I just finished a week’s workshop at the Texas State School for the Deaf. It started on Sunday and went through Thursday at noon. We were not allowed to voice (talk) but were to sign to each other. A small tasted of the world the deaf live in.
Well, about Wednesday all of us hearing folks were going crazy. The rule was if there was a deaf person in the room we had to sign. Not a problem, but when we were out of class, we voiced along with signing. Now the only problem with that little scenario is you can’t sign ASL and voice English. It would be trying to speak Spanish and English simultaneously. It can’t be done, believe me.
What did I learn in that week? The class I found the most interesting was facial expressions that Deaf put into their signing. Just as we use tone and intonation in our speech—-you know when your children are in trouble by how they call mom, facial expression is how you give expression and tone to your signing. That are called mouth morphemes.
What does that have to do with writing? When I write, I have to paint the picture of what is happening and the speaker’s expression. It made me think how I could better describe for the reader the expression on the character’s face. My workshops taught me to be much more observant. Hearing folks depend on their ears. Deaf depend on their eyes. Readers do, too.