With apps like Duolingo and programs like Rosetta Stone, it can seem as if everyone is on the hunt to learn a new language. I have even listened to podcasts like Coffee Break French to try to brush up on my language skills. But very often we forget that there is another language we could learn that doesn’t require any listening skills.
American Sign Language (ASL) requires zero listening or pronunciation techniques (fantastic news for those who have trouble rolling their r’s). All it requires is being able to see the signs and using your hands to speak.
Studies show that only around two million people in the United States communicate with ASL, and around one million of those are people who are hearing impaired. That means for every one person who uses ASL to speak, there is only one other person who is not hearing impaired that can communicate back with them. This may be a bit of an oversimplification, but when you think about all of the other languages spoken in the United States, ASL pales in comparison.
Can you imagine how isolating that must be to feel as though you cannot communicate with the vast majority of people around you? Speakers of other native tongues such as Spanish at least have large communities that also speak their language or are bilingual. According to one study, there are 41 million native Spanish speakers and 11.6 million people who are bilingual in the U.S.
The reason I bring any of this up is because of a Facebook video I stumbled across where a Starbucks barista in Florida uses ASL to speak with two passengers who are placing an order. Luckily, this Starbucks happened to be equipped with both a video screen and a barista who, though not hearing impaired herself, is fluent in ASL. Thankfully for these women, this story has a happy (and well caffeinated!) ending. And it should also spur more of us to think about learning ASL and reaching out to those around us who may be hearing impaired.
You can view the amazing video here. I can guarantee it will warm your heart!
Featured image a combination of screen grabs from the Facebook video.