Opinion

American Sign Language

American Sign LanguageLanguage is an interesting concept if you really think about it. Groups of people came together and strung together different sounds and assigned meaning to each of them in order to communicate with one another. I only speak English, but I’d love to be able to speak another language. Nothing common for American students like Spanish or French, though those would also be really nice to know. For me, it’s always been sign language.

I grew up in a school system that enrolled me in multiple Spanish classes, so predictable is practically my upbringing. I’m sure a lot of us had the same experience, being carted in and out of Spanish class after Spanish class in elementary school. I suppose people would think that I’d pick up on it fairly well considering I’m half Puerto Rican and for the most part, they’d be right. I enjoyed learning Spanish and practicing it outside of the classroom, but when the school year ended, I never remembered what I learned in class. It just retreated to the corners of my mind, generally out of reach besides the occasional recollection of random words and phrases.

When I got older, the choices for language expanded. I took a French class in middle school but then in high school I had the option to learn Italian, only to switch back to Spanish. It was a basic language that I was already familiar with and I didn’t want to stray away from what I knew I was good at. I even took two semesters of Spanish here at Monmouth which proved to be challenging but also fulfilling. Through all this Spanish though, there was always one language that I had always wanted to learn. I think that’s why I never truly remembered everything I learnedin Spanish classes. There was no passion behind it.

I don’t know why sign language has always fascinated me. The language became more visible when the show Switched at Birth aired on what used to be ABC Family, but I loved the language even before then. I think it’s the idea of communication through more than just words, that you don’t have to hear in order to be heard. Communication through our bodies, after all, is something everyone uses no matter what language you speak. Sign language can be just as emotional, sarcastic and passionate as any other language we speak.

I taught myself the American Sign Language (ASL) alphabet when I was in high school. I figured the least I could do was learn how to spell my name. I’ve taught myself small words and phrases here and there and my best friend has also passed on what she learned from a sign language class that she took. My seven-year-old niece even came home from school the other day and tried to teach me the days of the week in ASL (I’m still trying to get the hang of it, but she’s a rock star for learning it so fast in class).

I think school systems should stray away from the predictable and strive to teach other languages. The world isn’t made up of English, Spanish and French, though I do understand the statistical use of each throughout the world justify the class options. I know if I were given the opportunity, I would have chosen an ASL class over Spanish in a heartbeat.

Maybe one day I’ll take a class or sit myself down at my laptop and seriously search and learn the language. For now

I’ll admire the beauty of the language from a distance, but one day I hope to join the conversation.

IMAGE TAKEN from Cudoo Blog