Saturday, March 03, 2007
Being in a group of people mostly communicating in sign language, though, adds some surreal elements that you won't encounter in spoken languages. For one thing, you can have a dizzying array of non-conflicting simultaneous conversations. With four people at a table, you can have two completely separate exchanges going on, and it scales up pretty well from there. You can also have conversations across a room without doing anything analogous to shouting. More noticeable in a social context, though, is that you hear little more than background noise until suddenly someone tells a joke — it's like watching a sitcom with no sound but the laugh track. (Yes, deaf people do generally laugh out loud.) The other thing is that some signs make sounds of their own, including slapping, snapping, and the ever-popular "raspberry" (part of the sign for "birthday," among others). I found, though, that the most distracting sounds were the few spoken conversations in the room. It's remarkably difficult to tune out a nearby conversation in your native language to focus on a language so completely different.
If you want to start out learning sign language, you can get pretty far with just 26 signs, and branch out from there. Be careful, though, of the transatlantic chasm: English and American don't even use the same alphabet!
Technorati tags: Deaf, American Sign Language, LGBT, 3 Dollar Bill Cafe, San Francisco
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