/ September 18, 2020/ Real Life

In college, I took two German Language classes. Don’t remember much of the language but boy did we have fun! It was almost more of a German Language History and German Language Culture class. I also took one or two classes in the Japanese Language. Not a dang thing stuck with that one. It was fun, too, and taught by a friend so, bonus. The German and Japanese languages are quite different from English. They each have their own grammar rules. And Japanese has rules about, well, “rank” at home, in society, and at work. Complicated much?

For many years now, I’ve been trying to learn American Sign Language (ASL). I’ve gotten a book, took a few classes, but it didn’t stick. I can finger spell but slowly. I know a few other words here and there but have a conversation? Nope.

And then along came the vertigo, and the worsened tinnitus, and the slight (and worsening) hearing loss in my left ear. Diagnosis? Inconclusive but could be Migraine Associated Vertigo (MAV), also know as vestibular migraines. Or it could be Meniere’s Disease.

Yay. More alphabet soup to add to my diagnosis sheet. So happy. So thrilled.

Hyperacusis is where everything is loud. Overly loud. And the brain cannot process all the stimulus. I have that, too. Although mine is where the more noise there is, the less I can distinguish between the sounds. Like, if at a crowded restaurant, it is hard for me to concentrate because I am being beaten with a wiffle bat from every noise. Ear plugs help, but then I overly hear everything in my head. Like, I can hear myself chewing. As if I am chewing in front of a microphone and the speaker is right at my head.

In the quiet room of a hearing test, my left ear scores lower than the right ear. I am losing hearing in the higher ranges which explains why the tinnitus is so high pitched.

So re-enter ASL lessons. If I have Meniere’s Disease, I won’t go totally deaf because it is “just” the left ear. But it will make it harder for me to hear in noisy environs. Learning it now, while I can still hear, is best.

So I checked around and found free introductory lessons from Gallaudet University (a famous university for Deaf students). These went in a direction I don’t remember ever going before. They introduce what the rest of the body is doing during sign language. Eyebrows, body position, etc. It is all as much a part of ASL as what the hands are doing. More so because there is no voice inflection to fully understand what the other person is saying. Imagine being angry and your mannequin self asks “what are you doing?” in a flat voice. Without the voice inflection or the body language, it loses its true meaning. Raise your voice and still be a mannequin, and it has meaning. But if you can’t raise your voice? Facial expressions, leaning, the force of the hands moving and coming together in sign language. Oh. You’re mad and you want to know what I am doing. Ah, gotcha.

And for some reason, it stuck. It is just an introductory class and I was sad when it was over. They offer more (designed for friends, family, and caretakers of Deaf people) but it is one-on-one with a person who is deaf and I don’t do people well.

So right now I am on YouTube, looking for something to follow. I’ve found a few things. Plus Gallaudet has some “topics” videos. They run a little fast but there’s always the rewind or replay!

Bill Vicars of ASL University aka Lifeprint. Moves fast but repeats a lot and has fast “tests”. The online site has lessons to follow which seem to be a mix of “watch the video and input your response) kind of thing. That’s cool.

Rogan Shannon is a gay guy who does ASL lessons and Deaf life videos. He also has several on LGBT signs. He is also a GREAT example of not being a signing mannequin.

Do a YouTube search for ASL lessons and pick one or more that fits your learning style. Let me know how it goes!

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