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January 27, 2003

Teacher: Sign language good for all

From: Chambersburg Public Opinion, PA - 27 Jan 2003

Signing course at Career Center is available to public

Staff writer

Just about everyone can benefit from learning sign language, according to Marilyn Eshleman, an educational interpreter at the Lincoln Intermediate Unit.

Teachers can better communicate with their deaf students by signing and police and health care workers can help deaf people in distress by knowing the basics, Eshleman said.

Eshleman teaches a course in basic sign language for the general public at the Franklin County Area Career and Technology Center, Chambersburg.

Classes for the upcoming session begin Tuesday and continue through April.

"This is the first class you should take if you are interested in sign language," she said.

Participants learn the alphabet and to communicate with a deaf person in an emergency or on a basic level.

Phrases such as "Are you sick?" "Do you need help?" and "Can you understand me?" are taught.

"They also learn to say 'slow down' because people sign fast when they are upset or confused," Eshleman said.

The sign language course sponsored by the LIU has been offered at the career center for at least 18 years, she said. The LIU provides education for special needs students.

Eshleman has taught the course three or four times, she said.

The class is also appropriate for those who may have learned the basics before but need a refresher course, she said.

"If you don't use it, you lose it," she said.

For those with a background in sign language, Eshleman said she will spend time getting them up to speed and then let them move on at their own pace.

Like spoken language, sign language is dynamic and new signs for new words continue to be developed.

There are also different signs for regional slang, Eshleman said.

"There are at least seven different signs for picnic," she said.

The sign language course is open to anyone, but Eshleman said she doesn't speak Spanish so those with limited English may have difficulty with the course.

Eshleman said she can adapt the curriculum to accommodate participants who have arthritis by using a form of sign language with limited movement similar to signs taught to infants.

The fee for the 10-week sign language course is $50 and $12 for the book. Sessions are from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. and are scheduled for Tuesday, Feb. 4, 11, 18 and 25, March 4, 11, 18 and 25, and April 1.

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