When I was in elementary school, my aunt took a Signed Exact English (S.E.E.) class in college and I was fascinated by it. I thought this was sign language.
(In a later post, I plan to explain some of the the differences between ASL and SEE) I would borrow her bright yellow dictionary and teach myself signs.
It wasn't the best hobby since I didn't really have anyone to practice with,
basically I was talking to myself... which I guess worked out since I actually do
talk to myself quite a bit. It's how I process things.... but, I digress. All to say
that this was an on again, off again interest for me, until I was in high school. As I pondered what my future career would be, interests that I had, where to
go to college, etc., I realized that I was still drawn to sign language and wanted to pursue a field that required learning to talk with my hands.
I found a local community class that was offered and loved it. It felt like it just fit. I have always "talked" with my hands, but now they were finally saying something! I was eager to start learning as much as I could. I found a couple of volunteer opportunities and jumped in feet first. Once I found out there
was a career in interpreting, I knew that was what I wanted to do. It took
some searching, but I found a few colleges with Interpreter Training Programs and set off to pursue my goals.
There are many complexities about "sign language" that I plan to discuss more in future posts, but the bottom line is that learning ASL is learning a foreign
language and requires the commitment and time required to learn as much as any other spoken language such as Spanish or German. I spent many hours,
practicing, studying, volunteering, and spending time in the community to be with native ASL users. It has taken years, many mistakes and hard work to be the language user that I am. I am still a second-language user, not a native user. That means that I will always be learning new things about American Sign Language as a
language and how to use in in native-like ways. I love the beauty of this
three-dimensional language. I love how it becomes a picture in the air that
looks like art or poetry in it's most perfect forms. Becoming bilingual has not always been an easy rode. There are days I have
been down on myself, there are days that I have questioned myself, but it has also provided a richness to my life that I wouldn't trade for the world. Looking at another language requires looking at another culture, and looking at another culture requires a broadening of mind and ideas. It has allowed me to see life in a different perspective and to look at my own culture and discover more about me. For me, being bilingual is a journey in