When learning any language, we start with the basics, introducing ourselves, explaining where we live, etc. Then we begin to learn the names of things so we can ask for them. All of this is fairly straightforward. But when we learn a new language, we’re normally doing it for ourselves, for travel or to communicate with a native speaker. We’re not usually learning it in order to teach a child his or her first language.
While pointing and naming is all well and good, children ask why things are the way they are. It’s practical. How do we know the difference between the consequences of stealing a cookie versus running out into the middle of a busy intersection? Hopefully not by experience. Obviously, the consequences of getting hit by a car was something I learned to communicate to Alex early on. But what about the more innocent stuff?
Why is the sky blue? How do wireless electronics work? Why is this Russian/Korean/Indian show on my laptop but it’s not on TV, like The Price is Right is? (He watches shows from all over the world; spoken language is of no consequence to him.) I have no way to answer many of his questions, short of becoming completely fluent in Sign Language. The closest place to receive such an education is in Toronto (Ontario, Canada), which is too far to commute to, to take classes I have neither the time nor the money for at the moment.
I might have advanced my education more after Alex was born, but the courses in Ottawa only went to a certain level. On top of that, we lived in the Province of Quebec – a province that has its own Sign Language (Langue des signes du Québec). Finding a professional to teach Alex American Sign Language in Quebec was next to impossible, and the only Deaf school for children in Ottawa teaches LSQ. So we packed up and moved to Ontario, to a city with a school whose primary language is ASL.
I do hope to learn more Sign someday. For now, I’m doing the best I can with help from his teachers.
My A to Z theme concerns the joys and challenges of being the hearing mother of my Deaf son, Alex. To learn more about his beginnings in life, click here to go to my first A to Z entry.