New club brings sign of change


Olivia Kilby, editor-in-chief

American Sign Language (ASL), is the fourth most popular language in America after English, Spanish, and Chinese. The language is largely known by those who are deaf or mute, but rarely by those who are able to speak. Freshman Claire Stewart has been learning ASL for the last couple years. She was inspired by her ASL teacher who started a club in Derby. Her teacher’s influence led her to the creation of Kapaun Mt. Carmel’s own ASL club. Her goal is to teach the club members the basics of ASL and to have the ability to exchange dialogue in the future.

“I want to be able to teach them how to, if they ever met a deaf person, to carry a little bit of conversation because that means the world to them,” said Stewart.

The club boasts about thirty members, and is led by Stewart with the help of world language teacher Liana Wagle, who is also learning along with the members. The meetings consist of warm-ups, refreshing over signs that were taught from the previous meeting, learning new signs and practicing with each other. Stewart uses her own hands to demonstrate and teach the signs in-person, she also uses videos to help. They get together about once a week to learn not only the language, but the culture behind ASL.

The club learns about the differences in the deaf community. They learn how some people choose to identify as a “Big D”, or someone who only uses ASL to communicate instead of implants or reading lips, or to identify as a “Little d”, or someone who uses implants or hearing aids, reads lips, and speaks.

The club educates themselves on the difference between the two identities in order to communicate in the best way possible.

It is important for someone who is interested in learning ASL to practice. The language can be very complicated. However, the club provides plenty of practice opportunities. Members learn how one hand signal can have multiple different movements, all with unique meanings. Junior Addie Sloan, an ASL club member, says the hand movements are one of the most difficult things to learn.

“The hardest thing about learning sign language is you have to be very careful in your hand movements,” Sloan said. “Any mess up and you can completely mess up the meaning of the sentence.”

Some members are learning ASL for the first time, others have had some previous exposure. Sloan joined to enhance her knowledge on the language.

“Over quarantine I began to learn, but when I saw a club I decided to join to learn more from an actual instructor,” said Sloan.

Junior Paddy Olsen decided to join to learn ASL from scratch.

“I’m currently in a play with the founder, Clare Steward,” said Olsen. “She seemed really excited about it and so I and a few other friends decided to join.”

Learning ASL may seem intimidating. However, Sloan finds it easier than other languages.

“ASL is definitely easier to learn than other languages,” Sloan says. “You basically just have to put the basic noun and verbs together to create a sentence.”

The ASL club is a great extracurricular group for someone to join if they are interested in learning a new skill and challenging themselves.