Lipreading Mom has an embarrassing confession to make. Whenever someone signs, I stare in confusion, trying to draw meaning from their moving fingers. I’m not proud to admit that while I can learn and regularly use sign language at home and church, I don’t always understand what another person is signing to me. I may have sign language dyslexia. That’s not an official diagnosis, nor have I ever heard of someone else having this kind of dyslexia. But it applies in my case.
Something Lipreading Mom has committed to doing is to initiate a sign language conversation with people I don’t know. These are people I observe signing and/or wearing hearing aids in public. Granted, I have preschool-level sign language compression skills, but can get by with signing my introduction…
ME: Hi, are you Deaf?
ME: (grinning, ear to ear) I’m hard of hearing… My name is (fingerspelled) S-H-A-N-N-A…
(awkward pause as I try to remember my signs)
STRANGER: (signs something to me)
ME: (eyes squinted at first, then pretending to understand) Yes. Okay…
(I pause. Stranger signs. I squint, then pretend to understand again.)
ME: (quickly) Okay. Nice to meet you.
Do You Have Sign Language Dyslexia?
If you can relate to my embarrassing confession, I’ve found the following things help.
- When signing with someone, have that person stand beside you, not in front of you. Otherwise, that person’s signing movements will be like a “mirror reflection” to your eyes—backwards.
- Download one or more American Sign Language (ASL) apps, and practice regularly. HearingHearing.com lists several apps. One that my daughter and I use is MarleeSigns, an iTunes signing program by actress Marlee Matlin, who is deaf.
- Visit events where sign language is common. Deaf Coffee Chats are an excellent way to learn sign language and are held all over the United States. Click here to see if a chat group meets in your area. Last weekend, my hubby and I attended a launch party at sComm, manufacturer of the UbiDuo and UbiDuo2 communication devices for the Deaf. While a voice interpreter and captioning followed along, sComm Founder Jason Curry communicated from the stage in ASL. This was an excellent chance for me to go back and forth between reading the captions and watching Jason’s hands move. I was able to put his ideas and thoughts together, while the captioning filled in the gaps.
- Learn songs in sign language. I’ve found that music makes learning to sign easier, because the hand movements are more dramatic and often slower. Where I attend church, one of the ladies signs the worship music. One day, I asked her how she learned to sign the words so beautifully. Her answer: Watching YouTube videos. She finds out, in advance, what the the worship songs will be each Sunday, then she Googles the name of the song and “sign language video” on YouTube. Click here to search for sign language videos to your popular songs.
Join Me for a Discussion About Sign Language February 22
Each month, I co-host an online DeafChat. On February 22, the topic will be “Sign Language: How to Do It, Then Teach Others.” Click here for more details.
Do You Have a Sign Language Tip?
Share your suggestions, comments, or questions below. If you also suffer from what I call sign language dyslexia, let me know so I don’t feel so embarrassed. (Wink!)