Radio Inspire

How To Learn Sign Language

American Sign Language at Princeton


[MUSIC] COLIN LUALDI ’17, Founder
of Princeton University ASL Club (PUASL), voiced by
BRYON ROWE, Interpreter: Honestly, when I was growing up,
I had no idea about Princeton. I remember, when I was
a junior in high school, I was making different trips. And we stopped to see Princeton
University for a visit. I really didn’t know
anything about it. I looked around at
Princeton, and I said, I really love it here. It’s really nice. BRIANA FREEMAN ’16,
PUASL Member: I became interested
in sign language when I was like a little kid. My dad was a police officer,
and he had an ASL dictionary. Me and my sister found it,
and we were like, oh, we should totally learn. This would be so cool. RAE PEREZ ’19, PUASL Social
Chair: My mom is actually Deaf. And so I grew up with a
hearing dad and a Deaf mom. And that is somewhat
unusual in Deaf culture. DANIEL GIFT ’17,
PUASL President: So I think one of the things
that I didn’t realize when I first came here and first
started learning about sign language was that it is a
distinct and unique language with its own separate syntax
and grammar and all of that. EILEEN FORESTAL,
Lecturer in Linguistics voiced by CRAIG
RIDGWAY, Interpreter: I’m looking at the
students as ambassadors for the Deaf community. ASL is a language, and they can
help to promote that concept. SARAH JANE LESLIE, Professor
and Director in Linguistics: About a year ago,
I was approached, as the director of linguistics,
to consider putting together a course on the
linguistics of ASL. The request came
through the Office of the Dean of the College. But the impetus behind
it was, of course, Colin, who’s been such a terrific
advocate for the Deaf community on campus. COLIN LUALDI, voiced by BRYON ROWE, Interpreter:
Deaf people tend to go to a new place — the first thing that they do is
they look for a Deaf community to get involved in
the Deaf community. They can develop
friends, and they can socialize and communicate. That’s how Deaf people do it. So if you went to
another country, you would meet Deaf
people, and you’d begin communicating with
them as best you can. When I arrived here
at Princeton, there was no Deaf community, so I
thought, what was I able to do? So I would develop my
own community here. So I had think about how
I could actually do that. So I taught people
sign, established an ASL club and different
activities and a social life. And this is my roommate. I remember how the
first day of school, when I actually met
Daniel, I looked at him and I was like, wow, OK. He’s a physics major as well. Cool. I’m a physics major. So that’s great. And we didn’t think anymore
about it after that. And then as things
went on, freshman year, he was learning to sign —
a little bit — honestly, not so great. But then the second
year and the third year, living in the same room — oh,
he has improved dramatically. His signing now is very fluent. It’s very impressive. DANIEL GIFT: So in the
“Linguistics of ASL” class, we talked a bunch
about in some circles today, sign languages are not
considered full languages, and that they have all
the aspects of a language. And so we’ve been
learning the details of that, why that
is, how that is, in the “Linguistics of ASL” class. And it’s been
really fascinating. EILEEN FORESTAL, voiced by
CRAIG RIDGWAY, Interpreter: I was thrilled to
teach this course. It’s really fascinating. It’s a nice dynamic. And they’re not
regular ASL users. Some know basic signs. So I had to figure out
how to teach American Sign Language and
linguistics to those that aren’t familiar with ASL. It is a challenge,
yet still fun. It’s a great group. COLIN LUALDI voiced by
BRYON ROWE, Interpreter: We have four or
five interpreters that are very dedicated
in making sure that I have full access here. And many of my classes, plus
also for other outside of class activities, sometimes,
they’re academically related. We have problem
solving meetings. Plus, there’s also
social events. And they will interpret for me. Sometimes, interpreters are
there all day, sometimes into the night. I have things that happen
later in the night. Even though the interpreters
are tired, they persevere. And I am very thankful for the
wonderful team of interpreters. ELIZABETH ERICKSON, Associate
Director, Disability Services: We actually created a
SharePoint site on which Colin is able to log in information
about the assignments, when the dates are, how
many interpreters he needs, and everything pertaining to
that particular assignment. This then generates
an email that goes out to select
interpreters, who receive that invitation
for an assignment. And then they let me know
of their availability. RAE PEREZ: I met him
during Princeton Preview. And I remember being so
excited that there was a Deaf person here and that I’d be able
to continue exploring the Deaf identity through him and through
other students on campus. And going to the ASL
tables every Wednesday and interacting with people
learning sign language, who already know sign
language — there’s a connection there, because
it’s almost a part of back home for me to talk to people
about Deaf culture and in sign language. It’s really interesting. BRIANA FREEMAN: So I think
learning ASL at Princeton is completely independent of
how many Deaf students there are at Princeton or if there are
any Deaf students at Princeton. I know I personally
am not learning Japanese and Korean to
talk to fellow students here necessarily,
though that is fun and that’s a great
way to learn more. COLIN LUALDI voiced by
BRYON ROWE, Interpreter: Sometimes, people may
approach me and ask, you’re the only Deaf student
here at Princeton University, does that make you feel isolated
or a lack of language access to communicate
with your friends? And I tell them, yes and no. Obviously, there is
a language barrier, because no one is able to
communicate in ASL fluently. So there’s a little bit of
loneliness and isolation with that, because it isn’t
complete language access. I must admit that
it’s not perfect. But at the same time,
I really feel satisfied with my social life
here, because I’ve met so many friends who
are really great people. And we’ve developed very
close friendships with them, and a really good connection. And that’s very satisfying. [MUSIC]

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