When I started college, I expected to just learn my major (Culinary Arts) and get through my classes. I never thought I'd start to learn something I love as much as cooking, American Sign Language.
Let me start from the beginning. It was my second semester in college. I was excited for my new Culinary class, but when I came in, I noticed something different. In the front of the class was a woman not wearing a uniform. I didn't put much thought into it. As the class began and our chef began his opening speech, I watched the woman without the Culinary uniform and noticed she was signing. I, of course, didn't know what she was signing or whom she was signing to. I watched her intently, practically ignoring the lecture, intrigued with the way she moved her hands and made facial expressions. Finally, I could walk around the class and see who she was signing to. It was a girl. I couldn't help watching the woman sign to her and watching the girl's reactions. I was fascinated. I always have been fascinated by ASL, but never had the motivation to learn it.
By the next class, I decided to be brave and try to make friends with the girl. She seemed nice and had a good vibe to her, but I was so terrified. What if I made myself seem dumb? What if she didn't like me? After one class, I had already learned at least two new signs and her name, Sarah. That one class was just the beginning. Soon after, I found myself absolutely gorged into ASL. I began to learn the alphabet almost immediately. I would look up signs the night before or a few hours before just to try to talk to her. Of course, my anxiety made me get really shaky and nervous, and I would freak out every time I screwed a sign up, but Sarah never seemed to mind. She would always tell me it was okay and I was fine, but I'd still apologize every time I screwed up.
Learning ASL solely online and between classes was not easy, but I couldn't give up. I wouldn't. I wanted Sarah and I to be able to talk. I wanted to be her friend—not because she was deaf, but because I saw something in her which I knew could spark an amazing friendship.
My ultimate test had finally come; I invited her to my 19th birthday party. I was unbelievably scared. What if she felt left out because I didn't know how to translate everything? What if she didn't like my friends? What if we overwhelm her? So many things were racing through my mind. I just wanted to be perfect, but the night went well, I feel. Although I had a hard time understanding some things, I think I did okay.
I feel like I learned some things, but my mind still told me that she felt uncomfortable and I felt so bad that I couldn't understand her friend that she brought. I wanted so badly to be able to talk to him, too, but I panicked at how fast he signed and how stupid I seemed when I asked him to repeat the same thing over and over. After they left, I laid in bed and began to cry, thinking I made a fool of myself and that she would hate me. That was not that case. As it turned out, she had very similar thoughts to me. She thought that I was embarrassed of her, which was the exact opposite! I was embarrassed of myself. When she said that she thought that, I felt so bad.
After that, I made it my goal to learn as much ASL as I possibly could. So, what do you do when it's too difficult to learn online? You take a course in college. It has been the best decision I've ever made. I am more confident in my signing and I have learned so much, even though we don't go over much. I've been able to have better conversations with Sarah. She gives me so much support and a lot of confidence. I made the right choice when I decided to try to be her friend. She is the kindest person I think I have ever met on this planet. She is so understanding, patient, and a funny person. If it weren't for her, I may have never found the motivation to learn an amazing language. I still have so much to learn, and I cannot wait.
I hope by reading this, maybe you will consider learning even a few things, like, "How are you?" or "Hello, my name is ____." Just learning means so much to the deaf community because hearing people don't often take an interest in their culture. It really is a beautiful language and it's honestly more interesting, in my opinion, than Spanish or German. It's more interactive and relies on much more than your hands. Your facial expressions can change so much in ASL than you would ever think. So, take a moment, and just learn a word or two. Who knows? Maybe you'll come to love it as much as I have.
Thanks for reading.