By: Jaden Daher ‘19
The thing about sign language, is that there is never a time where it isn’t useful.
Imagine being at an all-school assembly, and you are trying to shout to your friend who is across the room, trying to say that you don’t want to go sit over there, and that they should come sit by you! But this takes lots and lots of yelling, because you can’t really hear each other.
My friends, there is a solution; sign language.
I started learning American Sign Language (ASL) last summer just for the fun of it. I learned the alphabet, a few words, and a few phrases here and there. By no means was I fluent. But over that summer, I came across a group of people using ASL in downtown Denver. They noticed my interest, and invited me into the conversation. I was definitely nervous, as I still wasn’t fluent. But there were a few people in the group that didn’t solely use sign, so as they signed, they talked so that I could better understand the conversation. It was a group that I had never been a part of, and the feeling of being able to break that language barrier between the speaking and the signing was one that I will never forget.
However, not many people that I know, know ASL. This saddened me because all I wanted to do was sign! And then, somewhat magically, came along service projects, and I landed in the ILC program at Grandview High School. On my first day, I realized that there were four kids that used ASL, along with many others that took ASL as a class. So, that night I went home, ecstatic that there were people to sign with, and brushed up my knowledge on the language. I came back the next day, and signed, “Hello, my name is Jaden, what is your name?” to Jonathan. A smile broke across his face from ear to ear and immediately he signed to his interpreter, “she knows sign!” The interpreter told me at the end of that day that Jonathan would not stop signing about his new friend who could understand him. My heart had never been fuller.
The next two weeks resulted in a lot of laughs from me and my new ASL friends, since I was far from perfect at sign. But I was learning, and that made all the difference.
There are 70 million people in this world that use sign to communicate their thoughts and emotions, according to the World Federation of the Deaf. According to Katy Murphy from the Oakland Tribune, “ASL has become one of the most popular language classes, ranking fourth in the latest Modern Language Association Survey and nearly shoving German from third place.” The percent of students taking ASL has “risen by more than 50% in the last decade,” she says.
So join the party I say!
Need to have a subtle, secret conversation? Sign. Lost your voice? Sign. The flight attendant can’t hear your drink order on the plane? Sign! Without any yelling and sans misinterpretation, sign can get any job done — especially when in an all-school assembly. And in the event you are walking down the streets of downtown Denver and you come across a group of people signing, you can join the conversation. Join the conversation, and make a difference in a deaf person’s life. Show those 70 million people that we care.