SMBA ’16 Learns American Sign Language Basics

On Tuesday, February 10th, the cohort of the Sports MBA program showed up early in the classroom for a ‘hip-pocket class.’ The concept of ‘hip pocket’ class was borrowed from the U.S. military forces where an individual teaches his fellows a skill/application that can become useful throughout not only the program but in endless applications in life as well.

This morning it was my turn to teach the class a ‘hip pocket’ skill – it took me a couple of minutes to think of one back in the first week of the program. Then it came to me (with encouragement from my peers) — Why not teach my cohort the basic alphabet and numeric values (along with a few phrases) of my native language — American Sign Language?

Before I elaborate on this hip pocket class and American Sign Language itself – let’s touch on a little background about myself first. I have been profoundly deaf since the age of 1 – but this hasn’t been an insurmountable obstacle for me in life. Sure, it has provided challenges especially in the world where the lack of hearing can be a ‘silent’ disadvantage for any deaf person.

As one of my teachers in school once told me — “Being Deaf isn’t about having a disability. It is about navigating through life with your eyes and hands instead of with your ears.”

People often don’t realize that a person such as I may be deaf until they approach and attempt to make a conversation with me. Then it’s at that point where I acknowledge that I am deaf and I will remedy to an alternative mean of communication through a sign language interpreter if one is present, or communicating by writing on paper or via text communications via an electronic device.

With this in mind, it would be a great tool for my cohort to learn the basic alphabet of American Sign Language through fingerspelling as well as how to say the numbers zero through nine so that way we all can communicate effectively and directly both inside and outside the classroom (without always having to rely on an interpreter or another device), a vital part to succeeding in this program.

Printed handouts portraying the American Sign Language version of the alphabet and numbers were given and everybody took some time trying to learn how to spell their names (for the first time for most of our cohort), which was entertaining for me to see how everybody processed the hand shapes associated with certain letters and numbers. Once everybody got the hang of their names, several YouTube videos were shown visually demonstrating basic phrases such as ‘My name is (Nathan)’, ‘How are you’, ‘What’s up’, and ‘Want to go get some coffee?’, a video specifically pertaining to how to sign a specific sport (such as football, baseball, basketball, wrestling, softball, etc.).

Some people picked it up fairly quickly while others took some time to learn a completely new language (ASL does have its own grammar, sentence syntax, rules and so forth just like any other language and is not to be considered rudimentary gesture signs). Overall, I’d like to think everybody enjoyed this brief ‘hip pocket’ class and it could very well be useful after the program especially whenever any of our cohort happens to find themselves in the presence of a deaf client/colleague.


Links Used:

How to Introduce Yourself (Video):

Basic Greeting Phrases (Video):

8 Basic Phrases (Video):

Basic Sports Signs (Video):

Fingerspelling Chart (Picture):