Did you know that most American Sign Language teachers, be it Deaf or deaf or hard of hearing or hearing hate me, 'the ASL Master Tutor without the college degree'.
After 18 years of tutoring ASL to various students of all ages and backgrounds-
I've helped a lot of ASL students re-learn,
(yes, reread that last word again) RE-LEARN ASL. Real ASL, not pidgin sign language, not Signing Exact English, not sim-com. I cannot believe how often poor ASL students who spend their hard earned money or scholarship to an "ASL" teacher when they're really teaching SEE or PSE! Then after a few classes, the students are fossilized into hard core SEE or PSE and have to unlearn or relearn all over again. For some, it's too late, for others who are willing to work hard in "LETTING GO" and learning ASL - I applaud for you each.
To learn the definition of SEE, PSE and ASL - go to: _
While I don't have a college degree, and I never will due to my own life long learning disABILITIES - I discovered I love learning - I have just always hated tests, useless homework, rote memorizing, puking out memorized information to get a good grade but still have NO skills whatsoever to apply in the real world.
I've attended tons of ASL workshops, I became an ASL student to learn how students' minds think and what mistakes and great skills ASL teachers taught in their classes. I'm a nerd in a way in that I think, meditate and devises unique strategies to help common problems that most ASL teachers never thought of in order to get some blockages broken down and learning flowing again.
Fact, not brag, I've learned that I'm better than most ASL teachers in making complex concepts in ASL simple. I once audited an ASL Linguistic course from a deaf teacher with a MA degree who had an ASL interpreter. That teacher struggled to get a lot of facts clarified to her hearing students. I was able to sum up what she meant and she excitedly said I got the point and to repeat it to the class. Embarrassed and feeling shy, I said no, you can just repeat what I just said. She insisted I explain the class what I just demonstrated. It went on like this with the rest of the semester, the teacher often relied on me to rephrase her lectures!
Education (i.e. credit hours, time effort) - all these are expensive. Efficiency would dictate "usable information to be usable NOW. I do that.
I often listen to a lot of flustered, frustrated ASL students wondering what is it that they have to learn and I break it down, step by step and repeat until it's understood. Repeat until it is understood, ironically is a volatile topic.
It's sad, that too many ASL student habitually apologize for asking me to repeat helpful information.
I always tell them, "It's perfectly fine to ask me to repeat a phrase or a concept in ASL - that's my job! I WANT you to ask me again and again until it finally sinks in.
I want us to repeat the phrase or sentence or ASL story that you're struggling with until you're fluent. Don't feel ashamed or embarrassed." I even demand this of my students: "Make all the mistakes you can here, so that way I have the opportunity to correct them in a safe environment."
It got me thinking - what's causing students to be nervous or afraid? I realized from most likely burnt out or teachers with personal issues that intimidate ASL students thus inflicting unnecessary shame, fear, anxiety. Then you wonder why some can't learn ...who CAN learn in an unsafe classroom environment?!
I end up filling up other unpaid job roles, wearing other hats: I am filling in as a counselor to listen to terrible stories of either an ASL teacher or ASL classmates verbally or mentally abusing them; (there's a serious issue of bullying in the schools these days between colleagues, teacher to student, or classmate to classmate.
(In my resource page, you can find a website that deals with unethical bullying.) Then I switch over to becoming a cheerleader to build up a scared or anxiety ridden ASL student to feeling enthusiastic to learn again. Finally, I am then able to shift into an ASL Master Tutor role. I am a master in ASL tutoring, after all.... it took me 18 years, honing my skills. I may not be the most exciting tutor - it's not my job to entertain people... but I do try to inject humor in our sessions to spark things up... I also insert true stories to help students learn to watch fluent signs and make it personal not just learn from text-book fake stories. Those who DO quit are too impatient with the slower pace; learning a language isn't a program where someone can master fluent expressive and receptive skills from novice to high-advanced level in 6 months. Unless one is thrown into an all Deaf, exclusively ASL only signed environment, which will provide immersion and a shorter time to pick up the nuances of ASL, it will TAKE TIME. ASL immersion is not the case for most people.
Another issue that a lot of ASL students complain to me is this: "Why most college level courses have a lot of teachers tossing out coma inducing fancy linguistic terminology?
Is this linguistic portion of the education trying to say something about ASL. Don't misunderstand; it IS a complex language. In fact, it was only recently recognized (in educational circles),as a class to be considered as a foreign language. William Stokoe's studies have proved ASL to be a real language:
Here is an excerpt:
Through the publication of his work, he was instrumental in changing the perception of ASL from that of a "broken" or simplified version of English to that of a complex and thriving natural language in its own right with an independent syntax and grammar as functional and powerfrul as any found in the oral language of the world"... Stokoe is responsible for the revolution in the perception of ASL.
We're still in the early stage --- and with the political struggle of cochlear implants millions dollar industry and Alexander Graham Bell organization doing everything they can to kill American Sign Language (this is another whole long story that I won't get into - but it's very real that ASL is becoming extinct) --- weeding out who is truly teaching ASL is becoming a challenge.
That is why ASLTA was formed in order to filter out those who failed the ASL proficiency test. If a teacher failed to demonstrate fluent ASL, they cannot or should not be teaching ASL.
Over the years, I became frustrated when I noticed that different ASL linguists change their terminology for the exact same concepts An example is: such as ASL Sentence Types; there are 4 to 5 different labelings of ASL grammatical sentences. Over the past 18 years I had to constantly remember to change the names of the exact same damn information. ASL textbooks would have a lot of missing gaps and conflicting information. Different ASL teachers often have different conflicting teaching philosophies.
Why they do that, don't ask me; I don't make the rules. I just pass along and make complex information simpler for ASL students. We, as learners, have to be very adaptable and memorize well. To learn a new language - be a river, go with the flow --- keep being flexible, always be adaptable.
ASL teachers also hate me because without a degree, I was able to get quite a few "impossible to teach" ASL (sometimes learning disabled) students (those getting D's and F's) in ASL - dramatically make a turn around in one or two semester with hard work, A's and B's. I even had to ask some students to please NOT reveal my name to some prejudiced teachers - or they would illegally lower their grades! I'm sure I'm going to get some hate mail in the future - but the secret has to be let out now. The silent oppression has to stop right this minute. Perhaps I should be thankful for those unethical teachers, as they have sparked me to come up with clever methods and I have tutoring jobs due to their unwillingness to help honest, hard working ASL students.
If you have an ASL teacher that seems to be unethical, a bully, or has a private illogical negative agenda against you or is not teaching ASL but SEE or PSE - come and see me either in person, if you're local, or via a web-cam... and I'll help you as much as I can to get caught up in where you need to be. You'll have to work real hard by studying, and repeating and repeating until you master fluently - but at least you'll get to pass your course and finally be able to achieve your career goals.
Do not let anyone ever intimidate you or scare you or bully you into giving up. You have the right to learn (and/or properly teach) ASL to efficiently communicate with other Deaf or hard of hearing folks who depend on sign language and/or a right to a job that requires fluent skills in ASL.
Folks, those who reply to my blog - please keep it related to the topics I write about and don't waste my time with ridiculous comments that doesn't belong here. Thank you, all, for who keep ASL alive! Let's work together and achieve our dreams, one sign at a time. :)