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Guy Pissed After He’s Called Out For Laughing At ASL Interpreter’s ‘Exaggerated Facial Expressions’

Malte Helmhold / Unsplash

How does your opinion of someone else affect them? On one hand, you’re entitled to your opinion and if they don’t like it, they can just ignore you, right?

But on the other hand, as Redditor Accomplished_Data551 discovered, your opinion might be a little more important than you think. The original poster (OP) made some comments about a video their professor showed the class, which upset a classmate.

OP doesn’t think he did anything wrong, but his classmate is particularly upset. To figure it out, OP asks the “Am I the A**hole” (AITA) subReddit about his situation.

The situation OP found themselves in:

“AITA for laughing at a sign language interpreter’s facial expressions?”

OP tries to explained what happened in his class:

“Yesterday, my (18M) professor showed a video of a government speech with this sign language interpreter who was making these exaggerated facial expressions. It was like looking at some kind of cartoon, and I giggled a bit.”

“After class, this hard of hearing older student pulled me aside, asking me if I thought her ‘native language’ was funny. I told her it was just the faces the guy was making, and she said, ‘That’s how we convey tone. You really think we sit around making faces just to make you hearing people laugh at us?’”

“I told her to be a little nicer about it and maybe I’d take her points into consideration. She said she was being nice by not disrupting the class to shame me like my generation does, and to just take this as a lesson learned.”

“I told her she was acting like a child, and she walked away, accusing me of insulting her and laughing at disabled people.”

“AITA? This lady is like 50 and yelling at a teenager for a tiny mistake. For what it’s worth, I have slightly muffled hearing in my left ear, and she has hearing aids, so it’s not like she’s actually deaf.”

OP felt his comments were harmless, but the classmate thinks his opinion is harmful to deaf people.

Who is right here?

On Reddit, the users of the board judged OP for his comments and refusing his classmate’s opinion by including one of the following in their response:

  • NTA – Not the A**hole
  • YTA – You’re the A**hole
  • NAH – No A**holes Here
  • ESH – Everybody Sucks Here

The commenters agreed that OP was wrong here. Not only was he insulting to the deaf community, but he refused to learn from his mistakes when someone politely tried to inform him.

The board was in agreement that OP was TA.


“Insisting someone be ‘nice’ before you listen to legitimate feedback is classic deflection. Someone tried to help you out by privately telling you how you could do better.” – madelinegumbo

“And OP responded by gatekeeping deaf culture to someone who was deaf. Deaf is not a single state of total silence, it is a vast spectrum.”

“Many, many deaf people wear hearing aids to get as much sound as the can, that doesn’t make English their first language or kick them out of deaf culture.”

“Also – Deaf people, and deaf culture, are famously blunt and straight to the point, tiptoeing through the tulips is not how they do things.” – Music_withRocks_In


“1. For laughing aloud at the interpreter. You knew it wasn’t appropriate.”

“2. For what you said to her in response. Your mocked her native language, and instead of an apology, you shoved your ego in her face and gave her a bad attitude.” – SpookyArmadillo

“I agree 100%. It’s shocking how someone can be this ignorant and ableist and not see how they are in the wrong at all? And to have the gall to tell her to be ‘nicer about it’.”

“Dude, you just insulted her disability, why should she be nice to you at all? The comment about the hearing aids just shows and oozes the ignorance.”

“When people say ableism doesn’t exist, I show them posts like this.” – cherrymachete


“My little sister is deaf, this person seriously did you a favor by not putting you on blast in public. This is how adults give feedback, privately, you should learn that now.”

“It is one thing to just not understand why someone using ASL is making exaggerated expressions, but it is another thing to learn that information and then spit on it.”

“Here’s another ASL lesson for you, not only are facial expressions exaggerated but so are the signs themselves. A sign can have an entirely new or more/less impactful meaning based on how the sign is signed.”

“Easy example, for the sign for ‘angry’ when done more aggressively you are basically expressing just how pissed you are.”

“Think of it like throwing your hands in the air from frustration, like how frustrating it can be for someone who is deaf to have to explain to some ignorant child how ASL works to only have that ignorant child continue to act defensive.”

“You are not the first or last AH that person will deal with.” – antonio-bolonio

“YTA. You laughed at something you shouldn’t have, someone pulled you aside and gave you the context of something you didn’t know about and instead of taking the lesson to heart, you got defensive and rude.”

“Your ‘for what it’s worth’ is really irrelevant to the situation and if anything, the way you talk about her makes you even more ta.” – Aethermist88

“So it’s not like she’s actually Deaf?! So you get to decide her Deaf identity based on the fact she wears hearing aids? You have to be kidding me. YTA in every single way. Omg. Ew.” – Shelly1041

There was a lot more in the comments going on. Some of the commenters wanted OP to learn from their mistake.

He could do with some education.

“Oh, by the way, why did you put ‘native language’ in scare quotes? Is it because you don’t believe ASL is a language? Or that it’s some kind of pretend semi-language? Educate yourself on this.”

“It is a complete language with it’s own grammar and syntax. It is not merely English transcribed into signs.” – MotherSpinach

“And there are dozens of different sign languages around the world. Only here in Canada, there are at least 5! Deaf culture is incredibly overlooked” – kaikk0

“Dude, deaf people can’t hear excitement, sadness, or anger. They can’t hear emotions in peoples voices because they’re DEAF.”

“Facial expressions is one of the things they use to show it. YTA” – Brave_Hat34

“I study child language acquisition and it really is incredible how little the learning process for a spoken language differs from sign language.”

“For instance just like how babies babble to practice different phonemes (sounds that are combined to form words ike ‘da’ ‘ah’, etc.), deaf babies will babble in sign language practicing different hand shapes and what not.”

“All of the grammar and syntax we think about in spoken English like verb conjugation is present in sign language as well as just as you can often recognize a late-learner of a spoken language by their accent and common grammatical mistakes, the same is true for a late-learner of sign language.” – onalease

“I took a linguistics course in college and the professor was Deaf. He talked about the babbling in sign language, too- so interesting.”

“I also remember him telling us about how just like there are slips of the tongue, there are also slips of the hand, where someone can sign a malapropism.” – MotherSpinach

“When you offend a whole group of people, you don’t get to throw a fit about their tone. You’re lucky they didn’t call you out in front of the class. You would have deserved it.”

“The proper response you should have given was ‘I had no idea why they made faces, I appreciate the education. I am very sorry for laughing. It won’t happen again.’”

“Then wish her a good day and leave her alone. Instead you decided to tone police her when she was making a valid statement that needed to be said.”

“YTA for laughing and an even bigger ass for the way you treated her when she corrected your behavior. I really hope if you see her again you apologize for the way you acted.” – RecognitionCapital13

“I’ve laughed at a sign language interpreter once too but no one lectured me about it. Wanna know the difference? The interpreter I was watching was signing the joke the Emcee was telling.”

“Your behavior (laughing at interpreters) and arguments (‘she’s not actually deaf cause she has hearing aids’) are incredibly ableist. Do better. YTA” – GlitterSparkleDevine

And luckily, OP does seem to learn from the comments.

“Edit: I now realize that I was in the wrong, and plan to apologize to her when I see her again. I will leave this post up in case anybody in the future is wondering if it’s wrong to laugh at people who use sign language.”

There’s a lot that can be learned from this story. Listen to those who try to educate you on a new viewpoint. Don’t be so quick to dismiss others.

And maybe most importantly, it’s never too late to change.

Written by Ben Acosta

Ben Acosta is an Arizona-based fiction author and freelance writer. In his free time, he critiques media and acts in local stage productions.