. I learned more and solidified my skills by having to teach others.

Signing at my church
Christmas 2012
One of the highlights of my week is being able to sign the music at my church each Sunday. It brings me great joy to share my talents.

In some small way, sharing my signing skills also lets me take a situation that could seem meaningless and turn it into something that has purpose.

Sign language is so important to me, it actually defines me in some ways. So much so, I got a tattoo that incorporates the sign for "I love you." 

So, as I tell people who ask the brief story of learning sign language, I tell them it's taken 16 years, I still learn new signs nearly every day, I learned in all kinds of ways, and yes, it was hard.

But, it was well-worth it to be able to communicate with my daughter.

1 comment:

  1. Love the tattoo! In second grade we had a girl move to our school who was deaf. We learned a little sign, but not much. I actually don't remember much being taught to us until sixth grade and then all of a sudden someone thought that we should probably be able to communicate with her. Looking back, my heart hurts for her tons, due to the fact that most of our classmates just ignored her. I learned from her throughout the years and was able to talk to her and enjoyed her friendship. In college, I took three semester of sign and LOVED it! Sadly, over the past seven years I have lost a lot of my sign ability since I am not using it. It is such a beautiful language.


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