I don’t know about you guys but when I think about learning a new language, one of the first thoughts I have is “man, that sounds like a lot of work” or “It would be so great to learn but everyone I know speaks English anyway, what’s the point?” or some of us want to learn a new language but we just don’t have the time. Well, I am here to tell you that sign language is the way to go and the best part is that it's not even that hard to learn.
Now some of you may be wondering “Why would I learn sign language when I can just learn another language instead?” “Wouldn’t another spoken language benefit me more?”. As an aspiring speech therapist, I have met with and encountered many people who have asked similar questions. Even I asked myself these questions up until a few years ago.
The most interesting part about all of this, is that I can tell you is that the beauty of this language is in its simplicity and diverse benefits. Learning sign language will benefit you as a person and it will also benefit the entire deaf and hard of hearing community.
As a society that wants a quick fix to a lot of our problems, I can tell you that looking into sign language is a quick way to pick up a new way to communicate and it will drastically benefit your development as a person. Ahmed Khalifa explains that learning sign language is proven to improve your levels of observation, helps you become a better listener, and it increases your ability to interpret your surroundings (Khalifa 2020) (Keck, 2020). Want proof? Has anyone heard of Nyle DiMarco?
He is a deaf model and in one of his accounts he shared a story about traveling in a different country. He was standing in a shop where the shop keeper spoke one language and the customer spoke another. While the two of them could not understand one another, Nyle knew what each of them was trying to communicate. Why? Because he is so used to interpreting gestures and body language on a regular basis. Ironically enough, that day, the deaf man was the interpreter between two hearing people. (Out & Equal Workplace Advocates, 2018).
The impact of a deaf man was so drastic that day, imagine the impact you could have if you learned even the basics of sign language. The impact of learning sign language doesn’t just stop there though. You will not only benefit yourself but you can change the world around you. Sign language is the 4th most used language in the entire world. Yet we still do not have regular exposure to it nor do we have exposure to the community that uses it.
Learning sign language will bridge the gap between the deaf/hard of hearing community and the hearing community. You will have the ability to mesh the two worlds to create an environment that is more diverse. Some of you may wonder “doesn’t learning any other language do that?”. The answer is yes of course it does, but not to the extent as it would if you learn sign language. When you learn another spoken language you are still communicating in the world of the hearing person. The only factor that changes are the words you speak. When you sign, not only do you change the so called words but you also change everything else that is encompassed in the word “communication”. The word itself is redefined when you learn sign language. Thus giving you MORE. More opportunity, more exposure, and more to gain.
Imagine yourself working in an advertising company. You walk into a meeting, or rather to log onto zoom and enter the “meeting room” to create a commercial. As someone who is educated and exposed to the basics of sign language, you say “hey let's include closed captions in this”. Next thing you know, you have almost twice as many views after the publication of that ad because not only can hearing people see it and understand it, but the deaf and hard of hearing can as well. I encourage you all to think about it this way. You benefit from learning sign language by becoming more perceptive, understanding, and communicative. The deaf/hard of hearing and hearing communities benefits because you become the bridge between the two worlds. Put those two together and you have become the catalyst of growth and change.
Keck, T., & Wolgemuth, K. (2020). American Sign Language Phonological Awareness and English Reading Abilities: Continuing to Explore New Relationships. Sign Language Studies, 20(2), 334-354. https://login.proxy.libraries.rutgers.edu/login?url= ?url=https://www-proquest-com.proxy.libraries.rutgers.edu/docview/2384156867?accountid=13626
Khalifa, A. (2020, July 16). The benefits of learning sign Language. Hear Me Out! [CC]. https://hearmeoutcc.com/benefits-learning-sign-language/.
Out & Equal Workplace Advocates. (2018, Oct 24). Nyle DiMarco Keynote | 2018 Out & Equal Workplace Summit. Nyle DiMarco Keynote. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GxkumUDVIUE.