Now, thanks to free American Sign Language classes at Georgia School For the Deaf, Albert may need that pad of paper a little less. And he’s thrilled that there are those in the community who are making an effort to step into his world for just a little while.
“I believe the people in our community will be thrilled when a hearing person takes ASL classes,” Albert said. “It means we can communicate with each other a little easier.”
Georgia School for the Deaf, located in Cave Spring, will offer the classes at its campus. The intermediate class begins Sept. 10 and the basic class begins Sept. 11. The classes run through the third week of December.
Dean Evans, a certified ASL interpreter, is the staff interpreter at GSD and will be the instructor. A textbook is provided for each class at no charge.
“Anyone can give it a try,” Evans said. “I think ASL is a wonderful language to learn. It’s very expressive and it taps you into a community and culture you may not have had the chance to interact with.”
Evans said there are several reasons to take the classes. Someone you know — a family member or friend — may be deaf. Or you may simply want to learn a new language. There may even be career opportunities for those with ASL skills.
“If someone is truly curious and puts forth effort, anyone can learn this language,” he added.
The basic class will cover a variety of topics, introducing basic vocabulary about each topic — the building blocks of the language. After completing the class, students can expect to have a simple conversation with a deaf person, exchanging personal information, and telling a bit about themselves.
“The intermediate class covers more advanced concepts of the grammar, develops vocabulary and there’s a lot more immersion in the language,” Evans said.
Both classes rely on deaf community members as well as Evans’ deaf friends and coworkers who come to the classes and interact with students.
Rome resident Lynette Godfrey took the basic ALS classes and is about to take the intermediate class.
“I’ve wanted to sign for years,” she said. “I’m studying to be a speech language pathologist and wanted to truly learn ASL. I shadow the speech language pathologist at GSD and fell in love with the kids there. Learning sign language will allow me to be able to volunteer more.”
Godfrey said as a small child she learned the ASL alphabet but that was the extent of her knowledge going into the basic class. Now she can have rudimentary conversations and said when she tries to communicate with deaf members of the community she has only been met with kindness, patience and a very accommodating audience.
“They definitely appreciate the effort,” she said. “The are always so kind and patient with me.”
Godfrey said her 21-year-old daughter will be joining her in the class. During the basic class she took her 12-year-old son and said he caught on immediately, much quicker than she did.
“My experience when I meet someone who is trying to learn sign language is I have more patience with them,” Albert said. “I think we (the deaf community) feel a lot of respect for hearing people who try to communicate with deaf people. It’s a lot more fun. And if we can communicate then we can become friends, we can go to restaurants or meet socially. There aren’t as many barriers there.”
The free American Sign Language classes begin Sept. 10 (intermediate) and Sept. 11 (basic). The intermediate classes take place each Monday from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. while the basic classes take place each Tuesday at the same time. All classes will take place on campus at Georgia School for the Deaf and will be taught by Dean Evans, a certified ASL interpreter.
Both classes run through the third week of December. Free textbooks will be provided.