Giving and receiving directions in a language other than your native tongue has to be one of the great challenges of mankind. I started learning American Sign Language over 15 years ago and have been using it on a daily basis ever since then. Still, after all my years of studying, practice and work in this beautiful language, giving and being given directions in American Sign Language is one of the hardest tasks that I face. Receiving directions from a native signer and showing up when and where you were sent is always a victory.


Knowing this makes what happened the other day even more exciting. Granted, the directions I was given were not complex. One could argue that they were not directions at all. The nice lady in the shop said something like, “Go that way. It’s not far. Here, I’ll write down the name of the shop.” Then she wrote the name of the place and handed me this:


I went the direction she pointed and after six or eight shops I noticed something on one of the signs.


It looked like one of the characters she had written on the paper. I stopped to examine both the sign and the paper more closely. Sure enough, at least three of the four characters matched.


Many small shops here are multi-purpose stores offering both merchandise and services, so when I walked in, I still wasn’t at all sure that this was the right place. Later it was confirmed that it was, in fact, the store that the nice lady at the other shop was referring to. Do you know what this means? I followed directions in Chinese! Again, they were extremely simple directions. She also handed me a paper with the name of the store written on it. I also know that I have many instances of showing up at the wrong place, or the wrong time still coming.


In spite of these facts, all the character practice does seem to be paying off. And I’m still counting it a victory!

Now, back to studying!




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