As we wrap up, let’s recall our definition of mindfulness—awareness of what is going on inside and around us in the present moment. Awareness of inside and around, has intertwined like a thread through Fingerspelling: A Mindful Approach.
As I write this last chapter, it feels metaphoric to reference the very historic time that surrounds this present moment—the COVID-19 pandemic. For the last three months, education and learning has been relegated to online. I’m sitting outside my home in Tahoe, California on my laptop, with a view of Mt. Tallac. Tufts of clouds float by while I contemplate the immediacy of our final topic—Engagement. Perhaps it’s being on stay-at-home orders, but…engagement seems the most vital of topics so far! The old adage, “Practice makes perfect,” is crucial to apply, and yet, in this world of pandemic, the ability to practice our skills has been challenged. I must say, even as a certified ASL interpreter, fluent in ASL, after over three months of social distancing, my skills have suffered. I’m aware, I feel it in the slight hesitancy to recall a sign or perhaps a bumble of a fingerspelled word. With mindfulness, I can notice the slipups and begin to formally set time aside to practice. Learning ASL takes discipline! If we think back to the introduction of this book we remember—fingerspelling is often the first skill you learn and the last skill you perfect. Another way to say this might be, fingerspelling is a skill in state of continuous flux. Studies show that to master any new skill, it needs to be practiced 10,000 hours. So, these 10 lessons are only the beginning.
Most students who find themselves in a fingerspelling class have found that they know just enough to be dangerous. By dangerous I mean that we have discovered a tool (fingerspelling) that enables us to express something we do not know how to sign, so we therefore spell it. However, the ideas and concepts tumbling around our heads, go far beyond a few manually spelled words. Fingerspelling is only a smidge of the visual ASL communication equation. So, what do we do? Firstly, take an American Sign Language class! Fingerspelling is in no way a substitute for signing. Then, having a few classes under your belt, you can be on the search for Deaf friends who will entertain your beginning skills. Engagement gives purpose to our learning and satisfies our innate desires to be effective communicators. This brings us to our last tip:
Mindful Tip 15: To improve our fingerspelling skills (especially our receptive skills) we must engage.
In the time of the pandemic, engagement means Facetime, ZOOM or maintaining social distancing by fingerspelling 6 feet away, no problem! There are also incredible fingerspelling websites out there, YouTube videos and even the ability to record yourself very effortlessly on your device and then come back a few days later and watch, seeing if you can catch your fingerspelled words. There’s an App called, Marco Polo, that uses visual recording texts as a kind of walkie-talkie to your friends. But none of these, replace signing with a native signer, a Deaf person. One of the best uses of time in your ASL journey is to engage with the Deaf community and invest in friends and acquaintances. Resourcing the Deaf community is the best insurance for growing and mastering your ASL skills, beyond any class, beyond any manual.
I sincerely hope, Fingerspelling: A Mindful Approach provided you with practices that built a strong foundational platform for fingerspelling skill development, and most importantly offered tools to be aware and present for the treasured ones in your life.