Breaking The Sign Language Barrier
Del Mar College’s Story Of American Sign Language Class for Spanish Speakers Goes Viral
CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — A short video about American Sign Language classes for Spanish speakers recently spread like a firestorm on Del Mar College’s Facebook page, shattering by a wide margin the college’s previous records for responses to a social media post.
“This story really resonated here in South Texas,” said Jason Houlihan, social and media specialist at Del Mar. “It’s about some incredible people. Some of these deaf children have never spoken with their parents. It’s like they’re being understood for the first time.”
More than 115,000 people saw the video on Facebook ( http://bit.ly/2Faz65O), with over 1,100 shares and over 6,000 reactions, including comments and likes, Houlihan said. It was shared by viewers as far away as New York City and Monterrey, Mexico.
The video is based on a news release ( http://bit.ly/2CvI6ML) written by Melinda Eddleman, Del Mar’s associate director of media relations:
For Linda Lugo, volunteering to teach parents and grandparents to communicate with their deaf youth in Spanish using American Sign Language is a labor of love. The adjunct instructor with Del Mar College’s American Sign Language & Interpreting Program is a certified deaf education teacher who works with Webb Elementary third- through fifthgraders with the local school district’s Regional Day School Program for the Deaf.
Lugo also is deaf. “Through interpreting by Lucy James, associate professor and director of the College’s ASL & Interpreting Program, Lugo signed, ‘I grew up with my mother only speaking Spanish, even before she passed away, so it was always a struggle for me to communicate with her since American Sign Language was only taught in English.
Although ASL may be taught in Spanish in some places now, the materials are still in English,” Lugo noted, adding, “Because only Spanish was spoken in their households, many of my students at Webb Elementary came to me and expressed, ‘I need for Mom and Dad to sign with me.’” That revelation brought Corpus Christi Independent School District and Del Mar College together to offer as a community service a free 15-week class for parents, grandparents and even caregivers to learn American Sign Language in Spanish. The district is offering the course while DMC is providing the West Campus venue since these families live close by.
The class is held Tuesday nights, with participants building on what they’ve learned during the previous class. Lugo teaches the course while two Del Mar ASL & Interpreting Program graduates, Santiago “Jim” Galvan and Mari Rivera, assist with the class as certified interpreters who are also fluent in Spanish.
“It’s not easy for Spanish-speaking parents to learn American Sign Language because, in general, all of our materials use written English,” James said. “This class is using written and spoken Spanish to provide some basic sign language communication for these families who have deaf children.”
Lugo said that six to eight families participate each week. As the third time to meet on Feb. 6, the class included 22 individuals learning signing for conversational Spanish.
Iris Garcia-Estrada, mother of seven-year-old Hector Estrada, speaks fluent English and Spanish but explained that the class was a perfect opportunity to get her deaf son’s grandparents involved with communicating with him.
“Before this class, it was only the parents communicating with Hector using ASL in our household.
We now have a sense of community because his grandparents are involved,” she said.
Roughly 2 to 3 out of every 1,000 children in the United States are born with a detectable level of hearing loss in one or both ears, and more than 90 percent of deaf children are born to hearing parents, according to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders ( http://bit.ly/1R6Ssm0).
James estimates that between 150 and 225 youth under age 18 with hearing loss live in Corpus Christi.
“If half or more of those youth live in predominately Spanish-speaking families, we have a large number of families who haven’t had easy access to learn sign language in order to communicate with their children,” she noted.
Lugo added, “Communicating with your children is important no matter the language.
Without communication, there’s nothing.”