ASL students take a trip to immerse themselves in Deaf culture

ASL students take a trip to immerse themselves in Deaf culture

"Hello" in sign letters (Photo: Tessa Voccola)

A group of American Sign Language (ASL) students, accompanied by part-time instructor Sara Evans, attended the Mason-Dixon Girls' Basketball Tournament at the Tennessee School for the Deaf in Knoxville last Saturday.

Evans encouraged students to attend the trip in order to immerse themselves within the Deaf world and practice their signing with others.

"Whenever I have the opportunity to see my students utilize a skill I taught, it truly warms my heart," Evans said. "Having opportunities to interact with native speakers of the language is a huge part of fluency. I am so proud of how each of [the students] represented Lee University and our Deaf studies minor."

During the basketball game, the ASL group met Adrain, a deaf graduate student, currently studying Deaf education at the University of Tennessee Knoxville. He joined the students for lunch at Mellow Mushroom where their sign language skills were tested.

"It [was] a little nerve-wracking just because you're trying to figure out 'Do I know the sign for that?' and 'Can I understand them?'" senior Hannah Hazard said. "I could have stayed there for hours [and] I liked being able to talk with him as a college student. He's at our level."

Senior Haley Alley thoroughly enjoyed signing with Adrain, which was her first experience signing with a deaf person.

"The best part was going to lunch and getting to talk to him...I felt really good about myself because I was able to keep up for the most part," Alley said. "He liked it when we asked questions [and] he was willing to work with [us], which made me totally comfortable."

Adrain, who has been deaf all of his life, liked interacting with the group.

"I think it's awesome that they are trying to learn a new language," Adrain said. "[Sara] is proud of her signing students."

Evans said that she loved seeing the students' reactions as they were signing with Adrain.

"I thanked God for placing him on those bleachers in front of us. Even when one of [them] didn't understand, no one freaked out or gave up,"  Evans said. "Each of [them] was determined and eager and that showed on [their] faces."

Lee University currently offers a Deaf studies minor, consisting of four foreign language, two lecture, and two language-based courses. As the minor develops, new classes involving Deaf ministry and church interpreting may be included.

Students involved with ASL on Lee's campus can fulfill their foreign language requirements, but can also enjoy discovering many aspects of Deaf culture as they foster love and respect for the Deaf community.

"It is a beautiful language. Through ASL we are able to appreciate the Deaf world," Evans said. "ASL is still so misunderstood as is the Deaf community, [and] the only way to clear up those misconceptions, is through learning and education."

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