Last night we went to a Christmas party. It was for my wifes company. About 50% of them were deaf and most of the others could sign. I was a bit worried about that before we went. I was worried that I'd not be able to communicate with anyone. It wasn't as bad as I thought. In fact it was a pretty decent time.
A few of the people there translate for the deaf all the time so they were very aware of the communication break and made it nearly transparent for me. That was cool.
There were also a few other spouses who were like me. We didn't have anything to do with the deaf and have had little to no reason to learn how to sign. It's not like I don't care, it's just like learning a language for which you have little need for. Why would I learn Russian if I don't know any Russians or have any plans to go to Russia.
I know there are those who like to learn other languages because they are good at it and that's cool. But I think they are the minority. I suspect most of us simply don't think outside out little language world because we've never had to.
After last night I realize that sign-language is just that, a language. It's just like learning Spanish, French, or Russian. Their motions were so fluid and quick. I was shocked to know that so much was communicated so quickly and subtlety.
When I talked with Eric, the guy who was doing much of the translating for me, he said he doesn't really translate in his head, he just knows what is being said. I've heard this from other foreign language speakers. I even noticed it a bit learning Spanish. Once you get good, you stop thinking like, "agua = water" and you just know agua is water without thinking it.
So back to the evening. It was quiet enjoyable. There was lots of laughs, good food and games. The communication barriers were still there but they weren't nearly as scary as I thought they'd be. I'll definitely have a different feeling about attending other similar functions with that group again. Positive ones.