I have long admired those who speak more than one language, even those who have enough words in the language’s vocabulary to be functional, if minimally so. My (for me) most impressive accomplishment there was my last next-door neighbor, originally from Iraq so she spoke Arabic, a language I knew nothing of but now have a few words, phrases. She and her husband were grandparents many times over. He is from Turkey. He spoke more “American” than she but she and I often had conversations over the back fence. She knew enough words to summon me there by phone, and I understood enough between her few words in English and gestures to have a friendly chat now and then.

I have been taking a sign language class the last few weeks. I know the alphabet but that’s pretty slow when you have to manually spell each word in conversation. Imagine the same in a spoken one. So the basic signs– girl, boy, student, mother, father, family, go, come, here, there, school, store, etc., are not too hard, it’s the temporal ones: when, if, whether that we have not tackled yet that I’m wondering about.

Pronunciation in sign is vastly different from verbal. If you ever took French in school likely you studied from a teacher they said taught Parisian French which I guess is opposed to dialectic or colloquial or provincial. Or Spanish, Madrid maybe, or Brazilian. Like here, southerners are barely intelligible to people from New York. We drop whole syllables and add more. We make up words: y’all could be two or several. All y’all could be who knows? A whole country. Some southerners when they are getting ready to say, do or cook something are fixin’ to. Doesn’t make much sense unless you are from here. For most normal people fixing is to repair something.

I watch the lady who signs in my church sometimes. She is graceful, I have no idea what any of it means (yet) but I enjoy watching her. Her arms float and waft words known to those who can’t hear and sometimes her face becomes enraptured with whatever it is she signs.

Maybe I will be that good someday but it will take a while. Probably a good idea to limit what I do until I understand a lot more.

A big plus: I will have to think before I speak!


2 thoughts on “Signing

  1. I came across your blog from another person’s comment box. I really like how introspective you are! It’s a rare and lucky thing to become acquainted with the little solitary moments a person experiences, like the spider 🙂

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