"Sign, Nita sign". If I only had a million bucks for every time Zims said that to me! (Everyone says they want a nickel or a dollar every time something happens. BIG NITA is going BIG!!!) This chick is on my back when I start talking around Deaf* people! Here is the story that inspired this post.
It was early May and a group of us were on campus celebrating with a friend who had been a part of Gally's interpreter development program for the last year. She was now moving on and we were sending her off. As I recall, I hadn't actually offended (spoken) that day, but Zims took the opportunity to scold me anyway.
The festivities were not quite underway yet. A few of us were sitting at one of the tables. We were in the picnic area behind SAC. Not sure how she jumped into her verbal lashing. (Ok, it wasn't that bad, but I gotta give her crap. It's just how we communicate with each other.) I DO remember her saying that when we sign, everyone is happy. (I don't think that applies to MY ASL, personally.) When I speak, some people feel left out. Then she demonstrated. She used our friend Asia who was sitting at the table because we needed a Deaf person to test this on. She asked me a question verbally and had Asia try to read my lips when I answered. She couldn't figure out what I said,
One could say that maybe for some reason it's hard for people, or Asia specifically, to read my lips. I've also seen in different resources that even the best speech readers can only pick up about 30% of what is being said. I don't wish to (or feel qualified to) get sidetracked by these points. (See, I can contol my ADHD...occasionally.) Z made her point loud and clear (no pun intended). It's relatively easy for me as a fairly new signer (3 years) and a slow ASL learner to resort to speaking with someone who also speaks, whether they are deaf, hard of hearing, or hearing, when I am in a group that includes Deaf people. I HAVE gotten better. At least when she's around cuz she hasn't scolded me again. The temptation, however, remains.
So, Z is right. Not just for cultural and communication considerations, but also for the sake of improving my ASL. As much as I LOVE signing and more importantly connecting with the Deaf Community, ASL is difficult, often awkward, and sometimes downright frustrating to me. I must IMMEDIATELY follow that by saying it is ABSOLUTELY WORTH IT!!! I'M ALL IN!!! I need your help here. Don't let me backslide in this area. Hold me accountable. When I am in a group that includes Deaf people, please DON'T TALK TO ME!!! At least when Zims is around...And if I DO slip up, please DON'T TELL ZIMS!!! (It's all in love, Z!)
*For the sake of this blog, I am using deaf in a strictly physical sense as in deaf or hearing and Deaf in reference to deaf people who communicate primarily or exclusively through ASL. I DO realize that this is an oversimplification of those terms.