ASL University

 American Sign Language: "Near Native Signing"

Mjes writes:
I have been involved in ASL for 3 years now but didn't learn from any collage or high school classes (I learned from a close friend who has a lot of experience being a nationally certified interpreter). In the time my friend has been teaching me, I have been associating with the Deaf and also hearing people that know ASL at my Kingdom Hall (I am a JW) for the past 2 years. My skill level is to the point where I can communicate efficiently with anyone who knows ASL (although I'm terrible with FS!). Anyway, lately I've been feeling in a rut. For example, you know those loading bars on computer screens, well it's like my full ASL potential is at 99% and I'm trying to fill in that 1% before I think I will be totally confident in my signing ability (expressive and receptive skills). As a hearing person who was exposed to minimum ASL (like ABCs ,numbers, and baby signs) at 4 years old is there any way I can be of native status when it comes to ASL? Is where I'm at now as good as it's going to get? I'm continually learning new things about ASL once in a while, but I want to confidently be able to hold deep and surface conversations with those of the ASL Community without feeling like I'm a Deaf-Wanna-Be or fearing my ASL skills are mediocre. If you have any advice, it would be greatly appreciated!


You will at best become "near native" in your signing since the initial 4 years of life is part of that "window" of time when the brain is rapidly organizing its internal language structures. However that doesn't mean you can't become an "awesome" signer.
It seems you already have a lot of contact with Deaf people.  At this point, to improve you will likely need extended immersion (including intense, frequent language exposure and use) to help you to become even more fluent. Beyond attending "ASL immersions" I recommend you expand your skills by adding more and more vocabulary as well as "regional variants" and age-related differences in signs.  There are a huge number of youtube videos and various video blogs that have been posted by Deaf bloggers.  You can watch such videos.   Additionaly you may wish to learn various Deaf storytelling techniques, these are mentioned in various books but I recommend you google for "linguistics of American sign language" and get the book by Lucas and Vali (et. al.).  Also check out DPAN (Deaf Performing Artists Network).
Another thing you could do is google: Gallaudet ASLPI and take their ASLPI for about $180 or so and get some serious feedback on your signing.  Gallaudet has a strong "Summer" program that offers various courses that may be of interest to you.
- Dr. Vicars



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