Summer Adventure Series: Learning a New Language


Summer is a great way to do the things you’ve always thought of doing but never really got a chance to pursue because of all the exams, assignments, clubs, and other college activities that seem to constantly come in the way. Whether they are learning to bake a cake, knitting a sweater, exercising to get abs, or writing a book, summer definitely gives you the time to try new things and explore new realms.

This is exactly what I did and am currently doing during my summer. One day, I was just sitting in my oh-so-comfy black chair, and thinking of things I can do because for the first few days of summer I was merely lazing around; I kept on planning a hundred things I could do, but never actually did. I needed to put an end to these velleities. Then, out of the blue, and I am being serious when I say this, I said to myself, “Why not learn sign language?” I was always fascinated by the signers at public events. Learning sign language would definitely be unique; it’s not the same as learning French or Spanish. Thus, I gave it a go.

First, I got Barron’s American Sign Language: The Easy Way from the library. It was way too wordy, and besides, I am more of  a visual learner; I needed to see how to sign, not read about it. Therefore, I decided to see if there were any videos I could watch online and learn from them. Sure enough, I discovered an amazing website called “Sign Language 101” that has 20-minute lesson videos filled with learning material, language tips, facts about deaf culture, and even a quiz! It is all very organized, and each video is brimming with enlightening content. More importantly, you will never feel deluged with the material. In addition, the professor is very vivacious and his teaching method is impeccable.

After taking a few lessons, I know how to sign the alphabet, numbers until twenty, colors, and common phrases and gestures. I absolutely cannot wait to learn more! Besides actually learning how to sign, I also discovered the many misconceptions that people have regarding signing and deaf culture. For instance, many people misconstrue that signing is all about the hands. It is not. In fact, your body language and facial expressions are equally important. Sign language is like dancing: it requires the entire body to be in graceful rhythm to illustrate each word. Furthermore, not all deaf people know how to lip read. Lip reading is actually the hardest way a deaf person can learn and understand a spoken language. The most important thing I realized from all of this was that signing is not just a set of hand movements; it is a language that is used by a culture.

It is your turn! See the diagrams below for some quick signs. For fun, choose a phrase below and try to learn how to sign it to a family member, friend, or even just your mirror reflection. If you want to keep going, then be sure to visit Sign Language 101.


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