Wednesday, March 06, 2013

Never Too Late to Learn Another Language

Fun Fact about me:

When I attended school in England many, many years ago, I took sign language classes.  I actually got to the point where I was pretty fluent in British sign language, and to this day could probably translate for a British person - should they need some emergency sign language assistance.

Fun Fact about British sign language:

It's nothing like American sign language.

Which I really don't get.  Both countries speak English as their first language, yet the sign language in each country is completely different.

I remember when I first found out about the differences.  And it wasn't until I was an adult.

Just imagine how stupid I looked when I was at church, working in a Sunday school class and a parent brought their deaf child to me.  The mother was a little nervous about leaving her son because there wasn't an interpreter available, and me - having always assumed that sign language in both countries would be the same - told the poor woman that I'd happily translate for her son.  And then I start waving my hands around to perform the signs to introduce myself, and the mother looked at me like I'd gone stark raving mad.

But, back to what this blog is supposed to be about...

I've decided to take American sign language classes.  They're being offered at my school by the sign language interpreter - and she just happens to be someone I've become pretty good friends with.

I'm really excited about it.  While I don't have any deaf kids in my class or my grade - there will be a couple of deaf kids moving up in to the elementary in the next couple of years...and I want to be able to communicate with them.

I'm not sure why sign language has always been something I've wanted to learn.  I could opt to trying to learn Spanish or French or German... but learning another spoken language just wasn't anything I was ever interested in.  Signing, on the other hand (no pun intended), is something I've always wanted to do.

I think the hardest part for me to learn will be the alphabet.  I am still so fluent in the British sign alphabet, that it's very confusing for me to try and sign the American version.  British sign uses both hands for the alphabet, while the American version only uses one hand.

Anywho, I had my first partial lesson last night.  I had tutoring, so I was only able to attend half the sign language class but I'm hoping I can work something out with my tutoring so that I'll be able to attend sign class each week.

We learned basic greetings for males and females.  She gave us great handouts that show the alphabet, numbers, and the signs that we learned for male and female roles.

So....hopefully in a few months, I'll be able to communicate in a different language.  I'm excited about it.  It's yet another thing to add to my ever expanding list of things I'm doing - but what can I say?  I like to stay busy.

Maybe this time next year, I'll do my first Vlog - and sign the whole thing.  We'll see.

But, right now, I'm happy with just learning a new language.  For the second time around.  In a different language.  Fun, right?



  1. I had no idea American sign language and British sign language was different. I always assumed that English sign language was universal. I think it's wonderful you are starting to learn a new language.

    I'm a firm believer that learning is a lifelong endeavor :)

    1. I'm actually surprised at how many people aren't aware that the two are different. When I tell them I am fluent in BSL but NOT in ASL - they give me a weird look like I don't know what I'm talking about. I sometimes think that when I try to sign something for people to show them what I mean, that they think I'm making it up.. LOL

      I'm with you on the lifelong learning thing. Being a teacher does that for me a little - but it's also nice to learn something just for the fun of it.

  2. Hey! Pity you hadn't come to Ireland and learned Irish Sign Language! Which is more closer to American Sign Language. Each language is particular to that country 's culture and heritage and well we dot speak Esperanto do we!

  3. That said Irish French and Amerixan ( I think) are same family of sign languages having a one handed alphabet whereas british sign language is a 2 handed alphabet

    1. you blew my theory that America developed a "special" sign language to be different from everyone else...just like with the whole metric system thing. LOL

      But, I had no idea that Irish sign only uses one hand, too.


  4. American Sign language developed from the French in the colonial period when the rest of Europe was still staunchly oral (make those deaf kids speak). Eventually some countries picked up on the same system, like Ireland, Mexico, Canada and others. England sadly held out longer and somehow came up with their completely own version. Though the signs are all different (for the most part) visual languages are easier to pick up on especially if you are a visual learner. I did not find BSL that difficult to pick up on but it does differ greatly in that ASL is its own language (grammar, semantics, etc...) whereas BSL, I believe, is a coded English. I learned some by watching Four Weddings and A Funeral.


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