The Benefits of Learning Sign Language

American Sign Language has always been a language I wanted to learn. I’d meet people who were deaf, and even though they had hearing aids so we could speak back and forth with words, I wanted to know their signs.

I took my first class in the spring of 2017. I go to Columbia College Chicago where the ASL program is well recognized. All of the instructors are fully deaf. You would not believe the panic that went through the class on the first day. We had an interpreter, but they let us know they would not be there for the rest of the semester. How do you learn if your teacher can’t talk to you?

You just do and you learn really well.

I learned that ASL has its own culture, syntax and grammar. Watching ASL storytellers is a life-changing experience. Facial expressions and movement are huge in the language. When it comes to storytelling you’ve never seen anything like ASL; it’s beautiful and fluid, funny and exciting.

I remember running into a teen at a coffee shop at the end of the semester. She was deaf and I explained I was learning the language and it was very interesting and fun. It was exciting to be able to converse with her and she expressed appreciation that I was learning her language.

Sign language has been surprisingly easy to learn and I love being able to communicate with people I might not have been able to before. The Deaf community is open and fun to be a part of and being invited in has turned me into a big advocate for everyone learning ASL.

It could be particularly helpful for nurses, flight attendants, police officers and others who regularly interact with the public in high-pressure situations, so they can communicate effectively with each other and also with the people they’re helping.

Besides expanding your world, sign language can help improve your motor skills and senses. Research also shows that learning a new language is great for your mind. Since it is a language skill, sign language can help you be a more well-rounded member of society, and employers and co-workers who are hard of hearing will see you as a valuable asset to the team.

If you’re interested in learning sign language for yourself, the National Association of the Deaf has a lot of great information to get you started, including a list of ideas for where you might find a class near you.

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Photo credit: daveynin

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