Leading the Bison Charge!

Monday, June 18, 2012

"Thank you" "You're welcome...to my coffeehouse."

ASL and English are two very different languages.  This become apparent quickly when the native user of one tries to learn the other.  I learned that ASL was a separate language long before I had any interest in learning, however learning a new language inevitably includes errors and hopefully learning from them.

 I learned the sign for " welcome" about 2 years ago, during the first semester of my sign class. ( I think we were learning church signs during that class cuz I also remember learning the sign for "usher". )  The sign for "welcome" is also the sign I used for  "you're welcome"  as in a response to "thank you".  (Go to lifeprint.com to see the sign for "welcome" and an explanation.)  That is until one of my Deaf friends, Matt, who is a regular at the coffeehouse I work at called me on it.  He tried to explain why it was wrong, but I didn't understand.  On a later date, I asked him to explain again why it was wrong.  He said the grammar was wrong.  He said the sign meant " Welcome to this church or my home."  He gave me some options like the thumbs up or the sign for "fine", but said there was no official sign for "you're welcome".  But I had already developed a habit.  At first, I continued to do it, then remembered afterwards.  One time I signed thank you to him and he replied "welcome".  I think he was mocking me!  I can take a joke.  Kari, happened to be there teaching ASL to a student when we had this conversation.  He got her attention and scolded her for teaching me the wrong way.  She laughed...I  think out of guilt.  To be honest, I'm not sure if she taught me this as the sign for "you're welcome" or just "welcome".  Anyway, I'm sure I signed this as the sign for "you're welcome" for at least 1/2 dozen or a dozen other customers at work and no one corrected me before then.  Maybe some of them missed it because I was behind the counter.  I would think the regulars at least saw it at some point.  Matt himself didn't correct me before or when I relapsed after.  I DO appreciate him correcting me because I was eventually able to break the habit.

I try to make it a point to connect with the Deaf Community by asking them about ASL and Deaf Culture.  I think that's the right attitude for a new signer.  But veteran signers, PLEASE, don't hesitate to correct us newbies when we're wrong.  If we are really new to ASL (such as myself), use your better judgement to know when to correct us, cuz we're gonna make A LOT of mistakes.  I know you are grateful for this insightful commentary.  To that I say, "You're welcome"...or something?!?

PS For the record, I actually wrote this late 2011.  Since then, I have learned that sometimes this sign IS used as "you're welcome" although technically that is not the official meaning.  It is one of the ways that English has influenced ASL.

Monday, June 11, 2012


It's often been said that a great thing about America is that anyone can become president.  It's also been said that an unfortunate thing about America is that anyone can become president.  Easy internet access, countless free blog sites, and freedom of speech likewise make it possible for anyone to have a blog...for better or worse.  Enter me.  I felt it was just time to share my ASL/Deaf Culture journey with my friends and other signers. 

 I guess I should  tell you about the very beginning of my  journey for those who don't know.  One day a man and a woman who loved each other very much...actually let's fast forward a few decades.  It was the summer of 2009 when I met recent Gallaudet grad, Kari Olney through a small group.  I learned that she had played basketball in college.  (Gotta say, there is nothing like the bond between two athletes that share a love for the same sport.)  I suggested through an interpreter that we play some day.  She agreed.  Now if you've been around me for at least 2.4 seconds, you know I LOVE trash talk.  I like to give AND receive it.  Blame it on playin streetball growin up and being the fifth of seven siblings.  As time passed, I realized I couldn't talk trash to this chick.  That's an ESSENTIAL part of the sport!!  So when she offered an ASL class at our church starting in September of that year, I took it.  Yes, I actually started learning ASL so I could learn to trash talk my teacher when we eventually played ball.  (Good thing she didn't ask us why we wanted to learn ASL.  She knows now.)  I didn't know how quickly I would learn ASL (slowly).  I didn't even think I would enjoy it (fell in love with it).  We have played ball a few times, the first being about a month or so into the class.  We LOVE to compete against each other.  I still don't know much true ASL trash talk.  I'm sure I'll get there one day, but no rush.  I'm enjoying the ride.

I hope you enjoy this blog and look forward to your feedback.  Share it with your signer friends regardless of their ASL levels.  Whether we are Deaf or hearing, a new signer or born into a signing family, we share one language...or at least we're workin on it.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      

The first time we played.  I WAS the teacher!!!

Thanks to Heather Suhr and Yuri Wijting for suggesting the title for this blog.