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asli1 tell people that I’m shy all the time, but they usually just scoff at me.  I’m incredibly friendly if someone wants to chat with me first, and I have no problem at all getting up in front of an audience, but put me in a situation where I have to make the first move and I freeze up completely.  I feel bashful and embarrassed, and anything I can thing of to say to someone sounds trite and unnecessary.  I have recently realized that this gets worse when I’m communicating in a language I don’t know very well.  In my limited conversations with Deaf people I feel like all my training in class and my hard work to learn the vocabulary was for naught.  I get flummoxed and I can’t remember anything.  So far, I’ve been to the cheater kind of Deaf Events in my community.  You know the ones… where you can sit and watch the entertainment and don’t have to communicate one-on-one with anyone.  It makes me wish I had a support group of some kind. 

I’m in a weird place in college.  I go to a Community College where the students are either all 18 year old kids, or adults of 40-ish going back to school.  I’m in the middle, neither here nor there.  While I’m friendly with my classmates, I haven’t made any friends that could back me up at a Deaf Event.  Provide moral support.  None of my good friends know ASL, and my husband gives me that pained look when I ask him to go to Deaf Coffee Night at Starbucks.  Not only does he hate Starbucks, but he’d be completely in the dark about what was going on around him.  I get it, it’s not his idea of a fun time.  And who can blame him, really?

I wish I had the guts to go on my own, but I don’t.  I have no idea what it is I’m afraid of, but I certainly don’t feel up to it right now.  I keep telling myself that I’ll feel more confident when I’m a little better at ASL, but sometimes I think that’s just a nice story I tell myself to make me feel better about loving a community I only passively participate in.  Someday I’ll bite the bullet and just go.  Even if I order a coffee and leave, I’ve gotten one step closer.  And if there’s one thing I’ve learned from this whole process, it’s that baby steps are still steps forward.




asli21 use a lot of websites to help me learn ASL better outside of class.  They’re no substitute for my teacher, but they’ve been pretty helpful none the less.  Here are my 5 favorite websites on ASL:

ASL Pro: – This website has several really great video dictionaries, with different people doing the signing.  It’s nice to get practice watching different signing styles, and there are several quizzes and fingerspelling practice for even more help.  I’m on this site several times a week trying to expand my vocabulary.

The American Sign Language Browser: – This is a really comprehensive and complete ASL video dictionary.  I love that the signs repeat automatically, so you don’t have to press the play button and break your flow to practice along with the video. 

Dr. Bill Vicars’ American Sign Language Fingerspelling Tool: – This is an amazing resource to help with fingerspelling practice.  You can choose your speed, the number of letters you feel you’re up to figuring out, or just let it go crazy and give you random words.  It’s really been helpful to me.  Sometimes I can actually tell what’s being spelled at me…

ASL University ( – This site has a wealth of information on Deaf Culture, as well as a great ASL dictionary.  The only drawback is that some of the terms don’t have a video component and it’s sometimes hard to tell if you’re doing it right.  He will put signs on the dictionary specifically for you though, if there’s a term you can’t find somewhere else, which is amazing!

Oh So EZ: – This site is great for everything Deaf in Southern California.  It has a very comprehensive list of Deaf Events happening all over the place, even listing which events are good for students.  That way, I can go out into the community and get some real life practice.  (I’m slowly but surely overcomming my shyness)


ILY Hand

asli3 didn’t mean to fall in love with American Sign Language.  I promise.  I was a silly college girl, absorbed in my world of costuming, and suddenly the class that fulfilled my general ed language requirement was my favorite class.  It was fun and funny, and suddenly my whole being ached for fluency.  I signed up for ASL 2, even though it didn’t count toward anything, and I love it just as much as I loved the first semester.  Now, I’m thinking seriously about being an interpreter some day.  I know I have a long way to go before I get good enough for that, but I’m excited to try for it anyway.

The language is great, but it’s a whole package deal, really.  I had no idea that there was a whole Deaf Culture out there existing side by side with my Hearing Culture.  The discovery has been amazing.   I know that I’m an ignorant little hearing girl, but I’d really love to share what I’m learning as I learn it.  I find it fascinating, and I think you will too.

So here it is… Not just my journey to fluency, but the amazing things I’ve learned about Deaf Culture along the way.  I hope you enjoy it as much as I have.

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March 2009
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