Learning Beyond The Sign

by Janeel Hew (Hawaii) | June 18, 2010

Understanding the past, helps us to embrace the present.

Finally an online class, that teaches you that learning ASL means more than knowing how to bend your fingers.

We miss the colors of the rainbow when we are only able to see the black and white. If you are thinking about taking this class; please know that there is a difference between knowing what you learn and understanding what you know. I have only just started with this online ASL class. Yet, I already know that this is the class that I will continue with.

The past is a journey; not just events. Please take the time to read the history and culture that has been made available in these lessons. Having the insight of the included information, helps us to learn sign language in a way that allows us to not just go through the motions of signing, but also relate to the emotions of the this beautiful language.

If this is your first attempt at signing…please note that the fact that the practice videos are not in slow motion can prove to be a positive experience for you. If we only learn the correct movement of a word and never see the proper flow of it; then I would think that would be like knowing how to spell a word, but not being able to pronounce it.

Please correct me if I am wrong…Over the years; I have tried to learn ASL through books. Then when I would try to understand someone I would get confused. The flow of this language is so beautiful, and by taking the time to study the video lessons within this online class; we are able to learn how to understand what is being said and appreciate its beauty.

I have epilepsy, and at times I stutter…therefore, I am thankful for this class teaching with the natural movement of the language. When sign language is taught slow and broken down in steps of motion…I think to myself, “So that is what it looks like to stutter.” It turns me off, makes me feel bad and takes away the true flow of ASL. Don’t be too hard on yourself if you need to view the videos over and over again…I do! Even when I am sure that I know how to sign something…Knowing how is good, but I also need to understand and recognize what I see. We all learn in ways that are right for us…this class truly allows us to learn at our own pace…and our instructor won’t get upset or tired of us asking…”Can you repeat that, please?”

Enjoy your journey, and try to remember…that when you half-step in the lessons of life, sooner or later you will have to take a step back. Embracing ASL is also embracing the past, present and future of the Deaf Culture.


from Stacey T.: Thank you for sharing you’re reasons for the speed in signing in your videos. I agree with you 100%! I’m currently enrolled in an ASL interpreting program and I’m nearly complete (I’ll be taking the RID certification this year! Exciting and nerve-wracking!) I greatly appreciate the opportunity to watch ASL at the speed of fluent signers. I believe this helps, as you said, in the ability to learn the language in a natural way. Not needing to focus on every single sign, but the context and meaning of the overall content.

I learned sign language in the classroom, not through one-on-one communication. My teachers have all been wonderful and I am fortunate to have been taught by Deaf teachers who are passionate about Deaf Culture. But I have been taught by signing slowly at first, picking out each individual word, and slowly increasing speed as we go. For me, it has taught me bad habits that are hard to break! Proper grammar is harder to implement because I have to retrain my brain to not focus on translating each word into English first (making me want to sign in English word order). Plus, it had been far more difficult to communicate through ASL with fluent signers. I think, had I learned the speed from the beginning, with the cadence and flow of the language, these advanced signing concepts would have come far easier and more naturally. As it is now, it’s like I had to relearn it all over. First the signs and vocabulary, in a way that is almost like MCE, signs in English word order and grammar. Then relearn everything through grammar and proper ASL, while trying to break those habits I had ingrained from the start.

In the end, I just wanted to thank you for sticking to you’re principles. I agree with those principles completely! It really seems like the best method to use for long-term success! Again, thank you for all that your classes do in teaching this beautiful language. Especially for those of us who may not have the opportunity to communicate in the Deaf community as often as we would like. It has helped me a great deal.

from Janeel HewMy Dear Michelle, It is your hard work, time and dedication to teaching ASL, that inspired me to write [Learning Beyond The Sign]. I thank you for your kind words…But most of all I thank you for your [love and wisdom] that you have put into this class. It is my hope that not only do others learn ASL but that they internalize and respect the Deaf Culture from which ASL was born. Just as a Mother looks upon her baby right after birth, with love. I am in awe, of the beauty that pain, trails and triumphs, can bless our world with. “Smile, It’s Just Me, Thanking You.”

from Michelle Jay: Wow. Just…wow. This is such a fantastic post. I think everything you said is just so well thought out and so true. Thank you so much for sharing your insight. I think it will benefit a lot of signers. :)


2 Responses

  1. Yes many thanks indeed. I have learn and still continue to learn this is something that will so help many deaf people. I loves many resourceful information ASL have for the students it’s my prayer that many people should get to these wealth of information and we breached the communication barrier.
    With thanks,
    Oola Godfrey Maya

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