Members of Keene State’s Owl Sign Language (OSL) club have started on their mission to spread deaf awareness throughout campus and the community. As a newfound club, members of this team encourage other students to join them on their journey to spread awareness and of course learn sign language.
As the Treasurer of the club, Tristam Patoine explained, that although not everyone in the club is experienced, they all have great interest in learning sign language as well as being gathered around to hang out and relax as a united group. Tristam said, “It’s not structured as a class, it’s more of a come as you go type of environment.”. Regardless whether this is structured as a class or not, they do have minor lesson plans to help students better understand and engage more into the subject, such as setting up planned meetings and asking students what they would like to learn.
The sign language club is administered by Beth Zinn, who has also taken a great interest in American Sign Language (ASL). Zinn started learning sign language about two years ago through music. Zinn’s motivation and excitement towards the OSL club has already raised more attention towards the subject then she had originally expected. After representing the club for one semester, Zinn already knows that she has spread interest towards multiple peers.
Zinn said, “some know more than others”, which is okay. Nobody in the club so far is fluent in ASL. Zinn said, “We would love it if we could generate enough interest for the club to become a class.”. The end goal of this club is not for it to become a class, but to hopefully interest enough people and spread enough awareness for the club to rise to the top and become a course students could take for credit.
According to the World Federation of the Deaf, there are about 70 million people who use sign language as their first language. Sign language, however, is not universal. While America and parts of Canada might use ASL, the deaf community in other parts of the world such as the U.K. uses British Sign Language, or BSL. According to the New York Foundling, “There are estimated to be over 300 signed languages currently in use around the world”.
Keene States ASL club welcomes anyone who has any interest at all to join the team. The ASL club has no set curriculum, but looks forward to teaching other students what it is like to know and have experience in another language different than any other in the world. ASL uses hand gestures instead of voice to communicate, which is what makes this language so unique and what makes others eager to learn it.
Julia Hawkins can be contacted at