Last year, I looked up the timetable for Sign Language classes online and asked my friends and see if any of them want to join me. But whenever I summoned all my courage to ask them, they asked me why? Maybe you want to know as well, but I was afraid to answer because I did not have a firm quick answer myself as well.
If you know a little bit about Deaf culture, you know that the first few things they would ask including the question ‘are you hearing or deaf?’ I am hearing, I do not have any Deaf or Hard of hearing relatives nor friends. Some background on the sign language I am interested in is it is not popular, in fact it is one of the endangered languages in the world, but as that sign language is used by people living in the same city as me, without any hesitation I know I have to learn that as the first sign language, sense of belonging I would say.
Going back to the question, WHY? why sign language? not Spanish? not Japanese? When my best friend asked me I even shamelessly said that because I wanted to write sign language as my speciality, so that it can polish my CV. That was the most sensible reason I can think of, that most people would think ‘ah ha, no wonder’, and hope that this can stop them from asking for further details, but at the same time it was the worst reason. Shame on me, this reason shows how selfish I am. Maybe that’s not really what I think, maybe, I said it just because it shut their mouths up.
So, what is the real answer? I sat down and asked myself, I am just curious about being Deaf. When I was little I always imagine, what if I am blind? what if I am deaf? what if I am a wheel-chair user? Sometimes I would pretend I was blind, and walk around the flat with closed eyes or in the dark, and hit my toes against the wall, nearly every time! Do those people ( I try to avoid the word disabled ) have a choice? No, that’s so sad, I felt bad for people who are blind, deaf and other people who need to use wheel-chair. Many people would react like this, that was my first reaction as well. BUT Wait….do I feel bad for having eczema, a life-long skin disease? well, sometimes, but I don’t want people to feel bad for me, that’s no big deal actually, it can happen to everyone, but it helps me to learn about life, and now that’s part of me, the bloody wounds and scars paths my way to be different in appearance and it cultivates my compassion to understand other minorities in every society. Later on I searched online to understand what if I am blind, surprisingly it turned out there are lots of little tricks like sewing little labels on your clothing so you can remember their colors, so on and so on to help ‘freshers’ to be independent, and the only thing I can do is respect. But respect is a big word, it pulls me back to my chair to think instead of doing. hmmm….so maybe some knowledge-based background first? Fair enough, so understanding is my ultimate goal. I want to learn sign language because I want to make some friends who are Deaf, I want to understand Deaf people, their culture, the difficulties they encounter and learn the appropriate way to treat them. ‘It’s all about understanding’, that’s something I believe. Sadly this reason seems so eccentric to people living in a Hearing community, who surround themselves in a hearing environment, I just didn’t have the guts to say that out at that time. I have never tell them the truth.
Learning something do not need a reason, just do it as you like it, but when there are no personal or very strong reasons to support it, it becomes open for attacks. I always think no reason is better than thousands of explanations, when you know it is the right thing to do, explain it just make you want to be things that are bigger than yourself, it is not necessary, nor appropriate. This innocent love of something, can accomplish more than words. :]