Thursday, July 7, 2011

Making Friends In Sign Language

Many people try very hard to make new friends. Some of us can make friends easily while others may struggle. Lately, I have been wondering how easy it is to make friends through sign language. A few days ago, I was at a deaf coffee chat in Troy, Michigan. While chatting with some friends, a conversation arose regarding how easy it was to make friends through sign language. I always thought that, I was the only one having a hard time making friends with non sign users. However, I recently learned that making friendship through sign language is much easier than making friends through spoken language.

I remember when I took sign classes at college, I used to make friends very easily and was able to get to know my classmates quicker compared to my non-sign classes. I could get to know and be friends with most of my classmates in one class where as I would make zero friends in five other non related courses. I thought the reason I made friends in sign class was due to my deafness and, therefore, the ability for me and the other students to know the same language and be able to communicate with each other. However, I realized that was not the case; there are other reasons why it would be easier to make friendships through sign language.

First, sign language is a visual language which means there is integration between two sign users. For example, when someone is signing you absolutely have to pay attention to them to catch all the information. Your mind and your eyes would focus in order to capture the signs that person is signing. You have to be face to face and make eye contact with that person which will help you to recognize the person’s face. Thus, if you meet with that person again tomorrow you will easily recognize them.  In addition, you would feel more comfortable talking to them via sign language as opposed to spoken language.

Secondly, asking personal questions and getting to know somebody is not hard in deaf culture.  When deaf people meet, they start asking names and other things easily without worrying about what the other person may think of the questions. If you go to deaf events such as coffee chats, you can easily start meeting with people. Things that you will be asked upon showing up to deaf events could include your name, where you live, where you work, or what you are studying. It is these kinds of questions which assist people into getting to know each other faster. This kind of behavior is normal in deaf culture. However, in hearing culture, you might feel very uncomfortable to be asked questions like these when you first meet with someone at events.

Finally, deaf culture seems to be friendlier compared to hearing culture. Although sign users in general tend to be friendly people; they are willing to answer your questions honestly when you ask their names or other personal questions. They would not feel offended when you want to get to know them by asking questions because deaf culture emphasizes real communication. When attending deaf events, you wouldn’t feel worried not knowing anyone there as long as you knew sign language. You can literally start chatting with people as soon as you come into the event as if they were your friends for years.  What might surprise you is that a lot of hearing people don’t realize that deaf culture is such great way of life. I believe that if hearing culture was a more friendly culture, then there would not have been all of these misconceptions about deaf people and sign language. Maybe it is time for everyone to learn sign language and about deaf culture. That way, both cultures could feel friendlier and more comfortable with each other.


  1. That's an interesting viewpoint--that sign language contributes to friendliness because of its visual nature. Yes, people do have to look at one another and make eye contact as part of ASL.

    Some people never make eye contact when communicating. This makes it more challenging for those who also are late-deafened people: if it is not their nature to look at peoples' faces, it is harder to learn to lipread as a support for partial hearing. Much less learn sign language.

    Attitude is a large part of being accepted in the culturally Deaf community. I'm sure that you will have no problem being welcomed!

  2. Dianrez

    I agree with you. I am late deafened adult. I become deaf in my adolescence, and I started learning ASL 2 years ago. Once I began learning it, I fell in love with this creative language. ASL is great and friendly language. I love it more than 4 other languages that I know.

  3. Agreed with your point view - good job on writing, keep it up!

  4. “I recently learned that making friendship through sign language is much easier than making friends through spoken language.” - You've put an interesting theory here. But it must be true; it's kind of hard to maintain eye contact when communicating in spoken language, but you don’t have a choice but to do so when communicating using sign language as it is visual. So it seems opening up to someone is less personal.

    Lynelle Mcbee