Learning Sign Language

By: Grace McTighe-Tassinari

Hello everyone, this week I want to talk to you about why American Sign Language is important to me and why I am passionate about learning it. 

I have known the entire alphabet in ASL since the third grade. I didn’t really develop a real interest in it until about a year ago, when we were in quarantine and I learned how to sign “A Thousand Years” by Christina Perri. Once I learned that song, I was very interested in learning more about ASL full words and phrasing and learning new songs. So far, I have learned more than 16 songs, I know many different phrases, and I learned numbers 1-10. 

I am passionate about ASL because it is not a language many people know and I think it is really cool to be able to speak without using your mouth. It takes me about 40 minutes to learn a song I have heard and then learn the signs to it. If it is a song I have never heard before, I try to memorize the song first so I can then learn the signs.  That usually takes around two hours. I practice almost every night and I go over the songs I know and some of the signs I know so I don’t forget the signs.  It’s very important to keep practicing so that you have muscle memory and you become more fluent.

Sign Language dates all the way back to a man named Pedro Ponce de León (1520-1584). He was a Spanish Benedictine monk known as the “first teacher for the deaf”.   Ponce de Leon established a school for the deaf at the San Salvador Monastery in Oña.  His work with deaf children focused on helping them learn how to speak language audibly.  He also instructed them in writing and simple gestures.  Sign Language is important because it allows deaf people to communicate with other people and tell them what they want or how they are feeling.  It also helps them feel included in conversations and public presentations. 

I am on my way to being fluent in Sign Language and I hope that one day I can be a professional Sign Language interpreter.

One thought on “Learning Sign Language

  1. Grace! We used to work with sign language interpreters all the time at the clinic. The patients and clinicians were so beyond grateful for this critical resource, which we never, ever had enough of. I also have a close friend who was a sign language interpreter for years at a hospital in Boston! She is really, really nice. If you ever want to talk to her just let me know.

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