In the meeting rooms of the Gordon B. Hinckley Building, lively discussions are taking place, but you won’t be able to hear them.
While American Sign Language is not offered as a class at BYU-Idaho, experienced ASL speakers hold a workshop every Tuesday at 7 p.m. to teach hearing people how to communicate with those who are hard of hearing or deaf.
According to the Rochester Institute of Technology, around 11 million people are deaf or suffer from some sort of hearing loss. Although exact estimates are hard to come by, StartASL and other sources claim ASL is the third most spoken language in the United States.
Using presentations and lessons, the American Sign Language Workshop uses its weekly meeting to teach participants the speech of the deaf community. How can students take advantage of this opportunity?
Davin Glenn, a junior studying public health and the organizer of the workshop, encourages all students who are interested to come and join in the learning experience.
“We try to be a workshop where anybody at any level can come in,” Glenn said.
Glenn has now taught the workshop for a little over a year, and said it has been one of the most rewarding experiences he’s had. When students come, they learn from prepared lessons that are meant to teach them the basics of ASL. Glenn, along with other fluent participants, teach and guide beginners.
Each semester, the ASL Workshop starts teaching the bare basics of the language, starting with fingerspelling, using the alphabet to spell out each word, and then moving into telling complex stories by the end of the term.
“Unfortunately, I can’t just cover the basics every week,” Glenn said. “Then, everyone can get bored. I kind of have to build off of it from each week by week.”
While the room the group meets in is usually full, the workshop suffered great losses from the COVID-19 pandemic. Pre-COVID, attendance consistently numbered around 50–60 people. In the wake of BYU-I suspending on-campus activities, weekly numbers plummeted to under 10 attendees. However, more people have started coming to practice their skills with many excited students.
“It’s a great opportunity to learn more about sign language and connect with others that have the same desire,” said Dayna White, a sophomore studying business finance.
White had the chance to learn ASL at community college and practice on her mission. She is eager to attend the workshop to practice her skills in the coming spring semester.
As the participants of the workshop slowly nurse the program back to full strength, they are hopeful it will sustain itself into the distant future.