Something New at Maria College – American Sign Language

This semester Maria College began to offer American Sign Language (ASL) as an option to meet a course load requirements. Laura Cooper, an adjunct faculty member, presented a fun-filled semester of signing, Deaf Culture, and ASL grammar.

Laura, a retired ASL Teacher of the Deaf for Capital Region BOCES, jumped into the semester with both feet. Class time consisted of a weekly receptive quiz; a grammar lesson; discussions about cochlear implants, voice vs. sign usage, and Deaf Culture; and then one hour of turned off voices and all signing.

Students stated that they took the class at first to fill the language requirement for graduation yet somewhere along the way; the class became more than an obligation. The class turned out to provide a means to, at a minimum, finger spell to a deaf person to communicate, a skill for further development and used in future careers, and a way to learn an additional language. For some students ASL is a second, third, or fourth language! It was also Laura’s hope that the class learned enough sign language to carry on a simple conversation with a person that is experiencing hearing loss.

Taking the class provided an introspective opportunity too. Students learned things about themselves such as being more cognizant of deaf attendees at events and providing an interpreter to communicate the content, they were good at learning the signs and speaking with their hands, and recognizing that there are many different version of sign language around the world.

Students plan to put into action what they learned by teaching it to others, using it in future jobs, and others weren’t sure how they would use it, but recognized that it was a good tool to have tucked in their pocket. One student has a grandson that will be one in January and then hope is to teach ASL to the baby so that he can grow up at a minimum to be bi-lingual by having the ability to speak and sign.

Other things students learned is there is a Deaf Culture in the United States. Many of whom are torn between cochlear implants (implanting), not implanting, using oralism, or teaching sign language. Although the gap on implanting is narrowing, a divide still exists. Along with the divide to implant or not is a big question of do you teach your children to only speak, only use ASL or both. The class consensus was each child needs to be assessed by the parents and a decision made on an individual basis – there was no easy answer.

The majority of the students who took ASL were Liberal Arts students. The class is recommended to all Maria student and highly recommended to those studying nursing and occupational therapy. ASL-I course veterans are looking forward to the spring semester to dive back in and tackle the ASL-II course.

Jenni Mullet
Liberal Arts, BA

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