Why Learn Sign Language?
There are several benefit
s in learning sign language
. I'm currently picking up SEE
2, which uses borrows signs from ASL
but conforms to English
in all other aspects.
1) You train your hand-eye coordination.
Communicating with Deaf people forces one to pick up sign
s and gesture
s on the fly, especially if you are surrounded by them. It makes one more alert
, and no doubt the area of the brain responsible for this will develop
further. This prevents one from getting dull-minded premature
2) You train your arm muscles.
One of my teachers attested that signing prevented the flabby arm syndrome
, in which arm muscles lose their tension and become flaccid
It must be pointed out that one cannot expect to sign the whole day long; even the Deaf
get tired arms, and this is perfectly normal
. Do allow your arms and fingers some time to get accustomed to signing.
This is true for myself when I learn SEE2, even though I already know English well. I can really gush over the perfect
-ness of a sign language that distinguishes between "your" and "you're"; "than" and "then"; "there", "they're" and "their". All these words have different signs, but they sound alike in English. Many English-speaking hear
ing people have difficulty
getting these words down on paper correctly in the appropriate context
, but the Deaf have no problem.
Naturally, language skills would also be hone
d when one picks up a language which has a different syntax
than one's own mother tongue. It facilitates one in picking up other languages. It's similar to how learning Japanese is easier after learning Chinese. Learning to translate between sign and speech is always great fun, and as pointed out previously, will lead to a more active
4) It improves your body language skills.
Basically, when you sign, your body language has to conform
to what you're signing. One cannot nod one's head while signing "no": this leads to confusion
. When signing about being happy, one's countenance should show it. As SEE2 seldom includes question marks or exclamation marks, this had to be incorporate
d into the way I expressed myself, such as frowning when asking a question, or looking extremely surprised. Regardless of whether question marks, etc. are used, Deaf people often use body language to convey
what they feel or think. This will be useful even when communicating with other hearing people, who will pick up on body language subconscious
5) You get to make more friends.
Naturally the first group of people you get to know much more intimate
ly are the Deaf people you come into contact with. It's interesting to note that they do not consider themselves handicap
ped; indeed, they see themselves as another group of normal people who just happen to have another language. Much like the Hispanic
s in America
, or Japanese
s in Singapore
The other group of people would be your classmate
s in your sign-language class. A great deal of bonding
happens when you're laughing over some mis-signed phrase, correcting one another's mistakes and musing over how sign language seems to so difficult to pick up. (It isn't; it just requires more practice
The third group would be normal hear
ies. When I reveal that I know sign language, many hearies perk up and start asking questions. Occasionally I have met people who also know how to sign. This is a great ice-breaker and a good conversation
There are probably more benefit
s which I'll come across later, since I've only learnt how to sign for two month
s. But this list is enough to assure
me that I've invested my time well.