Sunday, 19 March 2017

Getting one thing right

will help - at least that is what I told myself.
I was feeling nervous. Would I be able to communicate? I was about to meet a profoundly deaf woman whose first language was Irish sign language and whose second language was Irish. 
I had been told her English was "almost none". She can lip read a few words like "please".
That isn't going to get me far. There is no point in trying to write things down. She can't really read either - and certainly not English.  Even if she could my writing is barely legible - although not for want of trying.
It had all taken a bit of working out even to get together. The first email to someone else had gone unanswered. Her son, also profoundly deaf, might have given up but a curious series of events led to someone I barely know but who knows my "name-sign" recognising who they were trying to contact and telling someone else who contacted me. Would I help? 
I said I'd try but it isn't the sort of thing for which you can ask for help from a trained interpreter. We would have to go it almost alone.
I met them at the home of a family where the parents both use Auslan - Australian Sign Language. I don't know them either but the person who had asked me to help introduced me. When I signed "hello" it helped a bit but I was still feeling nervous.
The curious thing about knitting though is that you knit with your hands and, as I said yesterday, if you also talk with your hands then you do one thing or another.  I was also wondering how well this person would be able to knit.
That was not a problem. She is an expert knitter. She actually knits the most complex garments and sells them for large sums of money. They would be worth everything someone paid for them. I saw two of them.  She seems to do them without a pattern - just with her own series of diagrams and pictures and charts.
I had taken along one of the hats I had knitted. She spent some time looking at it. I showed her how I cast on. It was something she had not seen before. I showed her twice and then she tried it twice more. Again she drew things on paper. I had taken the "pattern" with me and I went through it with her by showing her on the hat I had taken. By the time we had finished she had her own pattern in a form she could understand - and I could "read" enough of it to know she would be able to work from it. 
With difficulty I explained about the sort of yarn not to use - in a mixture of sign, finger spelling and a picture dictionary. We all laughed over "goat hair itch".
At last I was offered ice-cold home made lemonade and we sat for a few minutes. They talked and the daughter of the house called in. She's hearing so the conversation flowed more easily although I addressed my remarks to them and not to her. As she was leaving she offered to take me home.
Before we left I asked her, "Can you work out how to say I want to see all the leprechauns wearing green sun hats when I go to Ireland?"
Leprechauns? We looked in the picture dictionary and found "gnome" instead - an Irish gnome. She showed me and I repeated it. There was more laughter and then I was hugged and being thanked - in sign. 
And that was a good sign. I'm glad I tried.

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