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Sign Language - Signing Suppers

Or, Silent Suppers or ASL Dinners

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Updated November 28, 2009

Signing suppers have become a staple of deaf community social life.

What is a signing supper, also known as a "silent supper" or "ASL dinner?" It is a social event where a group of people meets for dinner at a local restaurant. The group may consist of both deaf people and hearing people (or only deaf people) who want to practice their sign language, make new friends, or just plain socialize. Sign language students and parents of deaf children especially enjoy going to signing suppers as it gives them a chance to practice their skills in a relaxed environment and to interact with members of the deaf community.

I realized just how significant a part of deaf community social life the local silent suppers/ASL dinners had become when at a recent ASL dinner, I found that more people had come from out of state than locally. Deaf people were willing to drive long distances just for the chance to socialize with other deaf people at a restaurant.

It is easy to set up a signing supper or ASL dinner. Find a restaurant in your area that is willing to allow a group of about 25 people to take over seats for an average of three to four hours. Be sure that the restaurant does not mind people staying and chatting for that long, because after dinner people may chat for hours. The last ASL dinner I went to started at 6 p.m. and the others were still chatting when I left at 10 p.m.

Accessibility of the chosen restaurants is important. To be sure that people who can not drive or do not have cars may attend, try to find restaurants accessible to public transportation if possible.

It is also a good idea if the chosen restaurant has long tables, allows tables to be put together to create a long table, or tables can be set up next to each other. The long table and adjacent table formats encourage more interaction among dinner participants. Adjacent tables make it easy to "rotate" from one group of people to another.

In addition to being a way to make friends and practice sign language skills, signing suppers can also be a good way to meet significant others. A deaf man and a hearing woman had met at the signing suppers when they started in their area. Several years later, they were married.

If you go to a signing supper/silent supper/ASL dinner, you don't go for the food - you go for the people.

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