Learning to speak without words

Gena Mendez, Reporter

At U-High students have the option to take an independent study. One of the available topics is sign language.

For seniors Sydney Auth and Savannah Taylor, junior Ella Gordon, and sophomore Molly Adams, sign language was an independent study they all took an interest in.

“I kind of never lost the fascination that you could communicate to people without using your voice,” Auth said.

Auth remembered a girl in her kindergarten class who was deaf and how being around this new type of communication opened her eyes. Auth is looking into a career in adolescent psychology and thinks having a background with sign language can be beneficial down the road.

Both Taylor and Adams want to explore careers that would incorporate the use of sign language as well. Taylor has always been interested in Deaf culture and wants to become a speech therapist.

“I think communication is crucial and your options are limited it you only know one language,” Taylor said.

Adams wants to sign for a career as an interpreter in a courtroom or a specialty lawyer.

“You’re not always going to find someone who can speak your language,” Adams said.

Adams has already experienced an encounter at the flower shop she works at when a deaf customer came in and she was able to sign with them.  

“I thought it would be cool to learn about another culture,” Gordon said.

Gordon took an interest in sign language after thinking of how useful it could be in other situations throughout her entire life.

The class is taught in the U-Link by Nancy McCain. McCain has known sign language for over 44 years and has been teaching it for 41 years.

“I read the story of Helen Keller and that kind of inspired me. I knew I wanted to work with deaf people,” McCain said.

McCain also works with deaf children at Thomas Metcalf grade school.

McCain said that sign language is much more than just using a sign for what a person says.

“There is a misunderstanding about sign language,” McCain said. “Deaf people have a totally different culture.”

McCain teaches American Sign Language (ASL), Signing Exact English (SEE), and Pidgin which is a combination of ASL and SEE. SEE is a sign language based on the way English is spoken and many teachers use it for instruction of class. ASL is the most popular type of sign language and is a more visual language with hand signing combined with facial expression.

“The grammar of American Sign Language is very different from our grammar,” McCain said. “In English we would say “The water is running in the sink”, but in ASL you would say “Now water sink drip.” You have to learn their grammar as well as the signs,” McCain said.

McCain enjoys being able to work with a variety of students.

“It’s very rewarding to get to know different students, their backgrounds, and what they want to do with their future,” McCain said.