Coffee Nights let SBCC students practice American sign language

Image+courtesy+of+the+American+Sign+Language+%28ASL%29+Club+at+Santa+Barbara+City+College.

Image courtesy of the American Sign Language (ASL) Club at Santa Barbara City College.

SEBTASTIAN HERICS, Channels Staff

Grasping a new language is never easy, especially when you’re not allowed to speak.

Students learning American Sign Language met last Wednesday at the Starbucks in the Five Points Mall to practice signing with other students and some members of the deaf community.

“How ASL is taught, you don’t talk,” said Daniel Newton, a third semester student at City College. “You’re forced to learn it.”

About a dozen students have been going to Coffee Nights, the cozy event held at Starbucks, every week since the beginning of the semester.

“It’s one way to get a lot better,” Newton said. ASL classes at the City College require students to attend deaf events or meetings organized by the ASL Club on campus.

“When I took 101, it was very nerve-racking to come here,” said Newton. But by the end of his first night he realized that, “everyone here is so nice. You’re being taught.”

In the deaf community, it is rude to speak vocally when those hard of hearing or deaf are around you, and you will know it. With a cultural mentality like that, students feel that they must at least try and speak with ASL.

Those who are deaf and hard of hearing make sure to sign slowly so newcomers can understand. If anything, “they get upset if you say you understood, but really didn’t,” said Newton. “Fun language, fun people.”

The ASL Club also hosts other events, like bowling, to try and connect students that are learning the language. They also act as a volunteer group on occasions. In every case, the club tries to make it fun for everyone.

“The ASL community brought you in,” said Kayla Schwind, another City College student. She recalled staying and talking at the first Coffee Night she attended for three hours.

ASL is not as difficult as other languages because it still uses the English language, so students do not have to learn verb changes or tenses.

Newton explained that ASL is only spoken in the present tense, and he enjoyed the language much more than others he had tried to learn before.

He self-taught last summer before class, and recalled how much harder Spanish was in high school. After watching Youtube videos of signers, he “just kind of fell in love with it.” He was captivated by the body and facial expressions when people signed, similar to Allie Scudelari’s experience.

“I miss theater, and so I found this!” said Scudelari, the vice president of the ASL Club. “I fell in love with it. It’s a common thing.” She also mentioned the pros of learning ASL.

“You can talk in a crowded room…. Another plus is there are no ‘ums’ or ‘wells.’”

Scudelari also remarked that as a student, she felt comfortable at Coffee Nights and the deaf culture that comes with it.

“They would help you understand sign language more,” Scudelari said. The deaf community is also “weirdly honest,” and makes it fun to converse.

Coffee Nights create a small sort of family for students.

ASL Coffee Nights are every Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. at the Starbucks in Five Points Mall, and are always open to the public. No previous experience is required.