IM this article to a friend!

March 25, 2003

BSU students sign on to Deaf Awareness Week

From: Ball State Daily News, IN - Mar 25, 2003

by Tara Clifton, Chief Reporter
March 25, 2003

A group of students engrossed themselves in conversation at the Student Center Monday night.

But nobody spoke a word.

The students were there as part of Ball State's American Sign Language Club, and participated in the kickoff event to Deaf Awareness Week, "A Night For the Kids."

However, no children were present.

A clown came and activities to teach children about the DEAF culture were planned, but the little tykes were nowhere to be found. But that didn't mean the night ended.

Nobody knew why kids did not show up to the event after being invited through local schools, junior Mandy Curran, secretary of ASL, said. But the evening was not wasted. About 15 Ball State students attended.

Members and other students played games where spoken language was outlawed.

For example, in one activity, students paired up and were each given a card with an emotion written upon it and taped the card to a partner's back. One would have to act out the emotion described on his or her partner's card so the other would be able to figure out what was taped to his or her own back.

Monday's event was just the beginning of a week of events that is intended to raise awareness of DEAF culture, Curran said.

"We have deaf students on campus, and if you ever come in contact with one (you learn) it's an entirely different culture that is beautiful," Curran said.

One aspect of DEAF culture focuses on how terminology is used, said senior Matt Arnold, president of ASL. When referring to a person's medical condition, that person is deaf, Arnold said. When talking about a person's culture, that person is a member of the DEAF culture.

DEAF culture centers on using ASL, which separates them from those who use Sign in Exact English, Arnold said.

SEE uses signs for words like 'the', 'a' and even for '-ing' Arnold said.

ASL users also have different ways of behaving.

"ASL has different ways to get attention," Arnold said. Touching and patting the shoulders of strangers, for example, is not considered offensive, Arnold said. Stomping on floors is another acceptable way to draw attention to oneself.

These methods are linked to a deaf person's outgoing nature, Arnold said.

"Deaf people are big on socializing," Arnold said. "(Deaf people) are a minority so we are small and close knit. We think, 'There's a friend who knows my language.'"

Knowing that language requires memorizing grammar rules that are just as intricate and complex as spoken English, Arnold said.

"It's a whole other language," Arnold said.

Each geographical area has sign differences that are similar to dialects, Arnold said.

For example, the word for Texas has two different signs depending on whether you are in Texas or Indiana, Arnold said.

Curran, a deaf and elementary education major, said her interest in learning sign language and about the DEAF culture began during her senior year in high school.

Curran participated in an ASL class through distance learning where she was able to shadow a deaf person for a day, she said.

"I fell in love (with the language)," Curran said.

And she has been hooked on learning the language and culture ever since, Curran said.

Both Arnold and Curran said they hope that students will be able to learn these and other nuances of sign language, as well as understanding the DEAF culture, through more events this week.

"I am a person that wants to continue learning stuff," Arnold said. "And I'm always learning (in ASL club)."

© 2003 The Ball State Daily News