Saturday was very unexpected. Last weekend I decided to check out classes at city college for next semester but spontaneously found a child development class available for this past weekend. In the beginning of the class I wasn’t sure if I fit in with the class since I didn’t have that much experience working with toddlers and babies and wasn’t planning to run my own licensed in-home childcare center, but I thought it could help me with transitioning into pediatric occupational therapy.
I arrived to class 15 minutes late. I missed my bus stop and then I couldn’t find the room in the building. But surprisingly it seemed I wasn’t late at all. Everyone was chatting, browsing through some free books, signing in, talking to the teacher. It wasn’t until another 15 minutes later that I realized the teacher was waiting for an ASL translator. He asked the class if anyone knew ASL. I hesitantly said I knew a little bit but I’m not fluent. There was someone in the class who was in the first level ASL class with me and she said the same thing and that she didn’t feel comfortable doing it. Part of me really wanted to try it. What a great opportunity to practice! But who was I kidding? I’m not a trained interpreter. I haven’t practiced in months! I hardly was able to keep up with a conversation last night in ASL.
However, I told the teacher and student that I could do it.
Talking about things related to school and children made it a lot easier. It would have been much harder if it was a chemistry class or something more complex and abstract. Instead it was a review on a lot of vocab I learned in class. I wasn’t fast enough to interpret every single sentence and word verbatim from what the teacher and the students were saying but I would summarize the most important parts. Sometimes I was able to if the pace of the teacher was slow enough. My finger spelling got a lot faster. I noticed my coordination challenges with the letters and the demand for proprioceptive awareness. Sometimes I would think I’m signing a certain letter but realize I was actually signing a different letter because I focused on the image of a signed hand but not really on what my hand was doing. I felt a lot faster in spelling things out even though I’m really slow at comprehending someone else’s fingerspelling. I need to practice the trick of seeing all the letters as a whole and sounding them out more. Luckily the focus was on expressive and not receptive ASL.
Through the process I learned how you have to have multiple lines of thought happening at once when you are interpreting. You have to pay attention to the whole picture and the point of what’s being said to give the details context. You have to have a good memory of what has been said, be very detail oriented and know how to spell. You also have to be able to multitask listening to what is being said and what might be said while you are signing. My consciousness was expanding with how much attention and focus I was sustaining.
Something that was complicated was that I was also a student so I had to make sure I not only was paying attention to the words and what to sign but also learning, remembering and thinking about the content. I couldn’t take notes but luckily there’s no tests. And though, my attention was divided it was hyper focused. I had the opportunity to repeat everything I heard and relay it to someone else and really take a moment to think about what was said. I also was processing the information kinesthetically and emotionally with all the movement and expression I was putting into the signs. This could help with me remembering the material and what was discussed.
During the break, students in the class complimented me with my signing and my presence, saying kids would love my playful temperament. They asked where and how long I learned to sign and what do I want to be and do with my life. They told me it’s important to be courageous when learning a language because that’s the only way to know what you know and learn. The teacher also thanked me and gave me a free book as a thank you.
The student was so happy that someone could help her and I was grateful that she was willing to help me help her. We were laughing the whole time with my exaggerations and my mistakes. She would teach me new signs when I would fingerspell words out which increased the progress of my fluency. I would help her ask questions and advocate for her to have captions on the videos. Translate what we were saying in group projects. Dialogues were especially challenging because they would move so quickly. Everything was a new challenge that was exciting to me.
Saturday was an enrichening marathon. I signed from 9:00am to 4:00pm with one ten minute break, one hour break for lunch and for two closed-captioned YouTube videos. I felt so accomplished and so rewardingly exhausted. It was a fantastic experience that rekindled my love for ASL!