Improve your sign language skills by considering the people who use sign language. Someone said, “It’s not what you know, but who you know.” Knowing how to DO sign language is important. But loving Deaf people is much more important.
Some people learn sign language for selfish reasons – because it is a beautiful language, they like the attention they receive when they sign, or they want to be needed. Signs are beautiful, but sign language allows people to communicate ideas, feelings, goals, purpose, and more. Sign language connects people.
People are more important than the language they use. Some hearing people cannot communicate well because of physical limitations or intellectual disabilities. However, Deaf people tend to be isolated from the “hearing world” because of language. Deafness is not a physical handicap. Some hearing people say, “I feel handicapped because I do not know sign language.” Deaf people can be isolated in church when others do not communicate with them nor even try to learn a few signs.
Never forget that Deaf people are not just signers. They are real people with real lives, needs, desires, and goals. One of the best ways to learn sign language is to become a friend to a Deaf person. As you enjoy time together, you will learn their language. (Interpreter Training Programs require students to be around Deaf people.) Church interpreters should not just interpret and leave. Invest time with Deaf people before and after church. Attending Deaf social events will help you learn their language and learn to love Deaf people for who they are. Not everyone can nor should become an interpreter, but all can value relationships with Deaf people. Try it! You will become a better signer and a better friend!