Humorous moments in sign language class

Teachers, assistants, volunteers or models, and students have their fun moments in sign language classes. Here are some stories.

Have you got a memorable anecdote? Share your story by emailing us.

UGLY in and out of context

A student, in ASL 111 at a university, raised her hand and naively asked (oblivious to this context), BEAUTIFUL OPPOSITE SIGN WHAT? I responded UGLY.

The students chuckled, imagining something. In this context, we were talking about family members in photographs that the students shared with one another, using vocabulary such as BEAUTIFUL, LOOK-ALIKE (resemble), TALL, WHEN, WHERE, OCCASION/EVENT WHAT, CUTE, OLD, LOOK-YOUNG, etc. Now you get the picture. (2015)

Four senses and...

During an activity in a sign language interpreting class, each Deaf/ASL model had to repeat an interesting fact about human anatomy in his/her own ASL expression after reading an assigned card.

When it came to my turn to tell in ASL, it turned out that my assigned fact was quite a "cliche". I forewarned the students (of course in ASL), "It's not an interesting one and you all know this one. Anyway, humans have five senses: sight, touch, taste, smell and...umm."

At this odd moment, my hands struggled, "um... what?" Ok, I repeated, "sight, taste, smell, touch and... um... what? Come on..." I struggled again with this unusual mental block. The hearing students and Deaf models quickly helped out, "HEARING" and, quite interesting, "DEAF". -- Jolanta, April 12, 2001.

The Tallest

One of my students was a volleyball player and was the tallest person in the class, even in the whole ASL courses I've ever taught over the past years. Really very tall. During our first test of the course, students sat in the rows (more likely columns). The tallest student sat in the very back of the line. It didn't matter as she could see me all over the students in front of her. What the students weren't informed what I typically do during quizzes, tests, and exams was that I always stood on the chair for everyone to see me clearly. As I stood up on the chair, the tallest kid burst laughing. I looked at her like "what was funny?", standing tall. As she tried to explain but decided to gesture 'never mind'. Realizing in all sudden I was taller than her, I got it with a laugh. -- Jolanta, 2016/17(?).

Mispronunciation (misproduction)

The trios in ASL 212 were practicing a translation into ASL based on the short story projected on the wall screen. The paragraph was about how a couple prepared for a much looking-forward-to romantic candle-lit dinner while their children were away for a sleepover. As they unplugged the phone and excitedly sat down for dinner, suddenly there was a doorbell ring only to discover that the wife's out-of-state parents came for a suprising visit. The student in a trio kept mispronouncing in ASL, signing MAN instead of PARENT and no students corrected her. So, I intervened to correct. The trio laughed so hard, imagining the husband discovering a male stranger coming for a surprising visit.

The Catty Show

Amid the coronavirus pandemic, the university officially announced a move from in-class delivery to online delivery immediately during the weekend. I worked hard on the transition over the weekend and Monday (classes cancelled across the university). On the first day of live class delivery on Tuesday within about 5 minutes, Kibe (the Handspeak mascot/supervisor/cat) sat on a small table behind me looking at the black backdrop behind me. As I talked in ASL to my students on the screen, I could see myself and the cat behind me on my monitor. Suddenly, everyone gasped as the cat jumped high. In slow motion of this two-second incident, she intended to land on the horizontal bar but the bar wasn't strong enough to boost her. As she landed on the bar, the pole on one end pulled down and the bar tilted. The cat tried to grab with her paws as she was falling down. She landed on her feet and ran out. The class laughed hard. Regretfully, there was no video recording through the webcam. -- Jolanta, March 2020.

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Related posts: Humor: students' journey in ASL class, Humor: ASL teachers in ASL class.