ASL orientation introduces students to program

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Interpreting 3 Instructor Debbie Watkins assists students with a signing exercise Tuesday in Nail. The students were signing and interpreting American Sign Language and signed English to distinguish the difference in sentence structure. Photo by Alison Graef

Interpreting 3 Instructor Debbie Watkins assists students with a signing exercise Tuesday in Nail. The students were signing and interpreting American Sign Language and signed English to distinguish the difference in sentence structure. Photo by Alison Graef

Correction: The date for the ASL orientation is incorrect in the story below. It is Oct. 7.

Faculty hope to recruit majors and describe career opportunities.

By Alison Graef

sac-ranger@alamo.edu

ASL interpreting sophomore Olivia Guardiola became interested in deaf culture in high school when she befriended a girl whose parents were deaf.

“She said her first language was sign language, and I was intrigued,” Guardiola said.

This college’s department of American Sign Language and interpreter training hopes to intrigue students into majoring in ASL interpreting. ASL will host a program orientation 10 a.m.-noon Saturday in Room 116 of Nail Technical Center.

Chair Lauri Metcalf will describe what ASL interpreters do, why they are needed, the process of becoming one and what program expenses a student should plan for.

The orientation targets both current students and anyone who might be interested in joining or learning more about the program.

ASL Professor Melody Hull said it is also a reminder for current ASL students of the purpose of the program and what the career possibilities are.

Hull said she hopes some students who are currently only taking ASL for a language credit may become inspired by the orientation to look into becoming an interpreter.

“The hope is that they realize they can be an interpreter, that they get inspired, curious,” Hull said.

Though the orientation is for a mostly hearing audience, interns will serve as interpreters to practice at a live event. Interpreting is a unique skill because an interpreter must simultaneously hear and sign information.

“Interpreters have to be able to multitask,” Hull said.

Attendees are not required to RSVP. “If we have to get more chairs, we’ll get more chairs,” Hull said.

The department is unique because students are encouraged to not speak in the hallways. There are designated areas for verbal conversation, but the goal is to keep the language inclusive for deaf students, faculty and staff, and for it to be an immersive experience.

“Whatever your language is, you can go to Mexico and be immersed there, or Germany and be immersed there. But there is no Deaf-land,” Hull said.

Guardiola met her friend’s parents, who were happy to share their knowledge of ASL with her. She later came to this college to pursue an ASL degree and was surprised to find out that her friend’s father works in the department.

Guardiola said she found community there and would have given up years ago without the support of the faculty, staff and students.

“I’ve gone through a lot of hiccups in life. I wouldn’t be where I am if it weren’t for the people here,” Guardiola said.

The ASL interpreting program awards an associate degree; Guardiola said it is more common for students to take four years to complete it because of the rigorous standards. She said faculty and staff want students here to graduate fully prepared to work professionally in their field.

“They’re putting people out there who know what they’re doing,” Guardiola said.

The program is worth the hard work, Guardiola said. She jokingly warned that students can become enthralled after taking ASL 1 and end up changing their career paths to ASL interpreting.

“It’s kind of like an addiction,” Guardiola said. “Because you get into ASL 1 and learn some signs, but then you want more. … And if you’ve taken ASL 1 and 2 for fun, then you may as well take ASL 3 and change your major.”

Guardiola encourages interested students to try a class.

“If you have an interest, take the class and just fall in love and realize there’s no going back.”

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