Friday, November 6, 2009

Language

Have you ever thought just how amazing language is? The fact that we are able to communicate with others, through voice, through print, through electricity, through touch, through hands?

In college, my major was Communicative Disorders. For those not in the know, this is the undergrad for either audiology (hearing specialists) or Speech Language Pathology (speech problem specialists). You pick which on to specialize in, and then go on to grad school to be able to actually do anything with the degree. While I did not do the last step, I learned some amazing things about language.

One of the most fascinating classes I had was our voice disorders class. There we learned, in great detail, just exactly what is involved to talk. There are such minute differences between different sounds. For example, the difference between and long e sound and a short i sound. They are produced in the exact same place in your mouth, your tongue is in the same position, they are the same length, same intensity, same everything. Except for one small thing: there is a very small muscle underneath your chin that is tightened for the long e. This results in a very small harmonic change, which our ears are able to pick up, change into an electric signal, send to our brain, which then correctly interprets the difference. All this happens in less than a blink of an eye, for the myriad of different sounds used in our language on an hourly basis. English has 18 different vowel sounds. The actual difference between different sounds is minuscule, but we can understand.

I have been fascinated by sign language ever since I watched Linda on Sesame street. I always wanted to be able to sign. When I was 17 (ish), I started to learn. A good friend of mine knew a woman that lived close by who was an interpreter. Together we took classes from her for over a year. I never was proficient, but I could get by.

In college, I was able to take two more classes. I learned syntax, vocabulary, culture. I still was not even close enough to interpret for someone, but I loved every minute. One of my favorite classes was a conversational ASL class. This was taught by a grad student that I knew fairly well. He was hearing, but had been raised by deaf parents, and actually learned English as a second language - his first was sign. He was able to give such a unique perspective.

Now, as an adult, I've had little opportunity to use my sign language. I have forgotten so much of it. I will admit, that's one of the many reasons I was happy to move here - my sister is good friends with a deaf woman. As I have also become friends with this amazing lady, I have had the opportunity to brush up on this amazing language. While I am still very limited in my vocabulary, and really lousy at actually interpreting into full ASL, I love the ability to communicate with her, to feel my understanding grow.

On Sunday, I had the opportunity to interpret during Sacrament meeting. It was hard - really hard at some points (you try interpreting computer code into a different language!), but so fulfilling. To help someone be able to understand, to grow, to communicate with another person, is a great gift. One that I'm excited to have and develop even more.

What gifts do you have and develop?

2 comments:

  1. My feelings EXACTLY!!! Interpreting is sooo far out of my confort zone (and frequently out of my knowledge zone too--thank heavens for lip reading and fingerspelling), but I absolutely LOVE IT!!

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  2. Isn't it rewarding to be able to use that skill that you worked so hard on in the past. I'm so glad you have that opportunity. Love you all so much

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