Silent But Golden

David Yu/Teacher/TaoYuan County Dong An Elementary School

Just imaging you are lost on a desert island, and the rescue airplane is circling around up above in the sky, what would you do to make it easier for the pilot to spot you? Building a fire to make some smoke, writing giant SOS on the sand beach or waving with colorful flag if possible… Whatever way you would choose, that's what we call sign communication.

We are all very familiar with this well-known old saying, ”Silence is golden.” But my main point for this article is: Silent but golden ”. It refers to sign language. Speaking of sign language, what comes to mind first is “Oh! It's just for people who cannot hear or/and talk. In fact, there's much more to it. Stay tuned! And you'll see why.

Sign language differs from one country to another due to cultural differences especially language. For example, if you use American SL to communicate with a Taiwanese who only knows Taiwanese SL, there must be quite a lot of misunderstanding in that ASL applies numerous letter sign which TSL doesn't at all. Even British SL is quite different from ASL although they both use the same language system.

To many people's surprise, ASL, after English and Spanish, has already become the 3 rd most popular language around the U.S. To help you better understand ASL, I'd like to, first of all, explain the basic elements of ASL in order of their frequency of usage.

Firstly, the Hand Signs. As implied by the name, we use mostly our fingers, palms and arms to indicate the meanings, such as, dance walk, jump, name, what, etc.

Secondly, the letter signs, such as, flowers, water, colors, days of the weeks.

Thirdly, the body language such as monkey, gorilla, drink, kiss…

Fourthly, the facial expression. It's often used as an aid to other elements. Such as feelings, like happy, sad, tired, cold etc…

Lastly, combination of more than two signs. It means to use more than two elements at one time such as computer. Now that we have a rough idea about the basic elements of ASL, let's move onto the main issue.

It's true that we are in the era of hi-tech, communication technique in particular. We can always reach people from a distance by means of various kinds of phones or the Net. So, in addition to the deaf and mute, are there any reasons why people like you and me should learn more or less of ASL. The answer is positive.

First of all, we can communicate with the deaf and mute just in case by basic sing language such like “Hello, my name is D-A-V-I-D. Nice to meet you. Thank you…”

Next, use ASL as a communication tool between you and babies who are still unable to talk. (milk, drink, jump, water, stinky, etc.)

After that, use ASL as a teaching aid for teachers like me in TESL (teaching English as a second language) just as I've always been doing in my English class.

Finally, we can use ASL in some occasions like emergent accidents in which any kinds of phones are unavailable, or during a meeting in which being silent is a must.

Now I'd like all of you, ladies & gentlemen to imagine this scenario:

Around 3:00am you ask your 10-month old infant “What's wrong?”; she immediately forms her hands to sign “teddy bear”! (Tapping her chest with both hands signifies the act of cuddling a teddy bear or other soft toy.) You hand her Mr. Teddy, and gratefully, your baby grabs and squeezes her comforting little bear, and immediately lies back down to sleep.

K nowing what your baby wanted before he or she was able to talk, can reduce frustration, encourage thought and increase language development. Now you can do it because sign language works. No matter you are already parents, singles or expectant couples, let's promote baby SL in caring for our infants. Being able to express yourself is a basic human need . Wouldn't it be simply amazing if we start teaching our next generation to express themselves right after they are born with the silent but golden sign language ?