Sunday, April 6, 2014

Learning Sign Language - session-1

“The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.” - Mahatma Gandhi

“...the greatest gift you can give someone is your time” - Rick Warren

Not that I went with this intention, nor have I yet served anyone. But, one can easily relate to above quotes. After feel good factor of Colorthon, I kept a lookout for such events. It duly arrived in form of 'Learn Sign Language' (the all knowing facebook letting me know through a friend)

Organized by "Empowering Social Impact" (ESI for short - mail id: ), team, I went without much aim - learning something new and feel good factor being top two reasons. Afraid of being late, I caught an auto from MG metro station to Cafe Coffee Day at Vittal Mallya road (about 1.5 KM). I ended up being early after which I spotted Ashay (from previous trek) and later joined by Ramya, Dhananjaiah (Organizers) and Deepa. We had to wait a bit for Meghana to join - turned out all 5 of us are trekkers too, never short of something to discuss, be it some waterfall in Kerala (where Ravana was shot) or trekking to western ghats in summer. Ramya shared her workout in NGV training Kalaripayattu too.

We settled in shadows of one of the large trees in Cubbon Park for the session. Ramya and Dhananjaiah distributed a handout of what we were going to learn and then gave a short introduction on their two main types of social events - Uthan and Nirman (short and long term social impacts). Our course is long term one - raising awareness to understand/interact with differently-abled person. They are yet to bring up a full-fledged website about ESI.

I wasn't prepared when we were asked to describe our interest in joining the event. Ashay's interest dates back to DD1 hearing-impaired news (a sample), Meghana had a live experience and Deepa always wanted to learn it. I mumbled something - but won't have to do it the next time someone asks me :)

And so, we were ready to learn the alphabets again. Not before getting to know two main types of Sign language followed in India - American Sign Language (ASL), Indian Sign Language (ISL). There are other types in different countries like Japanese, Malaysian, Ethiopian, etc. ASL is more prominent in Southern cities like Bangalore, Mysore while ISL is common in North India. The main difference between the two you ask? ASL uses one hand for alphabets and ISL uses both.

As Ramya peeled off first four alphabets (a,b,c,d if you didn't know it yet ;) and no uppercase/lowercase nonsense ) in a hurry, we sure were in a trance. As were few people around us, perhaps their sleep stolen by us. Though Sign language is primarily language in itself and secluded from spoken ones, we do need alphabets to spell out words like someone's name. A good thing we were doing it in English - only 26 letters unlike regional ones - say Hindi/Tamil.

Over next hour or so, we did all the letters in stretches of four at a time. The fingers refused to co-operate easily when switching between alphabets and I often had everyone in fits by interchanging 'd' and 'f'. Practice, practice and more practice - it started to become familiar and all of us could do a-z in one go with just a few slips, if any. It helped that it wasn't exactly a class, we were out there by our own will. It was more fun, any mistake a cue to laugh out loud. If nothing else, the session certainly provided loads of 'feel good' moments. Very few times would I have concentrated on the present as I did during the session - mind freed up to do something without pressure is priceless.

Image credit : link (A bit different from what we learnt)
Learning the Basics

Spelling out our 'long' names as part of practice helped sharpen our memory as well as provide context to learning. We then proceeded to numbers - 6-9 are tough - one has to be adept how to enact as well as recognize the mirror image when deciphering. As with alphabets, I botched up the sign to indicate one is going to say numbers next - Ramya had fits throughout in telling me that I was frequently representing some other meaning with my errors. We practiced better by enacting out our date of birth.

Image credit : link

By now, Amitesh, another of ESI organizer joined us and we insisted him to take snaps :P He also elaborated more on 'spending time' and 'empowering kids' rather than donation (which according to him only makes the child more dependent).

We then moved on from letters and numbers to words. Like - how/who/which/what etc, good morning/afternoon/evening/night, thank you, can I help you, sorry, nice, etc. What's important now is that facial and body language becomes very important in conveying the meaning rather than signs alone. Most of them utilize both hands too. Ramya also stressed on how is/are/etc are ignored in such communications. (Needless to point out that I totally got confused with so many different words and again had everyone in fits with mistakes)

Group pic - identify my sign (hint, see video below)
We gave our feedback (both written and oral), also some discussion on next venue. Group photo for memories. Then I had to leave in a rush to reach Barton Center - thus missing lunch together :(

All in all, very good way to spend time. I hope I might one day find it useful to communicate with someone differently abled. Just the sheer pleasure of learning something new is good enough too :) I will leave you with this:


Ashay said...

Nice one dude

Santy said...

Nicely written bro... :-)

sundeep agarwal said...

Thanks Ashay and Santosh :)

Rumpep ramesh said...

:) Cool!!

sundeep agarwal said...

Thanks Ramya :)

Mak said...

I think this language is more fun to learn than c & c++. :-)

sundeep agarwal said...

It sure is Mak :)

Other Works

Square Tic Tac Toe
Get it on Google Play

Beginner's guide to Command line and Scripting