So I did it.
I stood up on a platform in front of a room of native signers, and delivered a (pre-prepared) five minute presentation without making a sound. In front of cameras, with my ugly face beamed out to multiple large screens.
That was stressful, though less so then many different public speaking engagements I’ve participated in. It was a different kind of stress. I’m sure I made all kinds of mistakes of which I wasn’t even aware of. ASL books, videos, and web sites tend to focus on particular signs, and vocabulary is one important part of learning the language–but not the only part. A huge amount of the communication comes through facial expression, body shifting and language, and other “non-manual markers.” I’m learning, if slowly.
It’s also helping me in everyday situations, among hearing folks. I’m better able to express myself and I’ve picked up some new gestures (like non-dominant-hand indexing…more on that later), and I tend to, even if in the back of my mind, think about how you’d express such-and-such an idea in ASL, and having thought it through more, better express it in writing or speech.
It’s also helping to finally tame my inner-introvert. When a fundamental part of communication involves displaying play-by-play emotions on your face (and indeed, entire body) it changes you. Better than acting lessons.
What have you done lately to push yourself out of your comfort zone? -m