n Deaf Culture, it’s considered incredibly rude to only speak around deaf people if you know any Sign Language at all. I completely understand this. I get why people become upset. It must be so frustrating to watch people completely leave you out when you know they can communicate with you. It’s almost like they’re deliberately trying to exclude you. I’m completely on board, and I always sign with people who know sign if there are deaf people around, whether the person I’m talking to is hearing or not.
I’ve been to a few Deaf Events in my community and there is inevitably the new ASL 1 student who doesn’t know much sign, or the tag-along boyfriend who doesn’t know sign at all. I don’t want to be rude and not acknowledge these people, and I know the really nice thing to do would be to talk with them for a little bit, but I’m not really sure what the protocol would be for this. What is a hearing girl to do?
Usually I say a quick hi to the non-signing people, and then ignore them. When I get into conversations with ASL 1 students who want to speak with me because they don’t understand that well, usually I sign as I speak. I know this isn’t real grammatically correctASL, but at least I’m trying not to exclude people… right? That’s what I try and tell myself. And then I try to get out of the conversation as quickly as possible. I know my ASL skills are far from perfect, and I don’t want to be a snob, but I know I’ve come a long way from ASL 1. Yet my ASL skills aren’t advanced enough to help anyone along. If the two of us are here to improve our ASL skills, I’m probably a bad person to be speaking to. I can only begin to guess what kind of janky, bad-grammar ASL I’m speaking right now.
When in Rome, do as the Roman’s do. So here’s my question: Is it OK if I’m in a conversation where I’m talking out loud to someone while attempting to sign if there are deaf people around? If it isn’t, what should I be doing instead? I think there are a lot of people out there who would benefit from an answer.