Have you ever had a circumstance growing up where you try to do your best at something and learn all you can about the specific details and such? Then you set it aside and forget about it for a while. Eight months later, you drag it out of your closet while spring-cleaning, and it rekindles your enthusiasm for the activity. However, after taking it out in the world and trying to start where you left out, you find that most of the rules and nuances of what you’re trying to do are no longer the way you learned it. It’s frustrating!
But it’s not all that uncommon. And for students learning American Sign Language to be able to interpret for a career have this occur often. You just have to learn to expect it.
Some of the things that have been changing are the name for countries. Whereas before, there was a sign used in ASL that went for a specific country, for example, GERMANY. It was done with putting the side of each five hand, one on top of the other, while you wiggled your fingers. That’s been used forever. But now it’s starting to change.
What’s happening is that, just as each country has their own Sign Language, each country has a sign done in their sign language to mean where they live. To illustrate, GERMANY isn’t signed that way nowadays. The “new” sign, which is the sign taken from Germany themselves, is the right index finger pointed up into the air and set on the top of your head.
But this can get tricky, since the sign for HORNY is pretty close to the new GERMANY. The people having the conversation have to know what each other is referring to or you might end up in trouble with your partner.
Other countries have done this, too. AUSTRALIA, ITALY, KOREA, JAPAN, CHINA, and many more places. And it doesn’t just go for locations. Languages evolve and, ASL being a full language has changes, too.
American Sign Language also adapts within our country. I was raised to learn ASL in Illinois. When I moved to Michigan, signs that I use for METAL are used here for TRASH. Our sign for EARLY is different than what most of the country uses. Same thing with OUTSIDE or ELECTRICITY. But it’s OK. If it’s your language or your second language, it is best that you learn all variations and be prepared like the Boy Scouts you meet along the way.
So be careful out there and have an open mind. The best interpreters out there are those who learn as many of the signs for the same time that they can. That way, they’re fully ready to adapt to the Deaf person’s accent.