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What a Language Can Teach You This work is considered exceptional by our editorial staff.

The feeling of being on a never ending roller-coaster, going up and down and twisting and turning in every direction you never wanted to endure is a feeling that has been circulating throughout my mind forever. Trying to find myself, my true friendships, and adjusting to my parent’s remarriages has been a constant challenge. Sometimes I am a fish out of water inside my own head. Discovering a passion that keeps my head from falling off has been a recent accomplishment of mine.

As I pressed down the loose button on the faded black keyboard, I scrolled down the pages onetflixix, and decided to watch a new show, called Switched at Birth. It’s about how two girls were mistakenly sent home with the wrong family when they were only five hours old, and raised by their un-biological parents. The two people in that show who had a major impact on my life are Katie Leclerc and Sean Berdy.
Katie grew up in Colorado, the youngest in a close-knit family. When she was seventeen, she was diagnosed with Meniere’s disease, a disorder in your inner ear. This disease is a problem with fluid retention, causing acts of vertigo and slight hearing loss, along with other minor side effects. Sean never let his deafness get in the way of his love for acting. He has starred in many films, his latest show being Switched at Birth. Both of them are fluent in American Sign Language (ASL), a beautiful language in my opinion.

The pair of them play deaf characters Daphne and Emmett on the show, who have to deal with the fact that they can’t hear, and people will always stare at them and treat them differently no matter what they try to do. They face exhausting troubles, not only playing a character on the show, but out in the real world and in their own lives.

My purple bedspread was neatly laid out as I closed the door and darkened my room. I hopped up on my bed, computer in hand, and began watching my show. It was late at night, and I was trying to stay awake. My eyelids kept drooping shut, but I used as much energy as I needed to make sure I was wide awake. As I was watching the show one night, there was a line said that really inspired me to take on a new challenge in my life:

As Regina, Daphne’s mom, picked up Daphne’s biological mom Kathryn’s hands, she said “Use these. The sooner you learn her language the sooner you will get to know the incredible person you gave birth to.”

The pale green walls began to cave in on me as I got more and more into the exhilarating show. My heart started to beat as fast as cheetahs sprinting through the jungle. That’s when messages were sent through my head and heart that learning ASL would be the next roller-coaster I get on, excited to take on the twists and turns it brings. As soon as the enchanting episode ended, I spent lots of time reading about different places that offered sign language classes. The reviews, locations, prices and instructors all played a key role in deciding where I took lessons.

I have been taking lessons now for eight weeks, and have already been awestruck by how breathtaking this language is. Every night before I plant my head down on my comfortable, blue striped pillow, I study the language. Learn new words and phrases, and review what I already discovered I can do. Taking these classes really occupies my time, enhances my learning skills, and keeps me focused and serene. The few people in my class with me seem to really enjoy it as well. My teacher is always so proud of the improvements we are making each and every week, and has impacted me so much already. We all try to help each other succeed when we are struggling, and congratulate each other when we finally achieve the correct gestures needed to communicate the words intended. Continuing to take these classes as long as I need to, to fulfill my goal of becoming fluent in ASL, is what I plan on doing.

Like a ghost, ASL touches me in a way that is differently then how the rest of the hearing world would interpret it. To see how different the language is from all others, and how diverse of a life deaf people have from us moves me in ways in which I can’t explain. They use their eyes and hands like we use our ears and mouths. Imagine a world where you have to depend on other people to help you know what is going on, because you don’t have the full ability to.

The two of them really motivated me to alter the way I look at the world and not take things for granted. I know that some people have a lot less in their lives than I do, and that I am fortunate enough to be blessed with working ears and eyes. Deaf people don’t feel that not being able to hear is a handicap or disability, they see it as their way of life, and that ASL is their way of getting through to the world and people around them.

That moment when Regina said that line, was truly a moment I could never forget. Sure I have seen that episode more than once, but I will never have the same reaction to that line again. Whether I know it or not, her words and ASL both changed me in a way nothing else has before. It will and does continue to impact my teenage years, and possibly my career choice. Whether or not I do use this language in my everyday life, or if I even use it at all, that moment will have truly changed my perspective about everything everywhere. I will remember that magical moment where my heart stopped, and a signal was sent to me for the rest of my life, it will be fresh in my mind until the day I die.



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This article has 4 comments. Post your own!

thewriter247This teenager is a 'regular' and has contributed a lot of work, comments and/or forum posts, and has received many votes and high ratings over a long period of time. said...
Sept. 12, 2013 at 6:36 pm:
I'm going to take sign language this year. I was trying to decide between Japanese (I like manga) and SL just today, but then I looked it up to learn more and found SL music videos. It's so beautiful! And this article is great, very nicely written. I can't wait to start learning SL too!
 
FromTheHeart14This teenager is a 'regular' and has contributed a lot of work, comments and/or forum posts, and has received many votes and high ratings over a long period of time. replied...
Sept. 13, 2013 at 6:12 pm :
Thanks!!
 
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EricaPersoluta said...
Nov. 6, 2012 at 8:01 pm:
I love this article and can totally relate; I've been taking ASL lessons for about 2 months. ASL is the most beautiful language I have ever experienced; sometimes when I talk w/my friends I start signing while I'm speaking! :) 
 
FromTheHeart14This teenager is a 'regular' and has contributed a lot of work, comments and/or forum posts, and has received many votes and high ratings over a long period of time. replied...
Nov. 7, 2012 at 7:53 pm :
Thank you! I have been taking lessons since August or so, and I do the same thing, sign while I speak. One of my bestfriends is learning too, and ASL is the only way we communicate! I am currently starting my ASL 102, and I am super excited! 
 
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