Someone just asked me what I meant when I said in my blog post The Four Things You Need to Learn Any Language that I have found language parents by sending out flyers. Let me tell you how that worked!
Last year I had about a month where I could concentrate on learning American Sign Language near South Bend, Indiana. I knew there was a school there, Bethel College, that had an interpreting program, and I knew there was a good sized Deaf population there. But, I didn’t know any Deaf people! So, I asked a friend who works at Bethel if she could send this flyer to people she knew that had Deaf contacts. Another friend who is an ASL interpreter helped me word it so it communicated clearly.
This is the exact flyer I sent, very specific to my needs.
Looking for a Deaf person to be my ASL Language Helper
Needs to be:
Available for 10-20 hours a week in September
Willing to use a specific method that I’m testing for my job
Does not need to:
Plan or run our meetings, I’ll do that.
Be a teacher, I’m looking for a friend!
Play language games with toys!
Stay in ASL for 95% of our meetings!
Laugh a lot at my silly mistakes!
Interested? Text Nora at XXX-XXX-XXXX
The things I really wanted to get across were:
- I wanted to work with a Deaf person, not a hearing person. Learning from someone who is a mother tongue user of their language is really important. I can learn from an insider about her culture in a way that is honoring, and in the context of our relationship. Really powerful!
- I was looking for a FRIEND (parent, helper), not a teacher. A teacher would come with their own ideas of how I should learn language. My goal was to use the Growing Participator Approach, and see if it would work for me in a signed language. (Spoiler, it’s working great!)
Friend one’s contact sent this around to her contacts, and I got texts from about 5 people. I chose the one that clicked, and off we went!
The flyer approach has worked well for me as well on a college campus. A great advantage of circulating flyers is that people you don’t know yet can respond. When my coaching clients get somewhere and say that they have to build relationships before they can find language helpers, they’re already in a bind. How can they build relationships without language? In addition, the longer I live somewhere without growing into that language and culture, the more I develop habits of living that keep me out of the language. Does that make sense?
Now, flyers are not the solution for everyone. One person I was coaching couldn’t put flyers around, because she needed to keep a low profile in the city where she lived.
How have you found those special, patient, gracious people that help you grow into a new language and culture? Please comment below! And, keep those questions coming!