American Sign Language… Talking Without Saying a Word

By: Rayshon Walker

American Sign Language is a foreign language class offered here at Whetstone High School. It is also available to be taken as a college class. This is so that Whetstone students can earn college credit while still in high school.

American Sign Language, also known as ASL, is a way to communicate with deaf people in a community. Many students at Whetstone have expanded their knowledge and muscle memory of ASL.

Caleb Sperling, an ASL student in his second year, is taking ASL so he can better communicate with his deaf mother. Sperling thinks ASL is quite easy due to the fact that he has already been exposed to it many times.

Caleb has experienced learning little parts of different languages but he is more passionate about ASL than any other language. Sperling uses his ASL skills to interact and sign with deaf students from The Ohio School for the Deaf as well as his mother.

“American Sign Language is the ability to communicate with deaf people through using your hands,” Caleb said. Many students at Whetstone are eager to learn ASL simply because it’s a very interesting and beautiful language.

Mrs. Karen Riggs, the American Sign Language teacher, taught three years at Upper Arlington High School and this is her fifth year at Whetstone. When she first arrived at Whetstone, the American Sign Language program was brand new. Many students were clueless about ASL and what it was. Now more people are interested in ASL and are wanting to take the class.

Mrs. Riggs believes many students first took the class because either they were placed in it or because they hadn’t done well in French or Spanish. “I think a lot of kids take it because they want careers where they might use it, they have family or friends who are deaf, or they’ve had friends or siblings who have taken the class,” Mrs. Riggs said.

Riggs is thrilled ASL is taught in schools as a foreign language. She feels Whetstone has been very involved and supportive of the program. “Nationally more students are taking ASL, but there aren’t a lot of schools in central Ohio that offer it,” Mrs. Riggs said.

Mrs. Riggs does not believe her class is easy because there is no written form of ASL. It is hard for many students to learn to rely on their eyes for communication instead of their ears and mouth. There’s also a lot of culture to learn.

ASL is the third or fourth most widely used language in America. Ever since Ohio School for the Deaf has been here in Columbus, there is a large population of deaf people who use ASL in our community.

There are many students at Whetstone who absolutely love the American Sign Language program. They strive to spread the word about it often.

Seth Bragg, an ASL student also in his second year has always been interested in deaf culture. It is his goal to successfully learn how to communicate with people who are unable to hear.

Seth would not prefer any other language to ASL. “I love ASL very much and it has taught me a lot that will never be forgotten,” Bragg said.

Before taking an American Sign Language class, Seth Bragg was unaware that there were different types of hearing loss, from hard of hearing to deaf. Seth is glad he is learning ASL and believes it is very important.

Bragg strives to use American Sign Language as much as possible. Oftentimes Seth communicates with his older brother, who also took the class, in sign language.

Overall, American Sign Language is a unique language that is a type of communication for deaf people and people in general who want to learn to communicate with the deaf community.

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