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Communicating with Hands: Understanding American Sign Language

I have already learned so much about how it feels to actually be communicating through American Sign Language in just a few short classes here at Pitt. It opened my eyes to a whole new perspective on communication and I started thinking how I am very excited to learn more about the deaf culture. I couldn’t get enough of all of the realities presented to the class since this culture was a completely different lifestyle than what I am personally accustomed to. So, I decided to interview my teacher for ASL, Erin “Airza” Bosley. Since she is deaf, I thought she could get her views across and hopefully change the minds of others.

HC: Why did you decide to become a teacher of ASL to students who can hear? Is it at times difficult?

EB: I love the language! I know it changed me. Before learning ASL, I struggled through life, when I learned it in college; it opened up a whole new world for me. I felt like I could do anything, be anything now that I have full access to language instead of missing out (as I did growing up). So by teaching my students to learn ASL, there are more people to interact with and for us become involved (developing friendships).

There has got to be a huge barrier between someone who uses sign language and someone who uses spoken language to communicate. It makes me so happy that people like my ASL professor have found a way to communicate with all types of people by teaching it herself. As these two cultures come together, more people will be aware of the truths behind each group of people. My professor was able to clear the air with some truths that are commonly mistaken by the hearing culture.

HC: What do you think is the biggest misconception that the hearing culture has about the deaf culture and what can we do to make hearing people more aware of this?

EB: Is ASL a universal language? – No. Each country has their own sign language.
Can you read lips? No. In fact, only 30% of the English language is “lip-readable”.
You can talk, does that mean you can hear? No. Most deaf people go through an intense speech therapy throughout their lives. Your world must be silent. No, in fact it’s far from it.

I feel that clearing up these misconceptions will eventually set aside the assumptions people make and instead replace them with more thoughts on how people should take a minute to walk a little bit in their shoes. I never would have thought about this if I hadn’t started taking ASL, which has definitely impacted my lifestyle.

HC: What do you think has been the greatest effect on people as they start to learn and after they learn ASL?

EB: I think that it allows people to open up, see/learn a whole new world/side of life. I would compare it to visiting another country. Taking ASL class is more than just learning the language. You learn the culture, see the community, and see how our way of life is.

HC: What is the best part about teaching others how to communicate the same way you do?

EB: The interaction/communicating. Often other than a few adjustments we need to make in life to accommodate, we are pretty much just like you. We pretty much enjoy the same things as you do as long as we are able to fully participate in it as well. Ex: going to the movies, as long as it has open captions, we love to go to the movies.”

HC: If there was one thing you could let the hearing culture know, about
yourself or about deaf culture, what would it be?

EB: We can do anything except hear.” – I. King Jordan”

To me, learning ASL has been so special for me not only because it’s such a cool language to learn, but also because of how much the experience has affected me. I am very excited to keep learning more and more about deaf culture. I can’t even imagine how it feels for someone who is deaf to be around people speaking all over the place. It must take a lot of courage and confidence to experience this. To me, learning about the deaf culture has totally impacted my lifestyle. It has opened up my eyes to all an all new perspective on how much I take for granted each and every day. Perhaps I can even try my sign language skills to start a conversation someday!

Hi! My name is Amanda and I am one of the new Campus Correspondents for HC Pitt and am absolutely loving it! Helping others with advice about their articles and getting to read amazing stories has been so rewarding. I love writing about topics that make people's days just a little cheerier! Her Campus has been a wonderful experience for me over the past four years. I get to work with an amazing team every day and could not be more grateful. As a senior, looking back from where I started with Her Campus, I see how much it's changed me and all of the great friends I've made from it too. Saying HC is one of the best things that has happened to me during my college career would be an understatement! I really love how much it has grown and how much others have benefitted from their experience with our organization. HCXO <3
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