Tag Archive | sign language

The Day I Learned There are “Dirty” Words in Sign Language.

profanityI had such a great response to my post on “My Fascination with Sign Language,” I thought I’d share some other stories from my Professor Larry Forrestal, who was my teacher when I took ASL in college. Larry was deaf and conducted the entire class in sign language so the students would be immediately immersed in the language.

One of the great things about ASL is that within about four chapters of vocabulary words, you can actually start speaking to each other. The language is amazing. There are a lot of technical things, like grammar, and there’s a perception that ASL is “English.” While the words are in English, the grammar is different and just like any other language, there are proper ways to say things in order to communicate more effectively. Only problem is, I’m terrible at grammar – both in English AND ASL.

But, to get back to the topic of this post, like any other language, there are also dirty words! To a bunch of college-aged kids, learning them became a source of secret pride. I remember one day in class Professor Forrestal was doing something at the front of the room and a bunch of us started openly speaking about the fact that there are dirty words in ASL. (Larry had told us previously there were not). We began to show each other all the words we had learned. (some of them from the Marlee Matlin movie Children of a Lesser God). “BS” was a big one and a few other choice words of content that I just can’t post here. BUT, the embarrassing thing was Larry had slinked up behind us and was watching us do the words and when we realized he was there, we were so embarrassed. But, true to his wonderful character, he just rolled his eyes, brought us all into a circle and proceeded to teach us the proper way to say these words. He signed “if you’re determined to do them, at least do them right!” Really loved this guy. All I’ll say is that one of the words looks like “pizza” with a double pump to the chin and another looks like “shoes.” There’s a few more, but suffice it to say that like in any language there is indeed, slang.

flying montage I’m thinking of adding some slang in my next ASL book. My main character is getting older and I’m curious if teens use it. I may have to inquire at Mill Neck Manor if I can come in and speak to the kids again to see if they can help me. They were invaluable when I was writing book #2 in the series. FLYING TO THE LIGHT is about a young deaf boy who knows about the afterlife and now people are after him for the answer. FLYING TO THE FIRE continues the tale seven years later and my main character’s life is suddenly turned upside down yet again. Book #3 is going to be called FLYING HOME… I already know what the main story is about, but now I have to figure out how to get there.

So I ask folks this: I always thought I’d end the series in a trilogy, but could this tale continue further and should I set it up to keep going? It was not something I thought about until a few weeks ago. Love to hear your thoughts.

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My Fascination with Sign Language

When I was a little kid, I was fascinated with sign language. I remember finding a pamphlet with all the letters in ASL (American Sign Language) on it and practicing until I learned the alphabet. I would have loved to have practiced with someone, but I never interacted with a deaf person before. Except for seeing it in the movie with Marlee Matlin aslin “Children of a Lesser God,” I had so little experience with the culture and it wasn’t until I was in college in a sign language class, that I actually met my first deaf person. He was my professor, Larry Forrestal, and he was just awesome.

Professor Forrestal was deaf and didn’t speak. The entire class was conducted in sign language and whatever he felt like writing on the black board. I remember only hearing him speak once. It was later in the year and he called out someone’s name when they were walking away from him and he couldn’t get their attention. Dumbfounded, we all stared at him and signed, “You Can Speak?” He shook his head no, but gave a sly grin. I bet he could speak, but he chose not too.

Another funny story: One day, we met in the evening for a study group and we were walking with our professor through the Student Union to our meeting area. There was a huge party going on and the music was so loud, “I couldn’t hear myself think.” I saw Professor Forrestal “dancing and moving” along to the music and I signed to him “How are you dancing? You hear it?” He rolled his eyes, grabbed my hand and another girl’s hand and pushed us both to the floor. Here were the three of us, our professor and two of his students, sitting on the floor in the middle of this very active building and he’d pressed our hands to the floor so we could feel the pulsations from the bass from the music “loud and clear.” He also pointed to his chest and told us to just “feel it” and of course we could. We sat there for a while, just “listening” with him along to the music. It was a very big wake up call for me.

flying montageSign Language and the deaf culture has fascinated me ever since and when I was writing a YA series, I decided to make my main character deaf. FLYING TO THE LIGHT is about a young deaf boy who knows about the afterlife and now people are after him for the answer. FLYING TO THE FIRE continues the tale seven years later and my main character’s life is suddenly turned upside down yet again. What I think has really appealed to people is that my character’s family primarily uses sign language to communicate with him and at no time is his deafness a disability. It is simply a part of who he is.

I just love that my interest as a little girl morphed into something so amazing and brought me to this spot. Have you had experiences with the culture? I’d love to hear. Please drop me a note on my website and join my e-newsletter. Just click for newsletter updates here and then click “Contact Me.”

Writing a #Deaf Thriller

Me and my wonderful interpreter at St Joseph's School for the Deaf

Me and my wonderful interpreter at St Joseph’s School for the Deaf

I’ve been asked by many people “why did you write a book with a deaf main lead character?” At first I found it tough to answer this question because “I didn’t” write a novel with the intention to write about a deaf main character. This young boy formed in my mind and he just happened to be deaf. The only real intention I had was to make sure this boy’s deafness was never a disability and his family all learned sign language so that they could communicate with him.

Now, before we go further I need to do a shameless plug. I’m launching Book #2 in this series and it’s called FLYING TO THE FIRE and I’m hosting a Facebook online event on August 30th. What is an event on Facebook? It’s when, for a day, I do my own event “tour” – you don’t have to live close to me, or go anywhere – it’s all online. People join up, by simply clicking on the link and during that day I simply update the site with questions to win prizes and tell you interesting things about the series. I’m hoping it’s REALLY FUN and I have a lot of prizes and swag planned and a fantastic UK deaf retailer, Talk With Sign Books has offered up a £10 voucher to their store for one of the prizes! So come on over, there will be signed books & goodies just by commenting and interacting, so please, please, please join here: https://www.facebook.com/events/669594469785008/ (ok, shameless plug over)

Now, back to comments. Another more provocative one I received more than once was “Who are YOU to write about a deaf character if you’re not deaf?” Well, to answer that I explained that I was always interested in Deaf culture. I first studied ASL when I was in college. I took a class with a wonderful teacher who was the first deaf person I ever interacted with (save for side glances at people who were rapidly speaking ASL with each other that I’d see in restaurants or other places.) After the first year I learned enough to be a teacher’s assistant for him the next year. But then, having no one to practice with I didn’t get to use it for nearly 20 years. What many people might not know about me, (but will now say, “OH that’s why she can’t hear me sometimes”) I also am hard of hearing in my left ear to the tune of between 40%-60% hearing loss (I need a checkup). As a kid, I had three surgeries in that ear and it left a lot of scar tissue. I can obviously still hear, but it is very difficult at times when there is background noise and I’m trying to concentrate on someone either calling me from upstairs, or speaking to me when they’re not facing me.

I really think people will like this series. It was originally with a publishing company, who unfortunately folded right before FLYING TO THE FIRE was going to come out. So then I got a great agent who tried to hustle them for nearly a year. When he couldn’t, he suggested I change the covers and self publish them. So, now I’m the one hustling!

I did a lot of press on the first book and was written up on many wonderful sites in the Deaf community. Sharon Pajka, a professor at Gallaudet, wrote the novel up on her blog “Deaf Characters in Adolescent Literature.” You can read the interview here: http://pajka.blogspot.com/2012/03/interview-with-flying-to-light-author.html The second book is on its way to her momentarily.

Book #1 was even showed at The Deaf Unity Event in London, so I was asked to make a video. I got an interpreter to help me and I put in captions. I had only days to do it, but this is what I was able to come up with. I am speaking REALLY slowly because I’m looking into a mirror and I can tell when the interpreter is catching up with me! 🙂 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tWIpJrOfwlA

I am planning on a 99 cent sale of FLYING TO THE LIGHT on August 13th and August 14th. (my blog followers here are getting this information first!), so grab your copy then. If you just can’t wait and want to nab it earlier, FLYING TO THE LIGHT is available on Amazon here: http://amzn.to/1u6xwpV Book #2 in the series, FLYING TO THE FIRE will be available August 30th.

Book #1 & #2 in my Deaf Thriller Series

Book #1 & #2 in my Deaf Thriller Series

For those who have already read the book – if you could leave a review on Amazon it would be so appreciated! And… there is a Book #3 in the works. It is tentatively titled, FLYING HOME, and it will tie up the trilogy. Love to hear your thoughts and come join the event! 🙂 And also, don’t forget to check out Talk With Sign Book’s website in the UK for some amazing products for the community. http://talkwithsign.com/