I have lots of habits.
Unfortunately for me, my kids like to mimic just the bad ones.
My middle son, Animal, was at his grandparent’s house one day.
A group of us are lounging on the couch chatting away with spaghetti simmering on the stove in the kitchen behind us.
Animal stomps down the stairs, bursts into the living room and shouts, “what the hell is that smell!?”
Of course, I’m too immature to not laugh and parent my child. Mr. Barlow to the rescue.
Saying hell is obviously a bad habit of mine.
I know you may think that’s a silly bad habit, but we were raised to not swear and teach our children the same.
Except, well… I had a 2 year span when I was 17-19 that I swore like a sailor because I was an idiot. Sometimes it just comes out without me realizing it, even after all these years. Thus, my penchant for saying hell.
My defense… it’s not really a swear word.
Before my tendancy to over share explodes from my fingers, I’ll move on to the postive part.
We may have bad habits, but we also have good habits, so don’t despair. All is not lost.
They say it’s possible to create good habits.
I’m still working on the waking-up-early-goal I wanted to create 20 years ago. I think I’ve just developed the habit of failing at not hitting the snooze button. Ha
Okay, I jest half way.
As you know I’ve been signing for a long time. I have known many signers in my lifetime.
For the purpose of this post, I’ll only be talking about non-native signers, aka hearing folks that didn’t grow up in a Deaf family/signing environment.
Since I’ve known so many (so popular, like, ohmygoodness), and have learned along side many, I've seen lots of successful signers and some... that don't sign anymore.
I want to share with you the habits that all the successful ones share.
Habit 1: Put sign language learning first
We’re busy people with lives to live.
My mom always says, "you’ll always fill up a big purse."
Yeah, I know, not the best catch phrase.
What does she mean?
If you have a small purse, and you move to a bigger purse and think, oh my gosh, I have all this space! You’ll soon realize that no, you don’t, this purse is full now, too.
Translation to real life: you’ll always fill your days with “stuff” even if it’s the 50th receipt from the last year (raising hand), or a stale french fry and gum wrappers.
It’ll get full.
It may not be what you want it to be full with. It may be just weighing your bag down.
But you’ll look down into your day and maybe you thought you’d have more time after the kids went to school and realize, no, in fact, you still don’t have any time because it filled itself up.
You’ll always fill up a big purse.
Are you waiting for more time to be able to sit down and study ASL? Just waiting until the kids go to school, you don’t babysit your grandson anymore, you graduate college, you finish studying for the SATs?
There’s no such thing as the best time or the perfect time or the time when “life” isn’t happening.
If you want to learn ASL, then you make it a priority. A REAL priority. Otherwise, nope, it ain’t never gonna happen. #realtalk
Habit 2: Begin with your end in mind
You can’t just say, I want to learn ASL. You’ve got to say what your goal really is. Are you wanting to be conversational? Or fluent? Or what?
What do you plan to do to get there?
Why do you even want to learn ASL? You can’t just say because it’s a cool language. That’s not enough of a reason.
Why would I say that? How rude!
Because, that reason isn’t going to get you to put it first (see habit #1).
Don’t fret, you can start out that way, just make sure you as progress through you really nail down your why. It doesn’t have to be profound, okay? It needs to be a strong desire/passion.
If you’ve got your why, I’ve got a 3-day guided worksheet set to help you figure out your end goal, and your in-between goals (to get you to your end goal) and set your plan. How to accomplish your goals.
Download the 3 Day: Ready, Set, Go guided worksheets here:
Habit 3: Seek out opportunities
It’s so much easier to sit at home alone learning, studying, and practicing sign language. It’s safe, comfortable, and ahhhhh… so much easier.
You can join my ASL practice group for a nice comfy way to practice with some great folks from the comfort of your own home.
There’s local Deaf events all over. They’re often in Starbucks, mall food courts, and other public meeting places.
Bottom line: signing with others is imperative to progression.
Habit 4: Develop strong receptive AND expressive skills
Your expressive skills (you signing) is HALF of the equation.
Receptive skills (someone signing to you) is the other half.
The hardest one? Receptive.
The one you should work on the most? Receptive.
Expressive is just as important, don’t misunderstand. But please, don’t just learn to sign words, phrases, sentences as you study sign language.
Please please please, I’m begging you, spend half your time on the receptive portion.
You’ll thank me later (I accept gift cards).
Habit 5: Understand
Learn to understand and interact within the Deaf culture.
Learn their codes of conduct, modes of behavior. Learn what’s accepted and what’s discouraged, even offensive.
Be respectful of their culture.
You can be respectful even if you don’t prescribe to everything the Deaf culture does or believes.
Habit 6: Keep seeking
No matter what your end goal is, there’s always something more to be learned and improved.
One of the major characteristics of language is that it is never static.
Language evolves, changes, adjusts, and adapts.
We must learn and grow and adapt with it.
There’s always going to be a skill we can improve in some way that we can work on. There’s always going to be new signs to learn. New ways to phrase things.
Don’t let that discourage you. Instead, look at it as an opportunity and adventure.
Habit 7: Be teachable
Knowing that you don’t know everything and that you’re not perfect at ASL all the time is important.
Of course, you can be cocky and still be good. To be amazing, and a fun person to be around, don't be a know-it-all.
Look for opportunities to grow, to learn from others (even if you’ve been signing longer than they have), to be taught.
No snoozing allowed
Good habits may be hard to create (I still can’t wake up early on a regular basis), but these ones are totally doable if you go for it.
Don’t keep hitting the snooze button on your ASL dreams.
GIFS courtesy of reactiongifs.com (go explore there for a few hours for some good fun).