August 12, 2009

American Sign Language

Two years ago when I transferred to Iowa I found that the university has a 4 semester foreign language requirement. I certianlyhad no desire to learn a new language at my age. German, French and Chinese seemed like a monumental waste of time. Spanish which I know vaguely through Dora the Explorer was out on purely philosophical grounds.

I begged for a waiver of the requirement, but as I wrote at the time,

"When I was accepted to the U. I inquired about the foreign language requirement and was told by admissions that because I was an old fart (OF) that requirement would be waived. Woohoo cut the OF some slack.

Come to find out the University admissions requirement was waved but the College of Liberal Arts would never think of waiving their graduation requirement no matter how friking OF you are. “College of Liberal Arts” the name should have been a tip off. As I worked my way up the food chain seeking some sort of relief I plead my case to one coldhearted academic after another, I began feeling more and more like the convict in "The Shawshank Redemption" asking the warden to reopen his case to prove his innocense.

The last advisor stared at me dumbfounded and just couldn't comprehend the time restraints that an OF is working under or why I just didn't need this aggravation. All involved were every bit "Obtuse" as the warden."

Defeated by the system, I settled on American Sign Language. My wife had taken ASL in college so I figured I had a built in tutor, (wrong) plus as the name implies "American" meant that some English would probably be involved and I am somewhat fluent there. This morning I took the ASL 4 final exam to complete the requirement.

In retrospect this has turned out to be one of life's special experiences. I don't consider myself very fluent and I don't know how much I will actually use this skill in the future, but I have met many wonderful Deaf people over the last two years and have found that they have a very special and unique culture of which they were happily willing to open up to a stumbling inept signer such as myself. (Many Thanks)

In closing there is one facet of their culture that I have found fascinating and would like to share. That is signed music. There is a beautiful fluidity to the motions, and even though you might not understand the signs, it ads another dimension to the music that hearing music lacks.

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