The dance of ASL

Opera singers prefer the round tones of Italian. Many people consider French the “language of love” and think it sounds sexy.  Many non-signers see American Sign Language (or Signed English, for that matter) as a beautiful dance of body and fingers. These days, it to me is simply communication.  However, I have also started a still photo series on the photoblog on the Art of ASL. It is harder than I thought, because without motion the word is sort of lifeless.

And therein lies the great beauty of ASL.  It lives and breathes for me in a way which no other language does, including my natal language of English. I now pick up the nuances of the individual speakers.  The most skilled terp  I use is also the hardest for me to understand – go figure. My favorite terp is so busy I barely see him once a week.  He’s just the best – he is so expressive!

I requested terps for one of my 12 step meetings and now we’re the first in the state to offer it for Al-Anon.  At first the group simply said, “bring them on” but now people are ecstatic. They want to learn the language.  “I’m so glad you came.”  “It is wonderful having the interpreters here!” ” I wish I knew the language.” To the ones who are serious about learning I said, “Sit next to me, listen to the words and correlate them with the signs.” I have 17 DVDs full of ASL – anyone who wants to learn – I had the technology,

On the one hand I have a group of happy, enlightened people who see terps for the deaf a wonderful thing, a learning experience, something life-enriching. And then I get a call about a Deaf person being attacked on the job for the crime of being deaf. Being Deaf is a state of existence in which you don’t communication with sounds, you communication with expression and motion. It is no reason to attack  a man.  But that is a concern for Friday.  Tonight I am thankful for a terp and a warm group.


  1. Great post! I especially like the point about ASL being communication of “expression and motion.” Without the two, there is limited meaning, don’t you think?

  2. Yup, it is unfortunate that the still photo is not evocative of the actual communication. I may do a short video at some point. I have interpreters with me at a 12-step meeting and the group is absolutely fascinated with them. Rarely are the same people there twice and already the group members are aware that they all sign a little differently, that they all use different expressions and body language and yet, I understand them all. The hearing folks now wish they could understand the interpreters and I’ve invited the serious ones to sit next to me and start learning. Although I see communication, the members see a beautiful, fluid body and hand dance – and we’re all right. 🙂

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