Becky Minkel knows there is more than one way to say “I love you”. Becky is a sign language interpreter for the Deaf and uses sign language not only in her work but as a way to express love, passion and joy in her own life.
Becky explains that the deaf community has it’s own rich culture that is communicated with eloquence through sign language. “Sign language is the prettiest language I know,” she says. “It is so expressive, and can add so much meaning to how we communicate”. Take the word hallelujah. The sign is actually a combination of the separate signs and meanings for praise, celebrate and heaven. “Three great words joined to convey one awesome word. Signing adds clarity to language and brings your vocabulary to life,” Becky smiles.
Becky learned to sign while teaching kindergarten. She saw a notice about a continuing education program on signing and enrolled in the class. “I thought signing would be a great teaching tool for kids having trouble learning by traditional methods”. And it worked. Every one of her students responded well to signing and one little boy, who was having difficulties identifying colors, learned them through this method. It was also a great tool for developing focus and attention in her students and a wonderful way to work with kids with attention deficit disorder.
As her interest and enthusiasm for signing grew, Becky expanded her reach. For several years, she taught a continuing education class for hearing adults who had a need for or interest in sign language. One woman, who was going deaf, enrolled along with her husband, so that they would always be able to communicate. Today, Becky is the owner-operator of Becky Minkel Interpreting Services and provides interpreting services for the deaf for job trainings, doctors appointments, and educational trainings. She also donates her services, signing the hymns at church, and interpreting at weddings and funerals. Becky tells me that she has always loved music and that signing the hymns gives music another dimension and makes it even more significant for her.
As I listen – and watch – Becky explains and demonstrates different signs for me. I find myself getting more and more excited. I think about how we all use gestures and body language to try and better express ourselves. Personally, my mouth doesn’t work without my hands moving. We even call it “talking with our hands.” And our efforts do add some degree of meaning and emphasis to our words. But for Becky and others that sign, this is an art form. Meaning is refined, distilled and expressed with subtlety and eloquence. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we all had this skill. Communication and the way we relate to each other is so important. The nuances and added meaning that are inherent in signing could help us better “interpret” each other, softening words that may seem harsh on their own or clarifying those with various meanings. Think of all the misunderstandings that could be avoided. In today’s busy and “techy” world, where we often reduce our conversations to text messages and tweets, signing reminds us that language – all language – is most meaningful when shared face-to-face.
Thank you, Becky Minkel, for sharing your story and helping me realize the beauty and joy that can be part of an ordinary conversation. There are many ways to say “I love you”.