Living on a bilingual campus is interesting. There are moments when I feel as though I’m learning so much and doing so well. Deaf Night Life, for instance. I didn’t understand a lot of what was going on, but I was able to hold a few conversations and learn a few new things.
Another high point: I got a sign name! (finally..) During a drunken game night of all times. For anyone who is unfamiliar with what that means, I’ll shed what little light I can. When introducing yourself to someone, you need to fingerspell out your entire name. For some people, like Jen, this is not problem. J-E-N. Easy. For others, like poor Gabriella, it’s a little more difficult. (or, similarly, sometimes there are two people with the same name) Luckily, you can get a sign name. This is a quick one-to-two-sign indicator of who you’re signing about. It’s kind of like a nick name. The thing is, you can’t just pick a sign name. Someone from the Deaf community, who feels that you are deserving of one, gives it to you. It’s a pretty cool deal.
So, for someone like me, whose name is notoriously difficult to understand when finger spelled, a name sign is a blessing. And having one makes me feel like an even more real part of the Gallaudet community.
But, just when you’re feeling up, Deaf culture drags you off your horse and tramples you down again. It never fails that, in the middle of a perfectly normal conversation, you get stuck on a sign. Then, your conversational partner has to explain it. And it turns out it was something simple. And you feel silly.
Or, even worse, you’re signing up a storm and some minimal pair comes along to trip you up. Imagine getting these two mixed up.
“Yea, you know Katie right? She’s…”
Yea… It’s happened.
It’s frustrating to want to communicate, but not being able to. When you have so much to say, but water it all down because you just can’t say everything you want to. I was told today to hold on to that feeling, remember that frustration. This is what the clients I see will be feeling and I can tell them, in all honesty, that I understand how they’re feeling. I can empathize with them on a level that not everyone else can.
There’s also the issue of the “Scarlet Letter” that is our Student Clinician name tag. Wearing that on campus gets you a grab bag of assorted looks, scoffs, and signs. It all goes back to the feeling of some Deaf students that we don’t belong here. This is their world and we should stick to our own schools. “Oh, speech therapy. What, do you want to make Deaf kids talk?” or “All audiologists want is to slap a cochlear implant on every Deaf kid.”
But we all just get back on our horse and gallop away.