Category Archives: ASL

And the masters degree is in…

I’ve mentioned in passing that I enrolled in a masters program, but I have yet to mention what it is in.

I’m pretty excited. It just started this summer in early June. I will finish at the end of the summer of 2013. So if I could just get knocked up, that timing would work out relatively well.

It’s an online program through Texas Women’s University. Which is why I call it a “masters light” program. Lots and lots of reading and lots of papers with very little instructor interaction and thus guidance. I’ve been told this first summer is the worst for lack of contact, so I’m hoping in future classes there will be more interaction by the professors.

I have had a few group chats so far where we can all use text, mics and cameras to communicate. The camera sharing is kind of hard, but the typing and talking is easy. The nice thing is that the professor can turn on his/her mic and video camera and simcomm (sign and voice) lectures. I’ve had a two of my three professors do this. One was definitely better at simcomming than the other. Her signs actually made sense on their own and she would code switch, sometimes having signs support her voicing and sometimes shutting off her voice to illustrate a point that could be better done in ASL , as opposed to just using random signs that were literally related to the words being spoken but made no visual sense on their own. The other professor is Deaf, and just held his Wimba session via chat, no cameras.

There have been ups and downs. The professors have been somewhat absent. It’s hard to know how much is due to it being summer and how much is due to it being an online program. We shall see. I’m hoping for the former, so the fall is better! I jut got an A in my first class, which was pretty awesome. :-D (It’s not technically over for a week but I turned in my final paper early and all I have left is worth about 1% of my grade….so I know what I got).

My classes so far have been/are:

Linguistics of Early Childhood. AWESOME. So very cool. Learning about how young children develop language. When you stop and think about it it is crazy that in a few years with virtually no direct instruction children can go from not even being intentionally communicative to expressing complex thoughts with mostly correct grammar and syntax. We were studying how that happens.

Fundamentals of Audiology. I really had no interest in this, but it’s been good. It is good to have the foundation in knowing how audiology works, how the ear and hearing mechanism work, different types of tests and what they can tell you, and how to read an audiogram. This is one of the better professors in terms of just being present, so that’s nice.

Parent-Professional Communication. This is a class with a good concept. I am not going to say any more than that. Because this is the interwebs and you never know who will see what.

Figured out what the program is in yet?

Deaf Education.

When I’m done I’ll have a masters degree in Deaf Education, and should be eligible to get a teaching certificate in Washington state. Which is *awesome*. I do love tutoring and training…but I really want my own classroom with more students and a wider curriculum. Deaf ed can, hopefully, be more flexible in terms of potential scheduling than some other teaching positions while being more reliable than what I’m doing now. So…we’ll see! Already I have learned a lot that is extremely applicable no matter what I end up doing. My Linguistics of EC course was fascinating to me, and gave me great information for raising my own little ones. I’m sure there will be more classes with useful general information, too. It is a strange thing to be in classes where I really enjoy the subject material and have long discussions outside of class with my classmates about subject topics.

For now I’m sitting back and enjoying the ride. We’ll see where it takes me.

But it feels so good to finally be doing something again!



Filed under ASL, Life

I do not recommend this

You know what I most definitely do NOT recommend?

Applying to graduate school….13 days before classes start.

Yeah. Good planning.

In my defense, I just learned about these programs’ existence 6 days ago.

And the schools just got back to me letting me know things were even possible and how to proceed this morning.

And I’ve already applied to one school and now just have to apply to the departments (which is really the harder part but shhhh)!

And pray to the GRE gods that the good folks at the standardized testing center work on wings of lightning to get my information out the door faster than they predict they will.

Or that the good ol’ USPS speeds the paperwork across the country and into the proper hands in fewer than the 5-7 days I was told to expect it would take.

Have I mentioned what a racket these people have going? Seriously, I have a paper with my scores, but it doesn’t say “official” so I have to pay them a chunk ‘o’ change and beg and plead for them to send the exact same paper with another stamp on it recording the results of a test I paid them a buttload of money to take in the first place. On a computer. That was mostly graded instantly by the computer. Yeah. Good times.

So anyway, if y’all could burn some incense to the gods of the GRE and the USPS. Or maybe sacrifice a young goat. You know, whatever floats your boat. I’m flexible.

And then keep me in your thoughts as I try to corral two people into writing letters of recommendation for know..yesterday, fill out the multitude of forms for the department’s acceptance, write a statement of intent (complete with citations about deaf education issues!), fill out the FAFSA, apply to the other department which I also have to take classes in, and several more things I’m forgetting because my phone is dead and it has my list on it.

Oh yes. There is a list.

Thirteen items to be done in the next few days.

Because did I mention I’m leaving town in two days and will get back shortly before the summer semester begins? (Don’t even try it, I have mean, nosy neighbors, friends coming over, and even people staying in my house part of the time I’m gone. Plus nothing worth stealing.) So basically I need this all in by..tomorrow.

*deep breath*

I have been playing paperwork games all day to get this done. Along with deciding I’d go with this program instead of the other option, since this one costs less than 1/5 of what the other one would cost (seriously? $1,500 a CREDIT? Get real, people!). Along with harassing the very nice secretary at the program begging her to PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE help me make sure I get everything right.

Oh, and calling a knee specialist to set up an appointment and fielding a half-dozen calls and e-mails about Companions and tutoring for a few hours.

*pant pant pant*

Here’s to hoping I can get it all done tomorrow! You know, in the hour or two I can probably block out between volunteering and tutoring/private training/group class.

*passes out*

But hey, maybe the nervous, excited energy will keep me going! And then the classes I get to take look (mostly) really cool!


Yup, that’ll do it. Gotta make it to that.

Maybe I should stop blogging and get back to work.


Filed under ASL, Life


Today I worked as a substitute para-educator in my local deaf/hard of hearing (public school) program for the first time. While talking with the teacher (who I’ve volunteered with for a few months) I mentioned that I wanted to get my teaching certificate sometime, but probably just in secondary math since there were no teacher of the Deaf programs where we live, and I wasn’t willing to uproot my husband to go to school.

She nodded, and then pointed out to me that there are evidently several places where you can get a masters in Deaf education through an online program.

One of those places also offers a masters in regular teaching through an online program.

Yeah. Online.

I have known of local certification programs for awhile. They take a year and are INTENSIVE. You have to start right on time (I always look into it right *after* the application deadline has passed) and then go full-bore for a solid year plus. I’m just not in a place where that is worth it right now. I am so burned out on sitting in class for the sake of sitting in class. I am so burned out on driving to classes to be bored by lecture on a subject I’ve heard about (or just bored by a poor lecturer). I am just not up for going back to intensive school like that. I have always hated sitting in lecture classes. One class at a time, great, but many? Not happening.

But these classes are online. I’m a very fast reader (in lecture classes I basically learn from the book anyway). I enjoy online discussions. I could work at my own pace, which tends to be fast. How awesome!

And then I know the DHH program here would allow me to student teach with them…and I could get certified!

Granted, it’s a two year program. But each semester you’re only taking two classes (typically). And they’re online. (What a difference no lecture makes!)

And I don’t want to be out in a year, anyway. I’m hoping to have a newborn in a year. I’m not going to want to start working then. But I would totally be up for continuing with some school. Especially when that school is online and flexible.

So. I have options. And I’m not sure which one (or more?) to pursue. I’ve had in the back of my head that sometime I’ll get interpreter certified. And sometime I’ll get a teaching certificate. But it’s always been later. Now, suddenly, it could be now.

So which path to choose?

Do I want to get a masters degree in education of the deaf? I do love working with deaf kids. They are a lot of fun, and I find it very rewarding. It’s just a great atmosphere to work in. I can’t quite put my finger on why, but I enjoy it. On the other hand, there are ridiculous ongoing administrative and teaching style arguments going on all across the country. Deaf students tend to be behind (not because Deafness makes you dumb, but because many kids in public school weren’t exposed to language at all (or only rudimentary language) until kindergarten, and because English is a second language to them), which means administrators tend to get on you about things that aren’t your fault. Also there is a big misunderstanding of Deaf education by those who aren’t in the know. People who don’t get that these are ELL kids are often in charge. It can be a fight to prove you’re doing a good job if you teach in the kids’ native language (ASL) which is harder for the administrators to understand. And then within the community there’s a big battle for ASL vs. SEE (signing exact english, not its own language, doesn’t make visual sense) vs. oral (no gesturing, just reading lips and using speech). It’s a big can ‘o’ worms to jump into, and if you’re not willing to move options are often limited. Near me there is one school district that has the Deaf program…so I join that one or I don’t join one.

Do I want to get a masters degree in secondary math? I do love teaching math (who are we kidding, I just love teaching). I find it very enjoyable to break down and explain concepts in ways kids get. And I love doing math! But on the downsides, teaching math tends to be much more repetitive. It’s not like English, where you can rotate out what the kids are analyzing, when you are teaching algebra you are teaching algebra. I’m not sure how I’d feel about doing it year after year. And, of course, there’s always the ridiculousness of school officials in charge and their demands. Really, the bureaucracy in schools is just crazy, no matter what you’re teaching!

Do I want to just get my interpreter certification? Not work in a school necessarily, but work as an interpreter. Get to play in languages, which I love, and have good, challenging work. I don’t think I would find it as rewarding as teaching, because I do enjoy teaching, but it would be fun, and it is very flexible hours (you take jobs when you want them). I could work in a school, but likely only translating what others say, doing very little explaining myself. However, when you are an interpreter you are just a machine. You don’t get to have say in things, you are just repeating what others say. So, as I mentioned, I’m not sure how rewarding I’d find this. Sure you do some “explaining” when crossing cultures or picking the best way to convey a message, but it’s not the same. This is the least expensive option, and theoretically, the least amount of time is required for it, too. I wouldn’t have to go to school, just study my butt off on my own. Also means it’s the least likely to get done.

What to do?

Ideally I wish I could just get certified to teach, and do a little extra work to add on both math and deaf ed. That way I’d have flexibility and options as I see what is available, since I feel like I’d be able to do both well, and enjoy doing both. But unfortunately, I’ve gotta pick.


I’ve had similar posts before…the difference is, this time I see real options. As in, look! I could go to *this* program. It would cost this much, which we could afford, and I would do it this way. Scary and exciting all at once!

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Alone in silence

Today I learned (randomly, talking with a hearing friend who happened to have a relative with a deaf child, nothing interpreting, nothing through the Deaf grapevine, just hearing gossip) of a little girl who my heart just breaks for.

A little girl who was born with a hearing loss, which her parents refused to accept as part of her.

A little girl who has had around 15 surgeries to “fix” her deafness.

A little girl who does not sign, because her parents like to fit in and be “normal” and so don’t like something that stands out like sign.

A little girl who has behavioral issues “because of” her hearing loss.

Those issues aren’t because of her hearing loss.

Hearing loss does not cause anything other than the inability to hear.

I would bet money those issues are because this little girl has no way to communicate with anyone. She lives in total isolation day in and day out, and has every day of her life.

Many children are born with disabilities. Many parents fight to have those disabilities minimized, through surgeries or therapies or whatever.

But in the Deaf community, deafness is not seen as an impairment. It is seen as a gift, and part of who they are. It is embraced, along with the good and bad that comes with it. Just like how being born a different color than white leads to hardships in our society, but is still embraced because it is a part of that child’s identity and heritage.

Why is being deaf seen by the people in and supportive of the Deaf community as being different than other disabilities?

I think it is largely because hearing loss is all about communication. It is part of every interaction that individual has with anyone around them.

If you have a child with cerebral palsy who cannot walk, you can put them in therapy. You can work on it every day at home. You may encourage them to walk whenever they need to move somewhere. Learning to walk can be a big focus in that child’s life. But even if you take an extremely aggressive approach to it, it will not color every single interaction that child has with you. They can still talk with you while sitting on the floor. They can still snuggle up to have a book read to them. They can still tell you they love you and hear you love them. All without a struggle.

When you have a child with a hearing loss, you may want to react the same way. Aggressive therapies, constant work, asking that child to “listen” and speak orally whenever they want to say or hear something. But that then colors every single interaction that child has with anyone. We are social beings. It is vitally important to us to bond, to connect, to talk, to listen. And because of what deafness is, insisting a child only speak orally and lip-read/listen means they cannot have those relaxed bonding times with you. Because those times are all dependent on the working to be as hearing as possible.

That is why people in the Deaf community say that parents who take an oral approach or deny sign language make their child all about what they can’t do rather than what they can. Because everything that child does that allows them to connect with someone else, from learning math to greeting a stranger to telling their parent they love them, is done through something they will never be able to do as comfortably as a hearing person. They will always be “less” than a hearing person in their ability to hear, no matter how hard they work, and that lessness will be the center of something so vital to them.

Would a parent with a child with CP insist that child stand and walk every time they wanted to say hi? Would they ignore requests by that child until they were up and moving? Would they only read a bedtime story to their child if they were doing physical therapy exercises? Of course not. But by giving a child who is deaf no relaxed, natural, visual way to communicate in those down times, what they are doing is no different.

And if every social interaction was based on your skill at something you are physically limited in your ability to do, how confident would you feel in yourself? How loved would you feel for who you are, if the only time you can hear of that love is when you are fighting a part of who you are?

My heart breaks for this little girl. I hope she can get the help and support she needs to be confident, successful, and learn to love herself as herself. And I hope her family can find a way for them all to grow close in love and communication.

(Disclaimer: I do not have a deaf child and do not mean to judge across the board. I realize that for some children oral education works well and they are glad that is how they were raised. However, from my connection with the Deaf community I have met many, many more deaf adults who felt lost, abandonded, and like failures and outsiders through their childhood due to that choice. I know all parents are just trying to do what is best for their children, and in no way mean to condemn them. It is a hard situation, especially when you are not expecting it. But until I touched the Deaf community I had never considered Deafness this way, and this story brought up those considerations I wanted to share. My views are no one’s but my own.)

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I’m not sure what’s up with me and one-word post titles recently, but it’s what’s coming. So I’m rolling with it.

Oh, you wanted to know why?

I’ve been contemplating how I can work on my signing and how I can do something that makes me feel productive and fulfilled during my days.

My solution? Volunteering in a Deaf/Hard of Hearing classroom locally. I used to do this a lot and I LOVED it.

(Granted, where I used to do it my mom was an employee and I was a better signer than most of their paid interpreters, so I was given a lot of responsibility and lee-way which did make it more fun, but still)

Finally got up the guts to write a local program.

Within hours got a response back. One of the teachers would love an extra pair of hands and is willing to take a random crazy person off the street.

Really quite excited.

Hope it works out as well as it could. We’ll see! But this could be really fun and fulfilling :-D


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Singing with your hands

Tulpen at Bad Words, who is a fucking awesome momma to her Deaf son, recently put up a few super awesome videos. On of her Deaf son having his first phone conversation with a Deaf friend from school, and one of what I assume is an ASL student interpreting Cee Lo’s Fuck You (a great motivating song for getting out of bed in the morning on shitty days!) Go check her out and check them out!

In return, I felt the need to share some of my favorite ASL videos with her.

First, this masterpiece entitled “First of May.” I love not only how he managed to put it so nicely into ASL, quite difficult for music, but the background singers. (PS This is NSFW if you have speakers)

Second, this great rendition of Ice Ice Baby, which so nicely illustrates the differences between ASL and SEE signing.


Filed under ASL

Silent Thoughts

I first started learning sign language in junior high, when my mom picked it back up and started interpreting again. Through high school and college I met a lot of deaf and hard of hearing kids through working/volunteering in the schools. Almost every single kid wore hearing aids or a cochlear implant, as the school district I worked in was a big believer in “Total Communication” (signing and voicing at the same time) and put a big focus on learning “language” (which they only considered to be spoken/written English). (FWIW Even at the time, this focus/view bothered me.)

Several of those kids would surreptitiously turn off (or take off or “forget”) their hearing aids every chance they got. Which caused a lot of battles of the will, since they were *supposed* to be keeping them on so they could learn to use their hearing and get a full learning experience! (/sarcasm)

The kids wanting to turn off their hearing aids/CIs never seemed to weird to me. The way hearing aids work, everything is amplified the same. With normal hearing, we have the ability to focus in on one set of sounds and ignore another. So, for example, if you’re listening to a speaker and there’s music in another room, you can choose to focus on the speaker and tune out the music. It doesn’t mean you can’t hear the music, it means it’s more-or-less going in one ear and out the other and you’re not processing it.

Hearing aids can’t do that. They amplify everything. You can’t decide to just not listen to background noise, it comes in loud and clear. Now, to some extent, you can work around it, but it’s much more difficult.

So it never surprised me that a lot of the kids didn’t want their hearing aids/CIs on. They tended to be the kids with less hearing, and tended to be the kids who relied on sign for communication rather than speaking. It just made sense to me that they wouldn’t want all the superfluous noise to sort through.

Then, last night, I got deeper insight into why this might be.

I attended a Deaf comedy show by the Anderson twins. They are adult twin brothers, one of whom is profoundly deaf and one of whom is hearing. They go on the road doing stand up comedy together, and they were really freaking good. I laughed a lot, even though the whole show was in ASL and was not voice interpreted, and I’m just getting back into sign and probably missed half the jokes :P Since the show was in ASL I was focusing really hard to take it in. It is not a natural language for me (yet), so I had to really pay attention to follow along.

For the first half of the show, all was fine. I was following pretty well, it was a great show! They had a short intermission, and then came back.

Did I mention the show was in the upstairs room of a bar/restraunt? ’cause it was. And while for the first half of the show there was music playing downstairs, it was pretty quiet. I did fine.

With the second half came the karaoke. The very, very LOUD karaoke. Because evidently that’s a rule: karaoke has to be obnoxiously loud to get the right ambiance.

And I had a really hard time tuning it out. OK, it wasn’t even that loud, just loud enough that I could hear the words instead of just getting a gist. But it was hard to ignore.

And I caught myself wondering why. Why was it so hard to tune out, when I can normally tune things like that out without too much trouble?

And I realized – with the comedy show, I was thinking silently. There was no sound to the show, except the occaisional audience laughter. Otherwise, it was silent. The language was all silent. And I was thinking silently.

I know many people who have learned a second language and lived abroad, using only that language, and they say the point they know they’ve really got the language and made it a part of them is when they start dreaming in it. And then they realize their thoughts are in it. Because now their mind is running in terms of that language primarily, since they’re living it.

Well, for people living a silent language, maybe their thoughts are running silently. And noise coming in is just obnoxious because it clashes with the way their thoughts are running. Even people who use their hearing but sign primarily would be thinking in their primary language of silence. And there are times, especially when you’re thinking hard and focusing, like at school, where those sounds coming in are just..well..obnoxious! Not helping with, and in fact, contradictory to the language of your thoughts. You almost have to derail your silent thinking to process the sounds. Not completely, but it’s definitely harder.

Or at least, it was for hearing old me. I’m not deaf. Nor Deaf. I’m just imagining.

Because for me, when I was trying to think silently, and process silent language, it was a lot harder to tune out sounds then when I’m thinking verbally (still in my head) and processing spoken language. Maybe because when I’m processing spoken language/thinking verbally, I’m already using the auditory/verbal processing part of my brain, and when I’m focusing on a silent language it calls up a whole ‘nother part to figure out what to ignore.

But to recap: Me? Not deaf. Not Deaf. Not HoH. Not speaking for them. If you are, feel free to correct me.

To me, though, it felt like I got it a little better.

And if last night I had the option to reach up and turn off my hearing so that I could focus on the visual speaker better, you can bet I would have done it in a heartbeat.

Maybe we could have more understanding for kids who want to do the same, rather than forcing them to be as “normal” as they can by “using” their hearing all the time.


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Anyone up for some ASL?

As I’ve mentioned before, I’m working to learn ASL. I already know sign language, but there is a range of sign in the US.

At one far end of the spectrum is SEE (Signing Exact English), which is nothing but words in English word order. There is no spatial use and no translation of meaning, it is like typing in the air. If a word is spelled the same and pronounced the same, the same sign is used. It’s basically like only using the first dictionary definition when going from one language to another. If you were to translate “I’m going to the park” into Spanish, you would use one word for park, and if you translated “Park the car” you would use another. With SEE, you would use the same word in both cases, despite one being a noun and one a verb, and them having entirely different meanings.

ASL is its own language with its own grammar. While spoken English derives from..well..England, ASL derives from France. It has its own word order and its own grammar rules, and just like when translating between any two languages there are multiple word choices for any one sign, and the sign you pick is based on meaning, not phoenetics. So for example, you might translate “beautiful” and “pretty” using the same sign, but you would never translate “bow of the ship” and “bow at the waist” as the same sign. ASL is a visual language, which uses space well and has it’s own flow that works for a language that is seen instead of heard. There is a lot of non-manual information included in ASL, such as expression, mouth shape, head/body tilt, and more. These are like the tone of words in spoken English, they can change the meaning of the sentence in the same way the meaning of “That was great!” varies greatly depending if you say it enthusiastically or sarcastically!

I do not sign either. If you view sign language as a contium, with SEE on one side and ASL on the other, I’m right about smack dab in the middle. My word choice is dependent on meaning, and I use some ASL grammar structures that I have picked up, but for the most part I use English word order. While this style of sign makes more visual sense than SEE, it is still tiring to watch/read, and I want to get all the way along the spectrum to ASL!

I recently got myself a copy of Signing Naturally, a great workbook/DVD set that I bought on for about $30. It is all about learning ASL. It is aimed at people pretty much exactly like me, who know sign but  not ASL. There is not a lot of vocabulary in it, it is mainly grammar and visual skills needed to speak fluently. (Alternately, you could say it’s aimed at people learning their vocabulary somewhere else!) I am greatly enjoying working through it, and in four days have completed three out of twelve units. I will slow down as I continue, I promise, I just already know a lot of the intro to Deaf culture and vocab, and even some of the basic ASL skills. Already, though, by Unit 3 I am learning great ASL skills! They put into writing things I had picked up on..but never quantified, so I only used them sporadically. Things like the way you hold your head/face for a yes/no question vs and wh- question. It’s great!

On to the point of this post (hope you’re still with me): Is there anyone out there in a similar position to me, who knows at least some sign, but wants to improve their ASL? I ask because I am looking for a language partner(s)! If anyone out there would like to chat periodically via webcam with only sign, that would be awesome. If you live in the Puget Sound region, we could meet for coffee. I’m flexible. I’m too cheap not in a position to take an ASL class right now, which would also be a lot of review for me, and I don’t feel quite confident enough to go barge into the Deaf community with my skills rusty (plus I can’t find them). So I have no one to practice with. And, you know, it’s hard to learn a language when you don’t use it! We could go through the book together if you wanted, incorporating their partner activities, or just chat. Flexible! Really!

So. Any language partners out there who feel like chatting in ASL? I promise I’m not a creepy stalker or anything! If you’d be interested, leave me a comment and I promise I’ll get in contact with you!

*crosses fingers there’s SOMEONE out there who’ll be interested!*


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