Faces Behind the Screen: Mohammed
Mohammed is a Business Management student at Northeastern University. On his way to class, he would always walk by the same American Sign Language (ASL) course and became intrigued by the silence that filled the room. Eager to learn more, he decided to sign up for the ASL course himself. We met Mohammed at the George W. Veditz ASL Festival at Northeastern University, where he was hoping to speak with Deaf and hard of hearing individuals and utilize some of the signs he’s learned over the course of the semester. Although this was a great place to learn more and practice his signs, he told us, it was also quite overwhelming for him.
- It is so difficult to identify who’s Deaf and who’s not. And at the same time, I’m kind of panicking of if I started the conversation, or something, and then they would sign signs that I haven’t studied so far. I wouldn’t know how to answer that.
After all, Mohammed’s only been taking this course for a semester, so his repertoire is somewhat limited. However, despite only having been in this class for a short period of time, Mohammed has learned a great deal about the Deaf community and how Deaf individuals are perceived in our society. He conveyed to us that he had gained a new perspective on the world, and towards differently-abled people, simply from deciding to fulfill his curiosity and learn a little about sign language.
- I understand how they live. And at first, — I’m sorry to say that, but I always thought of them as disabled. But now, I know that their life is like ours, basically. They manage to live to the fullest. And I’ve seen videos of people – Deaf people – actually playing football. I began to think that they don’t have anything missing. They are enjoying life like we do.
After being in this class and learning more about Deaf and hard of hearing people, Mohammed understands that there is a great need for captioning.
“ Every time I see a movie without captions, I feel like they’re doing something wrong. There are a lot of people who want to watch the same movie, but there are no captions for it. ”
Senior, Northeastern University
Every time I see a movie without captions, I feel like they’re doing something wrong. There are a lot of people who want to watch the same movie, but there are no captions for it.
Mohammed also had some advice for others who aren’t aware of Deaf culture, or who have misconceptions about the Deaf community.
- I would definitely tell them to take at least an American Sign Language class to better understand about how they live and everything. Especially with a teacher who is actually Deaf. That’s a big difference. You can’t talk to the teacher even if you want to. That’s the best feeling that would make you learn much more.
Another thing Mohammed was surprised to learn in this course is that there isn’t one universal sign language for everyone.
- I asked the teacher, “why isn’t there a universal sign language?” It would make it much easier. But he said, it’s very different. You know, the verbs, the nouns, and the letters, it’s not the same with everything, so it made sense that it would be different. It has to be different.
Whether or not Mohammed continues to study American Sign Language in the years to come, one thing is clear – gaining a deeper look at the Deaf community and culture has changed him, and that will have a lasting impact on his life.
- I’m telling my friends and cousins– everyone. Everyone at first was asking me “Why do you take it?” or saying “You won’t use it. You will forget everything.” But I think that more than the sign language itself, we understand the Deaf people in general. That’s the most beneficial thing from this class.
Maybe if more of us can simply choose to feed our curiosities like Mohammed did with sign language, we can continue to smash preconceived notions we have about other people in our world – one semester at a time.
We want to extend a huge thank you to the American Sign Language Program at Northeastern University for hosting the George W. Veditz ASL Festival.