Wednesday, May 7, 2008

When did you learn ASL?

There are lots of discussions about language options here on DeafRead. This blog supports both ASL and spoken/written English. The age of acquision of language is critical to the fluency of that language. So my question this morning is, when did you learn ASL, was it your first or second language, and how did your age affect your ability to learn it?


Anonymous said...

I grew up oral, went to Clarke then left to go to public school. There, I started 6th grade in elementary school.

My parents put me in an Oral School for the Deaf because they wanted me to learn to lip read and speak at a young age, knowing it would be more difficult later. They pointed out that they knew anyone could learn ASL at a later age. That was the best choice my parents have made. Lip reading, speaking and ASL gives me more option. Today, I use them all.

I learned ASL and was exposed to the "deaf community" when I was in college. I had never been exposed to a community full of flying hands. Wow, that was so inspiring. I found the real me as there were others just like me. That was the best thing I ever have done. People have approached me thinking I knew ASL since I was young. I was in my 20’s when I first learned ASL and I was a quick learner.

It is never too late to learn ASL but I do regret some ways I had learned it sooner. I could have been smarter in HS. lol HS became more challenging and the teachers were more uncooperative due to their lack of understanding and deaf services. And I was not exposed enough in the deaf community growing up.

Hey, It’s all good. I believe you can learn ASL at any age.


K.L. said...

Thanks Suey,
Great story. My daughter started out with SEE and spoken English, and is just now starting to learn ASL. She just turned 10, so I think she should be able to learn ASL pretty easily. Especially if she gets lots of exposure to the Deaf Community. I'll let you all know her progress.

Anonymous said...

Hi, I'm a current bi-lateral CI and ASL user.

I hesitate to say that ASL was my first language because I was taught in the SEE/PSE mode initially. I was stone deaf so my parents knew there was no hope of teaching me oral speech so they just focused on sign language. I turned out to be a good lip reader anyways, even though I had no formal training in it.

I got my Cis when i was 6-7 and learned how to speak and listen with them. I never stopped using ASL but what I think made the difference was that I knew when I was supposed to use ASL and when I was supposed to use my voice. At home, my parents used speech/oral skills to get me used to speaking and listening. But at school, I used ASL with interpreters for the classroom. I think a clear separation is key - the child must know when ASL is appropriate, and when talking is more appropriate.

Today, I'm fluent in ASL (and I would say that its hard to become a 'natural' at ASL later in life, just like any other language.) and I speak for myself and under most circumstances, I can hear well.

gnarlydorkette said...

I am not sure if that question is directed to CI children/adults, but I am a byproduct of mainstreaming (which I suspect many CI children are placed in today's academics) so I will like to contribute my two cents.

I was born to a hearing family so my deafness wasn't diagnosed until just a few months before my third birthday (April 1988). My parents made the choice to immediately place me into a signing nursery/preschool among Deaf classmates. So you can say that I learned ASL at age 3.
Recently I went through my old IEP papers and found many reports from that year, 1988, where it was stated over and over by audiologists, psychologists, and teachers that I was a naturally visual child. They confirmed that ASL was the best choice for me because I wasn't unresponsive to AVT... which led them to suspect that I was born Deaf.

Interesting, isn't it?

Karen said...

I grew up hard of hearing in an oral deaf family, lipreading my way through life. I became deaf at the age of 19 and shortly after that, I learned ASL. ASL opened up my life--I began to meet many, many wonderful people that I didn't have access to before.

Aaron said...

I am 33 and just started learning ASL this year. After 8 months, I feel like I have the level of fluency a hearing 5-year-old would have in English, so I am not unhappy.

It definitely takes commitment, though. And watching Deaf sign (easier now with vlogs) and signing with Deaf is a crucial factor to learning quicker.

Valerie said...

I grew up hard of hearing in mainstream schools. I did not take my first ASL class until I was 27 and already deaf. I had a very difficult time picking up ASL because I am an auditory learner. I am now a bilateral CI users and trying to learn ASL again. I get very frustrated with it. I do wish I had learned it as a young child.

raychelle said...

Having deaf parents, I learned ASL from birth, making me a native ASL speaker.

When I moved to Italy at 24 to do my internship there, learning LIS (Italian Sign Language) was tough (and absolutely fun). I lived with an Italian deaf family - so I would be signing LIS sun up and sun down. I'd get "eyeball" headaches at night and feel as if I ran a marathon every day - trying to understand and sign a new language in a new country at the age of 24 was definitely an excellent yet exhausting way to immerse oneself in the language.

I know what it is like to learn signed language in adulthood, however some say I might have had it easier because I already had fluency in ONE signed language before learning LIS.... which means I could transfer some of my ASL skills in using classifiers (blended space) for example, to LIS.

Interestingly, a group of us moved to Italy - and the native ASL users picked up LIS at a very much more rapid pace than those who learned ASL later in life. Also, the native ASL users still remember and use LIS from time to time but obviously our skills have deteriorated, while those who learned ASL later in life and then LIS- have completely forgotten how to sign LIS. Of course there may be other confounding factors, such as self-motivation and so on.

If I had the opportunity, I would have wanted to learn several signed languages and several written languages at a young age - just like this Canadian-Italian deaf couple who raised their deaf children using ASL, LSF (French Sign Language) and LIS as well as written Italian, written English and written French. Their children are competent in 6 languages!!!

Suey said...

True... I'd say the more you interact the better you will become or stay fluent. I lived in the deaf community for 5 years so I learned a lot. (in college 20 years ago - sheesh I feel old) If I was to learn today, it would be different, I'd struggle. I am still learning new words and often don't know because I do not interact as much I would have liked.

heartie7 said...

I wasn't a native signer but was always very visual and a great lip-reader. I learned sign when I went to Aspen camp at age 14 and picked up rapidly and more so the more deaf people I met in the years on. I've always wished I learned ASL earlier but considering where I am now, I can't really complain! :D