You need to know opening and closing signs for conversations with your deaf friend, family, co-worker, and any other deaf person with whom you come in contact. Now we’ll look at some ways to communicate “hello” and “goodbye.” Let’s get the conversations underway!
Conversations among deaf people are different from conversations among hearing people. Hearing people typically begin a dialogue formally and slowly as we try to figure out who the person is, carefully interviewing to assess her background, thoughts, values, and beliefs.
Deaf conversational discourse follows a slightly different roadmap. Direct questions are asked rather than trying to ascertain values, beliefs, thoughts, and feelings.
When you first meet a deaf person, you’ll want to give a polite hello, your full name, and a courteous greeting. Identifying yourself as hearing or deaf is important in the Deaf culture and expected in an introductory discourse.
Put effort into creating a balanced conversation. Ask questions and allow the other person to ask questions as well. Take turns when sharing stories and signing together so that one person does not dominate the conversation.
The following are some signs you can practice along with Carole and Dawn as they greet each other and introduce themselves.
English: Hello. What is your name?
CS: HELLO. WHAT YOUR NAME?
English: Dawn. I am hearing and can sign.
CS: D-A-W-N. ME HEARING, CAN SIGN.
English: I’m Carole. I am deaf and speechread a little.
CS: C-A-R-O-L-E. ME DEAF, SPEECHREAD LITTLE.
English: It is nice to meet you.
CS: NICE MEET-YOU.
When you say your goodbyes to deaf people, you will experience different departing behaviors from what you generally experience with hearing people. When hearing people say goodbyes, they tend to depart quickly without the need to look behind to check and see if the other person has also departed. Hearing people hear byes or other closing comments from behind them as they leave the site. To deaf people, this quick departure without looking back is considered to be rude.
The following are some signs that you can use to end a conversation with a deaf person.
English: Hope to see you soon.
CS: HOPE SEE-YOU SOON.
English: We look forward to seeing you again.
CS: WE LOOK-FORWARD SEE-YOU AGAIN.
English: Take care.
TAKE CARE is the same sign for GOOD LUCK.
It takes courage to begin a dialogue with a deaf person, and to face the possibility of not being understood. But remember, it is not about the failure of your attempt to communicate. Your first step gives the dialogue an opportunity to break through the barriers. Find different ways of signing or gesturing to express what you wish to say, and deaf people will become your guide through this process, as they have been doing this all their lives. They are experts in their discourse navigation. Happy signing!
From The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Conversational Sign Language Illustrated by Carole Lazorisak and Dawn Donohue