American Sign Language: "Staring
at the Deaf or people using sign language"
A student writes:
Do you ever experience staring while in public
If so, how do you deal with it?
- [name on file]
Yes, indeed I do, but it has been many, many years since I've
noticed it. I'm sure it still happens, but I simply do not notice it
any more. I'm instead busy communicating with my conversation
partner and not at all concerned if someone is watching or not.
Our brains are hard-wired to pay attention to things that are new or
different. Call it evolution or a gift from God but the fact is we
are fascinated by the "new" because it keeps us alive. Those who do
not pay attention to new things in their environment get eaten by
tigers (or hit by cars) and removed from the gene pool. So, now the
world is full of people whose ancestors paid attention to new things
and passed along that gene. Thus when someone shows up in the seat
next to us at a restaurant and starts doing something that (to us)
is new -- we pay attention to it.
I encourage you and your friends to sign with others in restaurants
and other public places because it is by doing so that signing
becomes commonplace (and thereby "not new") and eventually the use
of sign language will not draw a second look.
In my younger days when I was supporting my family by freelancing
and teaching ASL classes at community centers and in my home studio
whenever I went out of the house I used to keep in my breast pocket
a small stack of advertisement cards for my upcoming ASL classes.
Sometimes I'd be in a restaurant or store and someone would start
staring. I would reach into my pocket, pull out an
advertisement card and give it to the person. The fact is
many of them were envious -- wishing they knew how to sign.
Usually they were delighted to find out there was a way for them to
learn sign language too. Quite a few of them actually showed up and
took my classes.
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