Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Learning to Speak TASL About Religion

No one gets bashed, ok?  Just a personal reaction.TASL is Tactile American Sign Language used by the deaf-blind.

Learning TASL Signs for Religion

I am glad to be learning to sign these words.  Religion is a very important part of many people's lives.  And here in the Ozarks, they call it "the buckle of the Bible belt."  Sometimes I feel like people hit one another with that buckle very hard and it often causes hurt.  

But then there are those wonderful people who Live their religious beliefs instead of just talking about them.  These people have no need to swing that buckle around at all and they have my thanks and respect.

As a Buddhist it is odd to be learning all of the signs for only Christian religion.  I have no objection to this, as it is important to me to talk to others about what matters to them.  But Sometimes I wish I knew how to talk about what matters to me. I can say Baptist, I can say Methodist, I can say Catholic and Lutheran and Presbyterian.  I can say Assemblies of God, Bible, Christian, amen, (I'm told that deaf people who are Baptist sign it differently than other Christians)and Jesus.  I can say Christ, Lord, Deacon, Church, and Saint.   But sometimes I feel like sneaking in the question, "How do you say Bodhisattva, or Mindfulness, or Meditation, or Tara.  But I don't.  There is no need to cause my most excellent instructor pain or frustration.  When I was asked what religion I am and I made the ASL sign for Buddhist my instructor didn't know the sign.  When I spelled it she understood immediately and said "Oh" and no more talk about religion, except for teaching me the words I will need to know which  will be most useful in this location.  A friend who is atheist taught me that sign.  Today I was introduced to Jewish for the first time.  I'm a bit scared to ask how to say Muslim, but I will.

A thing I wonder is, given the "unpopularity" of non-Christian faiths, does this attitude come through in signed speech?  I do not want to learn some regional variation which offends people of other religions any more than I want to offend Christians.

There are not many ASL regional variations left now that many deaf people use cell phones to text and ASL is taught on most college campuses.  But when I looked up the sign for Mormon on a website where the instructor was from Utah it was totally different than the one I was taught here.  So what about other religions?  It makes sense to me that some deaf people would pick up the prejudices of those who taught them to speak ASL.  So I guess I'll go to a well known national website to look up those words.

Another thing which was odd was that when I was learning to sign all those words it Felt like stepping into a  foreign culture.  I wanted to sign "Hu?"  "Why would I want to say that?"  I guess it's been a long time since I left that mind set, which I know, is of benefit to Many people.  Don't think I should  try explaining that where Cherokee and Buddhist beliefs agree I tend to think it makes sense, too.  It was just such a Strange feeling, working on getting all of those words right today, like entering another world.

1 comment:

  1. Interesting post ... I had not considered although I can understand it when I reflect on it ... it being the expectations that certain religions are like the Top 10 on a music list. The religions that come to mind might vary based on location. I mean no offense here, but if you were learning in New York City, Buddhist might have a sign known to more people. My guess is that the absence of that sign might have something to do with the need to use it. I have only met one person who informed me that she is a Buddhist. If there are not many Buddhists in your area, the people teaching TASL might not have needed that sign before meeting you.

    Great that you have a fallback means of expressing what you need to - spelling. Your instructor might not have known much about Buddhism and did not want to offend or to display her lack of information. (I wanted to type "ignorance" but I did not want to convey mean spiritedness. Words sometimes have negative nuances. Sigh. But that's all part of the thrill of communicating. Getting your point across without gratuitously offending others.)