American Sign Language course connects students with new community



Brian Harward staff writer
It’s a silent class. On one hand, it’s taught in complete silence; on the other, it’s a class that not many students know exists. It’s American Sign Language class.
American Sign Language (ASL) is taught in two hour chunks twice a week. It fulfills the school’s foreign language requirement, yet the first year ASL course has only five enrolled students compared to the hundreds of students enrolled in Spanish, French and Hebrew. The higher level course, ASL 2, meets for two hours twice a week, has 14 students and is taught by a completely deaf professor. According to those enrolled, the school isn’t doing enough to advertise it as an option.
“I’m really sad about how the school doesn’t show that ASL exists how they do for Spanish or Hebrew; this class is almost hidden and the benefits outweigh all the negatives,” junior Max Lisitsa said.
ASL 1 is a dual-enrollment with West LA Community College and is taught by professor Esteban Gomez, who learned ASL 11 years ago. Although the enrollment is smaller than last year, Gomez pushed to teach the class again.
“I really enjoyed last semester, so I came back even though it was a small class because the students are amazing and really dedicated,” Gomez said.
Gomez learned the language in college and instantly fell in love with it. He teaches the course in the same way he was taught it a decade ago.
“I start the class just signing, and you’re like, ‘I don’t know any of this,’ but then it becomes a good way to learn; it helps you make your own interpretation,” Gomez said.

According to senior Gina Kim, one of the students enrolled in ASL 1, this style of teaching can be difficult, but also makes the class engaging and rewarding.
“It’s the only non-verbal language, so it can be difficult, but the class itself is so fun that it goes by really quickly,” Kim said.
After becoming more advanced in the language, students are able to begin connecting with the nearly one million people who speak ASL.
“There are events called deaf events, and it’s where deaf people and ASL students get together and communicate and learn, so students get to take what they learn in the classroom into the real world,” Gomez said.
This idea of connecting with new communities that were previously hidden is one of the things that makes learning ASL so special to some of the students in the class.
“My favorite part about it is that you can go down the street, and you can see people who probably know French or Spanish,” Lisitsa said. “But with ASL, it’s kind of like a hidden language. You can connect with people who you couldn’t before.”
ASL 1 is offered Mondays and Wednesdays from 3:20 p.m. to 5:20 pm in V-20. It gives foreign language credit for high school and college. Talk to your counselor to enroll in the class for next semester.