Moving forward and opening up new doors…

Photos taken on 15th August 2014.

Photos taken on 15th August 2014.

“No one language is superior to another. All languages are equal. Just because a language has a written form and another does not have, does not make one better than the other” signed Dr Kristin Mulrooney (direct translation from ASL to English). “Wow. I like that statement!”, I thought aloud in my head.

The Language and Communication workshop conducted by Dr Kristin Mulrooney from the Department of Linguistics was one of my favourite sessions during orientation. She also presented evidence explaining why Signed English is not a real language and is just a communication system that has limitations when used in the education of Deaf children. During my time as a teacher of the Deaf in Australia, I always knew Signed English has its limitations and that signs are frequently used in the wrong context but I never really knew how to explain why. Now I know. 🙂 I would love to outline the reasons here but I think the topic of Signed English is worthy of its own blog post. So, if and when I get the time, I will do another post explaining in detail what I learnt about it. During the workshop, I learnt how to identify linguistic features that makes a language a true language and all the Sign Languages in the world are definitely real languages because they possess those features! 

I was also surprised when Dr Mulrooney shared that only 200 out of the 6000 plus languages in the world, have a written form. I learnt so much in just an hour! Another workshop I really enjoyed was the Visual Gestural Communication workshop presented by Dr Laurene Simms. It forced me to get out of my comfort zone and to think outside the box. 

The orientation sessions this past week from Tuesday to Friday were out of this world. It was great to meet fellow graduate students pursuing either a Masters or P.hD as well as Gallaudet faculty who are so passionate about their subject matter. I also enjoyed talking to some of the undergraduate students in the cafe during meal times. The energy level on campus is extremely high which motivates to do my very best in my studies. It is also wonderful to see the commitment of the university to its bilingual philosophy in ensuring that students achieve a high proficiency level of ASL and English by the time they graduate.

When I first set foot on the Gallaudet campus on Wednesday 13th August, I expected that I would take about one or two months to get used to the new environment and culture. It took me more than one year to get used to both Brisbane and Melbourne when I was living in Australia so I knew that I had to give myself time to settle in. I had confidence that I would take a much shorter time to adapt when I arrived in America since I had already gone through the experience of moving to a different country before. However, my one to two month estimation was wrong. Right from day one, I found myself feeling right at home. Surprise! Surprise!  

The Gallaudet community is very unique. Never before have I seen a Deaf community that truly welcomes and celebrates cultural diversity. There are Deaf and hearing sign language users that come from all over the world and from various states in the USA to study here at Gallaudet. It is hard to identify who is Deaf and who is hearing because everyone signs. Many of the international students are multilingual – having fluency in 4 or more languages. The international Deaf community at Gallaudet is very strong. I am also impressed at the openness and the receptiveness of many of the Americans to the international students. They show a genuine interest in different cultures and languages. 

Every single day, I learn a couple of new ASL signs. I am proud of how my receptive and expressive ASL skills are progressing. I have the ability to understand at least 90% of the presentations by the staff during orientation. Signed conversations with other students are also easy. I’m glad to be able to participate and contribute to discussions in ASL. Going out with other fellow students on the weekends to see sights around Washington DC has been heaps of fun as well! 

I’ve already learnt so much and this is just the beginning. I am looking forward to what is to come. Classes officially start tomorrow. I am prepared for new challenges – there will be peaks as well as valleys. Some of the staff at Gallaudet told us to be prepared for culture shock and to feel overwhelmed at times. If and when those times come, I know that I won’t be surprised. I have already gone through all that in Australia. This is a whole new chapter with its own ups and downs.

It’s going to be an exciting fall semester! 

I am in love with Gallaudet University and the myriad of opportunities that America has to offer! 🙂

 

Around here, however, we don’t look backwards for very long. We keep moving forward, opening up new doors and doing new things, because we’re curious… and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths. – Walt Disney

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