Author: Patty O’Furniture (Pen Name)
Hi there! My name is Patty O’Furniture. I am from PCMC, which is a Montessori Christian School. I am currently in the tenth grade. I love sign language. It has helped me learn so much about communication. I have some hearing complications, and I will tell you more about that later.
My journey with sign language has been fun, and I realize how easy it is. I’d love to share some ways to get started. Sign language isn’t as complicated as it looks. I have been learning sign language for 3 years now, and not to brag, but I’m pretty good at it.
Let me take you back to my first encounter with sign language and deafness. When I was 5, I moved in with my dad. He was a huge bodybuilder back then, and he was super conscious of all of our health and eating habits. We drank tons of water. We even had a freezer full of frozen Gatorade. He was serious about many healthy things, but he didn’t realize my ear health was in trouble. He was really into music, so he had one of those loud sound systems. Rap music has a lot of bass in the music, and he played it so loud that it shook the house, his car, and my eardrums too. This was not a good thing for a five-year-old to hear every day for hours a day. Eventually, after living with him for 5 more years, that affected my hearing.
When I turned ten, I moved in with my mom, and she noticed that my hearing was getting worse and worse. When I turned twelve. My mom was getting phone calls from all my sixth-grade teachers saying that I should check mine. So eventually, my mom took me for a check-up on my ears, they put me in a soundproof booth with headphones, and every time I heard a sound, I had to raise my hand. They wanted to take a closer look – they told my mom I didn’t do very well. They took me into another room and looked into both my ears. They said my left ear was not bad, but my right ear was not hearing anything at all, and my eardrum was busted.
Then they told my mom that over the years, my hearing had been getting worse, and that there’s a chance that I could lose all my hearing. This started my interest in sign language. Now I am fifteen years old, and I am deaf in my right ear, and have lost some hearing in my left ear, but I can still hear most things. People have very low patience with hard-of-hearing people, or even deaf people they just don’t understand.
Now I am teaching sign language classes to fellow classmates, and also people from my church. The first thing I think people should know is your alphabet and numbers 1-30. Many people make a mistake also by starting to sign without learning the background of sign language where it began.
I feel like there are some things you should know before you learn any language. Sign language started in 1755. The first form of sign language was in French, but only the alphabet was created by Charles Michel de l’Épée. He also began the first all deaf school in 1755. Now in 2021, sign language is only used by about 1% of people in the US. And not many more actually know it.
I always wanted to actually communicate with a deaf person just to see how my signing was. Then finally I met one. I was fourteen, and I was at church on a Sunday night. I looked over, and I saw this guy signing to people asking for help. Nobody knew what he was even talking about. In fact, all these people knew was that he was deaf. He was stuck, and so were they.
Then one of my friends ran up to me and said, “you know, sign language, come with me, hurry.” So I ran after her and met this guy, he was young, and we just talked for a few minutes, and then he left. I had a good time, and I’m sure he did too. Just having a “real” conversation can go a long way.
Like I said before, I think everyone needs to learn the alphabet, so you can at least spell out words. You should also know a few basic phrases like “hey, how are you?” Learnings sayings is a great way to be sure you’re not lost, if you ever meet a deaf person. Try hard to help them know they are safe talking with you. Planning ahead is a great way to be sure you are prepared. Better safe than sorry, right?
We all need to respect deafness more because it’s hard to really understand how a hearing impaired individual feels, or what they are experiencing. It can be confusing if you get lost, or if they do. It’s kind of the same thing if you are in a foreign country, and would like to meet someone who knows the same language as you. Many people were born and raised deaf, and when nobody learns their language they feel left out.
I should also make this note: it is disrespectful to just walk up to a deaf person and start yelling at them, asking if they can hear you. Many people yell instead of really trying to communicate. That really doesn’t work. It really doesn’t matter how loud you shout; they still won’t hear you. SO STOP YELLING!!! I hope my sign language journey and tips help you learn something.
Have a blessed day!