3/2/08

Sign of the time


We took a signing class yesterday at our agency.
As I may have mentioned before, I love language. ANY sort of language. It's always been a sort of hobby of mine. I don't mean to geek out on you again, but there's really no help for it - when I was a kid I took to languages right away. The French side of my mother's family spoke a curious combination of Italian, French and English amongst themselves (they had all been born in France, educated in Italy, and most of them had lived in the US at one point or another) which I found fascinating. I learned to read and write in French while going to school there when I was four. In grade school, I was obsessed with Tolkien's Lord of the Rings series, and fascinated by the fact that he'd invented entire languages for the story. It wasn't long before I'd learned his alphabet of Elven runes, and by middle school my bff and I had invented an entire language of our own based on them. Next, it was on to Spanish. Although it was my father's first language, he hadn't used it in our home, so it took a school trip to Mexico when I was sixteen to get me kick started. Romance languages are easy once you know one, and I was fluent in a few months. I never fully learned Italian, although I was lucky enough to study art near Siena at one point, and picked up a decent subset of train-station/airport Italian.
So, no surprise that I instantly loved sign language. I expected the class to be very simplistic - just a few baby signs like hungry, milk and where does it hurt. But the class turned out to be pretty in-depth. The most surprising thing of all was how easy it was to learn and how many words we all knew by the end of the three-hour class. We covered actions, desires, colors, fruits and veggies, animals, some emotions, family members, travel words and the alphabet. Sign language, it turns out, is mostly very intuitive and the learning curve is amazingly fast.
I realized about halfway through the day that I had, in fact, learned the alphabet at some point during my life and still remembered how to spell my maiden name. Probably it was thanks to my best friend in college, who was responsible for teaching me how to sing the entirety of Elvis' "I can't help falling in love with you" in ASL.
The most difficult part? Hand coordination. I'm still having trouble with Q, F and the sign for "macaroni".
(By the way, my favorite sign? Whale.)

4 comments:

Vivian M said...

I love sign language! I learned it when young, and we share the same love for languages (in my case it was Spanish and French).
By the way, Kerri knew a few signs in Chinese, and we had no clue what they were until one of our guides showed us the same signs. Kerri could do the sign for "thank you" and for "feed me" and one other one we never quite figured out. Apparently she was also potty trained (you had to hold her over the toilet and whistle), but we chose to regress her to diapers. Not sure that was such a good idea, since she refuses to stop using them!

Yoli said...

Second here, I am obcessed with languages. Studied, German and Russian, can communicate in Italian and Portuguese. Not as fluent as I would like but I can get by very well. Oddly enough, it has always been French which I have had the biggest block with. I can read a lot of it but I can't speak it.

I am sure that Flynn is going to be fluent in many languages.

Cari said...

I sign as well, and am relatively fluent. I teach deaf kids so have lots of opportunity to sign, but not as much as I'd like. it's a beautiful language!
Cari

krj said...

Sign is my most favorite language, was my major in fact when I once believed I would go into deaf education. If you're away from using it for any length of time though, it is much harder to remember- I was never fluent to begin with for that matter. I'm looking forward to learning again since I plan to use it with my baby :)