At the end of freshman year in High school, all the students are given a packet of available classes that they can choose from. You are required to take core classes of course, but there is some room to choose your own electives. Of course, the teachers also said that it would be wise to choose a foreign language as four year colleges require two years of a language (other than American English). My school had many different options such as German, Spanish, Japanese, and American Sign Language (ASL). I have always had an interest in language, but now that it was “required”, I was excited to actually learn one. Being as indecisive as I am, I had no idea which language to pursue. Well, one day, I was walking to my math class, and saw two people flailing their hands, and it caught my attention. I stared (probably rather creepily =P) and thought how cool it was to communicate using a visual system, and not an auditory system. That was the moment that I decided to take ASL.
The first day of class will stick with me for the rest of my life. The teacher (who is hearing, but has a deaf husband) had the desks set up adn on each desk was a piece of paper that had our names on them. Even though my name was on one of the desks, I didn’t know which one it was. This is because our names were all spelled using pictures ofthe Manual alphabet. As the students entered the class, they would proceed to talk to the teacher to figure out where they had to sit. With each new student, the teacher did the same thing. She put her index finger to her lips (as if to hush them) and pointed at the white board. On this board, there was two things. There was something she had written in red marker, “Find your seat”, and a poster that had the manual alphabet on it.
That first day of ASL class, was awkward, to say the least. Just trying to decipher ONE students name on one of the papers took several minutes. I had to analyze the paper, copy the handshape that was first in that particular students name, duplicate that handshape, and then search the poster for that exact handshape. This whole process only covers one letter of a name. After I figured out that particular letter, then I had to rinse and repeat until I found my name and desk. Now, the reason that this activity will forever be ingrained in my memory is not only because it was my first exposure to ASL, but because it demonstrated the ability we, as human beings, have to really master anything we put our minds too. I’ll explain in a bit.
After four quarters of ASL here at Clark, I decided that I wanted to start interpreting. What better profession is that than one that allows you to do something that fascinates you? Also, there are so many jobs out there that are mundane. The same job needs to be done every single day and after a certain point, they become boring (work is work). However, with ASL, I will never stop learning/improving. This goes the same with spoken English. I will never stop learning/improving my English skills. There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t learn something new, whether is be an idiom, a word, or a slang word. Even when around my best friends who I have known since kindergarten, I still have to ask them for clarification on what they are saying. So, what does this all mean?
Interpreting never has a dull moment. Every single conversation goes differently, which means that the interpretation is going to be different. Because of this there are NO (let me emphasize that, ZERO, ZILCH, NADA) interpretations that are the same. This keeps my brain working in ways it hasn’t worked before. Because of my interest in languages, this means that interpreting is the opposite of mundane.
Now back to the “humans’ ability to master anything,” topic. That first day of ASL was nearly eight years ago. I have pursued it at Clark with those four ASL classes, and then I transferred to PCC and spent 2 years learning how to interpret from deaf teachers, and spending as much time as possible within the deaf community. Looking back at the first day of class, that several minutes to decipher one name is now ancient history. I am fully capable of having a conversation with most deaf people that I might come across. In fact, there have been many times that after I explained to a deaf person that I am hearing, a look of awe appears on their face. Every time that this happens, I look back at the first day of ASL and how hard and awkward it really was. To think that I have come this far really shows that we can do anything.