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.

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