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Conversing in ASL
Strategies for confirming information and asking for clarification
you miss a whole statement:
Avoid using the signs "again" and "slow". Deaf people
see ASL students use these all too often. Just as hearing people don't just
say to each other, "Again" or "Slow" when asking for clarification,
that's not how Deaf people sign to each other when they don't understand.
Instead, use the same language Deaf people use when conversing with each other.
Rather than signing, "again" or "slow" when you miss an
entire sentence, sign "What?" with a questioning
- When you miss some signs or want to confirm understanding:
When you catch some but not all signs in a statement, repeat back the signs
you think you understood to the signer with a questioning expression. This
will show him or her not only that you need clarification, but it will also
let the person know what you understood so that he or she does not need to
repeat that part of message.
confirm that you understood a statement or concept correctly, restate
the message back to the signer with a questioning expression. This will allow
the person the opportunity to confirm that you understood correctly or clarify
parts you misunderstood.
- When you miss a finger spelled word:
spell" with a questioning facial expression to ask the person to
respell the word. Simply signing this one sign with a questioning facial expression
is the equivalent to asking, "What did you just finger spell?" or
"Could you finger spell that again?"
slow down finger spelling:
In order to avoid having the person spell a word you missed over and over
again, finger spell the word with the person. This allows you to control the
speed of the finger spelling because the signer won't move on to the next
letter until you sign the letter he or she is currently signing. Spelling
with Deaf people significantly slows down their finger spelling to
a pace you can read!
- To improve your finger spelling speed and comprehension:
Both while finger spelling yourself and while reading finger spelling, rather
than spelling out the word letter by letter in your mind, sound out the word.
To improve your comprehension when reading finger spelling, it also can help
if you catch the first and last letters of the word or if you have a foreknowledge
of the topic being discussed.
- Don't fake it:
Do not pretend you understand what a person is signing to you if you don't
really understand. This will only get you in to trouble when the person you
are conversing with realizes you do not understand. It shows you don't really
care when the person has to say. Take the time to ask for clarification. One
technique to help you understand the general feeling of the conversation is
to mimic the facial expression of the signer. This can help engender feelings
relative to what the signer is trying to convey.