ASL: A Language For All

When I started learning American Sign Language (ASL) in high school, I never anticipated how much it would influence my life. It introduced me to the deaf community and a whole new culture, it lead to my study abroad, and it gave me a method of communication that could be applied to a multitude of circumstances. ASL changed my life; as cliche as that sounds, it is so true. Looking back, I am not sure how different my experiences in life would be without this additional language shaping the way I view and interact with the world.

A Whole New World

ASL brought me into the deaf community. I began to learn about the language and the culture all at the same time. I felt like I was a small child again, surrounded by patient children and adults alike who were willing to help me learn. They didn’t only teach me a language, they taught me to be bold, to speak my mind, and to express myself and my emotions. The deaf community is one of the most welcoming that I have encountered, all I had to do was try. Even when I failed, and sometimes I messed up miserably, they would simply help me correct the mistake and encourage me to not give up. It is a beautiful and complex language born out of a group of amazing and diverse people.

Studying Abroad

As I continued to learn and soak up the language, it became one of my minors. While it didn’t necessarily fit into my end career goals, I was addicted. It was something that I wanted to keep learning and practicing. In the end, it took me to France. I was offered the opportunity to go on a 10 day, faculty-led study abroad being organized through my university. I got to learn about the history and the development of French Sign Language that would eventually bring ASL to life. It was an incredible experience, filled with meeting new people, improving my own comprehension of the language, and all while being in a foreign county.

A Practical Method of Communication

I slowly became more fluent in ASL, and while my sister had been the initiator of my learning obsession, it quickly began to spread to the rest of my family as well. Now, if we are in loud places where speaking is barely understandable at best, or somewhere where speaking is frowned upon (like the movie theater), or if we are in any other number of circumstances, we switch to using ASL. It’s just easier than trying to yell, or mouth words that we would barely be able to understand anyway. I am also a scuba diver, and when I dive with family we can hold entire conversations underwater because we know ASL. Being unable to hear isn’t an inhibitor to our communication any more. ASL is not just for the deaf community, it’s for everybody.

While it may seem strange, ASL is a language that leads to unforeseen connections and practicality. It brings people from all kinds of backgrounds together, and it influences the way you look at the world and the way you communicate within it. ASL really, truly is a language for all and you never know just how much it could change your life for the better.