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American Sign Language students spent a day immersed in deaf culture and communication during an all-day workshop Saturday at Spartanburg Community College.
The workshop, called ASLville, is designed to give students who are taking ASL classes a chance to interact with members of the deaf community and spend an entire day communicating only in ASL
“Today was amazing,” said Marilyn Maxwell, a studio art major. “Since I’m still a beginner, I messed up a couple of times, but everyone here was very forgiving of that and helped lead me along so I wouldn’t feel intimidated.”
Students spent the first part of the day in classes learning how to use facial expressions and body language, in addition to ASL, to effectively communicate. In the afternoon, students took what they had learned and applied it to real-life situations.
“You get to understand the language better. It’s really the best,” said Russ Gribble, an ASL instructor at Gardner-Webb University, through an interpreter. “You can memorize a language, but you’re never going to understand that language if you don’t know how to do the language correctly. If you speak a language, you can hear it, but when you see it, it’s a different area of your brain for visual language. You have to build those synapses in your brain better.
Because ASLville takes the immersion experience seriously, the SCC Library and Learning Resource Center was completely silent. Anyone caught talking was taken to ASLville “jail.”
Around the center, various “stores” were set up. On the first floor, tables depicted a post office and a library, and the concession stand stood in for a restaurant. Upstairs, classrooms were transformed into sporting goods, hardware and toy stores.
Students were given worksheets with question prompts on them ranging from the simple to the more complex, depending on their proficiency. At each "store," students had to go in and ask for items.
“The best way to learn almost anything in life — but especially a language — is to immerse yourself in it. To be with our wonderful deaf community here in Spartanburg,” said Connie Perry-Godoy, an SCC student in the interpreting program
Purple Communications, a Greenville company, had a room set up to show students what it was like for a deaf person to make a phone call. Jessica Lamb, the center supervisor, called her dad using a video phone.
On her end, Lamb could see an interpreter at a call center. The interpreter called Lamb’s father, identified herself and acted as the translator for the conversation. Lamb signed to the interpreter, who then relayed the information to Lamb’s father.
CeCe Milligan, a former SCC student and current student at the University of South Carolina, was working at one of the ASLville “stores.” She said through an interpreter that she volunteered in 2011 and really enjoyed it. When she saw ASLville was still being held, she wanted to be part of it again.
Milligan worked with ASL students at several different levels who asked her about items in the sporting goods store she ran.
“I feel like this kind of program helps ASL students,” Milligan said. “It helps them understand the culture behind ASL — the variety and the language — and to be able to be part of that and come into our world and see it firsthand. I think it’s a great benefit for them to switch hats from their normal hearing world. They realize some barriers we may have and whatnot through the experiences that we’ve had, so I think it really benefits their own learning.”