Some bits and snippets that have been going around in my head today, all language-related.

First, I went to the ASL meetup in Durham this morning, and was surprised and pleased to find myself able to function in a room of just signing - I looked at conversations and I understood them! It was sometimes a struggle - I had to ask for many words to be explained, and dropped back to fingerspelling at least once every other sentence because I didn't know a word - but I did far, far better than I thought I would - no talking, no sound, very little lipreading to help me. And I'm not stuck with baby sentences - I can, with difficulty, get across most thoughts I want to convey, even complicated abstract things like "lipreading multiple languages being a challenge because phoneme sets differ across languages and people are only really trained for auditory and visual (lipreading) discrimination of their native language at first." (Okay, so that one took a while for me to stammer out and explain.) Also, discussions about action movies are extremely entertaining in ASL.

I'm awkward, halting, lack vocabulary, have atrocious grammar (I don't even know what I'm doing wrong - I started imitating the sentence structures of the folks around me), and generally scream hello! I was mainstreamed! but I can hold conversations and I can learn more sign through the act of signing, and this feels so good. I could get thrown into a deaf world and make it all right, and that's wonderful to know. And for once in my life, I wasn't straining to hear conversations - any communication difficulties came from my inexperience with the language - very fixable - rather than not being able to hear, which is... less fixable. It felt weird and wonderful to be on that sort of level playing field.

Second, this snippet from an email I wrote George Jemmott the other night. George and I were SCOPE teammates at Olin.

...I'm required to have some sort of engineering concentration for my engineering  education PhD... and the current thoughts I have for focus have been around embedded signal processing for speech sounds - otherwise known as "hearing aids suck, what do I need to learn in order to deal with being deaf and wanting better ways to learn foreign languages?" And [a phonics course like the one you took our senior year] would be a lovely addition to the mix, as it'd help me understand the actual nature of the signals I'm trying to interpret (cognitively), possibly with the help of a bunch of processing tools.

I'm also interested in language learning in general for travel and such, and also fascinated by language learning methodologies as ways of teaching, because I think there's plenty of off-the-wall creative stuff for teaching, say, Spanish, that boring-as-hell engineering topics could benefit from. People want to learn French in their car, in their spare time, as a hobby... how many people would buy "Pimsleur's Partial Differential Equations"?

Finally, a sci-fi story that is lovely, sweet, sad... not quite any of those things but close enough that they're the best words I can come up with at the moment - accidentally discovered while reading about the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis. It's called Story of Your Life, by Ted Chiang, and... sometimes the thinking patterns written into it sound familiar and wake up faint and distant echoes in my mind. Reminds me of the sort of story Sumana would post about.