Q: Tell us why you chose American Sign Language for your Language Block.
A: Honestly, it was partly because it was cheap! I was living in Vancouver at the time so I didn’t have to pay for travel to and accommodation in another country. But that’s only part of it. I’ve been interested in Deaf culture for a while and this was an opportunity to dive into a whole way of life/art/media/language right in my city.
Q: What were the benefits of Immersion? Would you recommend it?
A: I’d absolutely recommend immersion. It’s the only way I can learn another language. Also, the immersion experience with ASL was interesting because of the explicit power dynamics. Spoken language is prioritized in our society. Often when people think of languages, they think of spoken or verbal languages. To confront this bias and consciously flip the hierarchy in the classroom was important.
Q: What was the most challenging thing about the Immersion? What was the best thing about it?
A: The challenges of immersion were just the challenges of changing any deep habit – to make it conscious. The urge to slip back into spoken language when it was hard to get your point across, or when you wanted to communicate quicker than your ASL skill level, was deep and we had to continually be conscious of prioritizing and respecting our teacher’s language.
The best part was noticing how your brain does begin to shift into a different mode of language. I didn’t ever want to listen to a podcast or the radio on my journey home after class because my brain wasn’t in the mode of spoken language.
Q: Do you have plans to use the language in your career, or other life path you plan to pursue?
A: Not at the moment but I think it is a great skill to have basic ASL. Now my friend group can be broader, my professional presence can be more inclusive, and I can enjoy ASL media (there are some very cool Deaf YouTubers).
Q: Do you have any advice for students exploring their language requirement? Any things you would definitely do the same or definitely do differently?
A: I wouldn’t wait until the very end to do my language. I would do ASL in Vancouver over again. As someone who doesn’t feel confident in learning other languages it was frustrating that Quest required this of us. But after my ASL experience, I’m glad Quest pushes you to have a certain level of another language.