I missed the first week of my Swiss Sign Language course. That'd be the class where everyone gets to tell everyone why they're there. So I entered a class full of hearing people, unaware of their motivations.
II learned ASL at school in RI. My motivation for learning Swiss German sign is the desire to know more about the swiss Deaf community, to attend their poetry slams and generally pursue a language that can aid or replace the ASL that I am now steadily losing.
While waiting for the class to start, I walked over to the poster on the wall with the finger alphabet. There I discovered that swiss sign has finger signs for "ch" and "sch." Amazing.
In the break, I was talking to the teacher about where I'm from and then possibly made the worst first impression possible. Up until then we'd been having a great class. The teacher is Deaf, which is new for me. Apparently the first half of the first class included an interpreter. The second half, the students were able to discover how well our teacher speaks and lip reads and how well they can follow his signs with no previous education.
Anyhow, while talking to my teacher, he asked where I was from and I was spelling out places, as I didn't know if certain signs were international. I was pleased when I began asking about country names and discovered that they're mostly the same. Then I spelled out Philadelphia and the students around me got freaked out at the speed of my spelling. Then I felt like a teacher's pet and a weird person who doesn't fit.
But the class was amazing. We did these excellent exercises to work on body positioning and hand and wrist and head movement. This is something that wasn't really tended to in my ASL course. I'm curious if having a Deaf teacher means that the focus is different and I'm super excited about the class.
Our homework is to study the vocabulary that we learned yesterday. Each sign was slightly or completely different from ASL.
On the way home, I ran a kilometer to the train station in torrential rain with 2 fellow students. We squished into the train and dripped our way to Zürich and I got to hear their motivations for learning to sign.
Best cure for jet lag I've ever found: learning + torrential rain.