Before I tell you about my experience with Deaf culture and learning American Sign Language or ASL, I think it is important to note that I have only been fully introduced to this world for about a year. I am still learning about looking at life from this different perspective and I still have a lot of work to do when it comes to learning ASL. Also, I am a hearing person and I will never fully understand the Deaf world and I understand that.
Texas A&M, the school I go to, has a tradition of going to a camp before your freshman year of college starts. This is a way to meet people and learn about what your upcoming year in college will be like. I noticed in the front of the room there was an interpreter. When you see someone communicating in a totally different way it is interesting, but I didn’t think much of it, we all were there for the same reason. Within this camp, you have a discussion group. This discussion group is about 10 people and it is led by two counselors. We got in our discussion group and one of the interpreters came over too. We all introduced ourselves and this is when I met Ricardo. He wanted to be a civil engineer just like I did. Let’s be honest, though. There were about 10,000 freshmen going into their freshman year at A&M, I doubted I was going to see any of these people on a daily basis. We all played games, got to know each other on the surface and at the end of the three days, we went home.
Freshman year starts; I see Ricardo every now and then on campus and a say hi and we go our separate ways. Then, the spring semester of my sophomore year starts and I walk into three of my classes and there is Ricardo. Statistics was one of the classes we had together, needless to say by the end of the semester we didn’t like the class much but a friendship had grown. I was thankful we had learned the alphabet in ASL and that I remembered some of it. Spring semester ended and we had a summer class we were both taking for ten weeks.
Ricardo and I would drive to school together and we ended up getting to talk a lot. To me, it makes sense to learn ASL and catch on and learn new signs. It is so much easier to communicate and share ideas when you can understand one another.
After that summer, the next year I started to go to Deaf Aggie and Friends meetings. It is an organization on campus composed of deaf and hearing people that promote Deaf culture and the use of American Sign Language. I learned a lot about Deaf culture. Like, for instance: people can have a sign that is specifically for their name. It is called a sign name. In order to have a sign name, a deaf person has to give you one. This organization opened my eyes and helped me meet other people hearing, deaf, and hard of hearing, that have a common interest in Deaf culture.
Through this journey of being interested in Deaf culture and learning sign language I have reflected on how much as a hearing person I lean on my hearing sense. A hearing person’s world is heavily relied on their hearing, while a deaf person’s world heavily relies on their visual sense. This alone shapes our worlds into how we learn and interact. For example, body language when communicating with someone. If something is off I guarantee that a deaf person will notice before a hearing person.
Overall, I am so thankful for the opportunities that I have had to get to look inside the Deaf world. I love learning American Sign Language and about Deaf culture.