A passion for signing: ASL teacher loves bridging gulf between deaf, hearing communities - American Press (2022)

Published 4:49 am Sunday, April 3, 2022

By Crystal Stevenson

A passion for signing: ASL teacher loves bridging gulf between deaf, hearing communities - American Press (1)
American Sign Language teacher Tarold Gallien

American Sign Language is more than a form of communication. It’s a culture.

That’s what Lake Charles native and LaGrange High School graduate Tarold Gallien teaches his students at both Westside High School in Houston and Houston Community College.

(Video) Through Deaf Eyes

“ASL is a community with a culture that has a rich history and it’s impossible to learn the language without learning the history of deaf people, of their struggle, of why things are signed the way they are,” he said through an ASL interpreter. “Learning about deaf culture, deaf behaviors, comparing between deaf signers and hearing signers, there’s even Black sign language. You have various dialects of sign language and it’s tied to cultures and that demographic.”

Gallien said in order to learn the language, one must learn its culture.

“I had the opportunity to study Mexican sign language and after eating, breathing and sleeping that language for weeks, you really do take on the culture and the feel of the people when you learn the language,” he said. “It’s not just sign after sign after sign, there’s so much involved and that’s what I try to instill into my students. If you want to learn, that’s what you’re expected to do.”

Gallien’s own journey as a deaf person has equipped him with a unique perspective on life that he said he uses to help his students — both hearing and non-hearing — gain confidence in their own learning abilities.

“When you read a book you don’t study one word at a time, you take the text as a whole. That’s what I try to convey to my students. Don’t focus on sign after sign after sign, focus on the context and the message,” he said. “When we’re trying to sign using nonverbal communication we use our body as a means to communicate as well — like your facial expression and the shape of your hands,” he said. “For example, the word ‘ball.’ There is a sign for it, but the way your face is expressed, you can express joy. You don’t want to be stoic signing word for word. It’s hard to communicate that way. The message would come across, but there’s no flavor, so to speak. Signing ‘ball’ with an excited face adds more to the language and depth. Rather than communicating words, you’re communicating thoughts.”

Though he’s found himself in a profession he’s passionate about, Gallien said he initially hesitated when he considered teaching as a career.

“I remember when I was younger being voted ‘Most Likely to Become a Teacher’ and I always thought that was interesting,” he said. “That’s not something I initially sought out to do but as the years went by and I went to college the idea crossed my mind and I thought maybe I would go into education. But then I thought, ‘No, I’m going to take a business class and go into accounting. Maybe I’ll pursue another field.’ But the more I tried things out and took other courses I realized that business wasn’t for me, it wasn’t something that suited me.”

Gallien said he changed his field of study to interior design, which he said “suited his style” but ultimately didn’t leave him as fulfilled as he had hoped.

(Video) Rap God in sign language at the 2018 Firefly Music Festival

“I tried out social work and it was great because I worked with people and it’s similar to a teaching profession, but I felt like I lacked the motivation or the drive to continue,” he said. “Social workers have so many responsibilities and the job can be so stressful and I asked myself if this was something I wanted to commit to.”

It wasn’t.

“I found myself in the communication field and that’s when I decided that was my passion and I’m going to follow my gut and it seemed to be going well,” he said.

During his senior year at Gallaudet University in Washington, D.C., he completed a three-month internship at Black Entertainment Television and after graduation he relocated to Austin, Texas, and worked as a dorm counselor at a deaf school.

“I was looking at my environment and watching the teachers and seeing what they do and I noticed I had this internal dilemma — I loved communication studies but out in the real world it’s a tough profession. I tried a few things and bounced around from job to job, struggling to find something that suited me.”

He decided to return to his home state and the Louisiana School for the Deaf — a school he once attended himself.

“I didn’t have my certification at that time, but I was able to get a feel for it and see if teaching would be something I enjoy and I did,” he said. “I worked there for six years and that was kind of like my sabbatical. I was looking for myself and by the end I was able to decide on teaching as my profession, specifically geared toward deaf education.”

He said in social work he dealt with pre-existing problems, but in education he found he was teaching his students how to get a jump start on those problems and develop the skills and education necessary to solve them.

“As soon as I got certified and got my degree I started working and I never looked back. I’ve been an ASL teacher for 21 years, I’ve also worked as a teacher in deaf education and I’ve also worked in high school with hearing students. It’s a challenge, but over the course of my career and especially in these last five years working with hearing students and teaching them ASL I really enjoy seeing students succeed and being a good role model to show students my perspective.”

He said his favorite experience so far is working with deaf students to help them gain confidence in their learning ability and seeing the moment when things click for them.

(Video) Supporting the Student with Hearing Impairment and Autism in the Classroom: Practical Solutions.

“Drawing that out of students has been a highlight,” he said. “I like helping students to not be complacent and to do more and to do better. I feel like when I compare the different roles I’ve had the privilege of having, I feel like this is the most fulfilling.”

Gallien said when he was a student, his communication options were limited.

“Times have definitely changed,” he said. “I really wish I had texting on my side to be able to help me communicate; I had pen and paper.”

He said he’s also wise on the type of pranks his students try to get away with.

“I was a silly boy once, too, and I tried some of those things myself. They’ll ask, ‘How did you know?’ and I’ll say, “Oh I know, I know.’ I’ve learned to be more aware and I feel like my own experiences at school and my own learning experiences in the world have taught me to be more savvy, so to speak.”

Gallien said during the pandemic, he felt the world had turned upside down.

“We were preparing for spring break and then all of the sudden everything is remote and we’re preparing for virtual learning,” he said. “That was a big challenge, transitioning to everything being on a computer and my thoughts were, ‘How am I going to connect to the students through a screen?’ There were a lot of challenges but I took it slow and I made sure I communicated with the students and I made sure their cameras were on during class because we needed to see each other to connect. We were able to find some sort of groove and I utilized what I had. We made it work, but I’m glad to be back teaching in person.”

Gallien said he loves being able to bridge the gulf between the deaf and hearing communities.

“Life is about being open-minded to embrace new culture and experiences and to be amenable to change,” he said. “That’s what I share with my students and my life is very fulfilling.”

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What is the ASL for teacher? ›

Teacher in Sign Language

Bring both hands up to the fore head. Touch the fingertips to the thumb and hold the hands palm down. Bring the hands forward a couple of inches. Then sign person.

Is there a universal sign language? ›

There is no universal sign language. Different sign languages are used in different countries or regions. For example, British Sign Language (BSL) is a different language from ASL, and Americans who know ASL may not understand BSL. Some countries adopt features of ASL in their sign languages.

Why should I learn ASL? ›

Being proficient in ASL allows you to communicate with a wide range of hearing, hard of hearing, and deaf individuals—including students in mainstream and deaf school or university programs and deaf or hard of hearing residents and business people in your community.

How many years does it take to become fluent in ASL? ›

Overall, it can take several years of regular study and practice to become fluent in sign language. It may take from three months to three years to learn sign language. Moreover, it's all about your learning goal setting, and it all depends on your end goal.

How many hours does it take to become fluent in ASL? ›

If so, you might be surprised to learn that learning the basics of ASL can take just 60 to 90-hours. By comparison, learning a new spoken language like French can take anywhere from three to six months.

What is the most used sign language in the world? ›

American Sign Language (ASL) is the most widely-used sign language around the world. Signers are spread across the USA and Canada, as well as parts of Mexico, Africa, and Asia. It developed when French Sign Language (FSL) was brought over to the USA in 1817 by Thomas Gallaudet and Laurent Clerc.

What language is closest to ASL? ›

ASL is most closely related to French Sign Language (LSF). It has been proposed that ASL is a creole language of LSF, although ASL shows features atypical of creole languages, such as agglutinative morphology.

Which sign language is most common? ›

ASL, short for American Sign Language, is the sign language most commonly used by the Deaf and Hard of Hearing people in the United States. Approximately more than a half-million people throughout the US (1) use ASL to communicate as their native language.

Why is ASL important to the Deaf community? ›

When someone you love can't hear, ASL is a great way to communicate in a rich, meaningful way. It's also the best way to develop awareness and sensitivity to the Deaf culture, a community of non-hearing individuals which number more than one million in the United States alone.

What is the hardest part about learning ASL? ›

One of the challenges people face when learning American sign language (ASL) is that it requires them to stop "thinking straight English" and rely on abstraction and other skills to communicate both dynamically and accurately.

Is ASL a valuable skill? ›

Learning sign language is crucial for those who are deaf or hearing impaired, as well as their friends and family members. But, what many people may not realize is that sign language can be a valuable life skill for just about anyone to develop.

How hard is it to master ASL? ›

Individual signs are relatively easy to learn. Like any spoken language, ASL is a language with its own unique rules of grammar and syntax. To learn enough signs for basic communication and to sign them comfortably, can take a year or more.

Is ASL harder than spoken language? ›

It's at least as difficult. Sign languages have the same complexity and abstraction that spoken languages do. Some of the signs are iconic (i.e., they look like what they describe), but most aren't. The grammars of sign languages have syntax, morphology, phonology--- all the tricky bits of spoken languages.

Is ASL difficult to master? ›

Sign language is one of the easiest languages to learn. So many of the signs are commonplace gestures. Children pick up on the signs quickly and are eager to use them. The fact that it is easy helps encourage the learning.

Can you learn ASL in 6 months? ›

Learning fundamental American Sign Language (ASL) can be accomplished in as little as 60-90 hours. In contrast, this could take approximately 6 (3 – credit) ASL courses spread out over two to three years to go from beginner to intermediate proficiency.

Can I learn ASL on my own? ›

There are numerous ways to learn American Sign Language (ASL) outside the old classroom method. From free online lessons to video tutorials, a world of possibilities is open for those aspiring to teach themselves this hands-on language.

How do I become fluent in ASL? ›

  1. Take a sign language class. ...
  2. Learn online by watching videos. ...
  3. Join a sign language group, deaf club or visit a deaf café ...
  4. Take an online course. ...
  5. Hire a private, qualified sign language tutor. ...
  6. Watch and mimic interpreters. ...
  7. Ask your Deaf friends and family teach you. ...
  8. Use an App.
1 Jun 2020

Which sign language is easiest? ›

If you live in the United States, the signed language that would be easiest for you to learn is American Sign Language. It's the only signed language that is commonly taught in U.S. colleges, and it's by far the most commonly used signed language that is used by members of the Deaf community in the U.S.

What is unique about sign language? ›

American Sign Language, also known as ASL, is a form of communication that contains a complete vocabulary and grammar but is expressed through physical movements of the hands and arms rather than speech. ASL offers an option for deaf, hearing-impaired, and hearing individuals to communicate with each other.

How many people are fluent in ASL? ›

Approximately 250,000 – 500,000 people of all ages throughout the US and Canada use this language to communicate as their native language. ASL is the third most commonly used language in the United States, after English and Spanish.

What is easier to learn ASL or BSL? ›

I don't think one is intrinsically easier to learn than the other, but there are more resources out there for ASL learners than for BSL learners so ASL is probably easier to learn from a practical perspective (assuming we are comparing 'learning ASL in an ASL-speaking country' with 'learning BSL in a BSL-speaking ...

What makes ASL different from other languages? ›

ASL has many ways of combining into a single sign complex meanings that can only be expressed with a sequence of words in English. This is one of the many differences between ASL grammar and English grammar. ASL does not lack grammar; it has a grammar of its own that is different from that of English.

What language do deaf people think in? ›

Primarily though, most completely deaf people think in sign language. Similar to how an “inner voice” of a hearing person is experienced in one's own voice, a completely deaf person sees or, more aptly, feels themselves signing in their head as they “talk” in their heads.

Do most deaf people know ASL? ›

That's because not all deaf and hard-of-hearing people know sign language. In fact, of the 48 million people in the United States with hearing loss, less than 500,000 — or about 1% — use sign language. Hearing loss is a spectrum, with varying types of loss and communication strategies.

Should I learn Spanish or ASL? ›

If you're an auditory learner, you'll probably find it easier to learn Spanish than ASL, which is spoken in the visual modality. But if you're a visual learner, you might find ASL to be easier to learn.

What are the 3 types of sign language? ›

Not a Universal Language

Interestingly, most countries that share the same spoken language do not necessarily have the same sign language as each other. English for example, has three varieties: American Sign Language (ASL), British Sign Language (BSL) and Australian Sign Language (Auslan).

What makes the Deaf community unique? ›

The American Deaf community values American Sign Language as the core of a culturally Deaf identity. Through ASL, members are given a unique medium for personal expression, a spatial and visual language that does not require the use of sound and emphasizes hands, faces, bodies and eyes.

Why is Deaf culture important for deaf education? ›

It is highly valued by the Deaf community because it's visually accessible. Values in the Deaf community include the importance of clear communication for all both in terms of expression and comprehension. Deaf residential schools and Deaf clubs are important because of the natural social interaction they offer.

How does ASL benefit hearing people? ›

In addition to spelling, ASL also enhances other things in hearing people such as small motor skills, behavior, and widens vocabulary.

Is it worth to learn ASL? ›

Knowing ASL gives you a way to build relationships with countless deaf people and a way to enjoy the richness of the Deaf community nationwide. Beyond communicating with deaf friends, ASL is also a surprisingly versatile language.

Is it fun to learn ASL? ›

2. As trite as this may sound, ASL is FUN! To learn to express your ideas, a concept, your feelings in such a physical way……it's fun, creative and really not difficult to learn. A good teacher will help explain the history behind the signs which makes them easier to remember.

How many levels of ASL are there? ›

Students may complete all ASL course work (ASL levels 1-5), Advanced Conversational ASL (ASLS 214) and Pre-Interpreting Skills (INTR 216) prior to obtaining their ASLPI score. How do I sign up?

Is ASL in high demand? ›

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics expects the employment of interpreters and translators to grow 24% from 2020 to 2030. This is much faster than the average for all other occupations. The BLS predicts an increased demand for ASL interpreters in particular as more organizations use video relay services.

Is ASL a good career? ›

As more hearing and deaf people learn sign language, the range of careers open to that skill has broadened. In fact, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics says a career as an interpreter is growing much faster than average, with 19% growth predicted through 2028.

Does ASL look good on a resume? ›

It should not do any harm. Even if the job is not directly related to deaf people, if the job you are applying for involves dealing with the American public, it could be a useful skill occasionally. If the job is not public facing, you could still mention it in the hobbies/interests section of the CV.

What is ALS teacher? ›

What is Alternative Learning System or ALS? It is a parallel learning system in the Philippines that provides a practical option to the existing formal instruction. When one does not have or cannot access formal education in schools, ALS is an alternate or substitute.

What is the symbol of a good teacher? ›

Teachers and apples have gone hand-in-hand since the 1700s. As you head off for your children's first day of school, you may notice bright red apples decorating the classroom. This little crimson fruit has become one of the many symbols associated with schools all over the world.

What are the 3 types of ASL? ›

There are three major forms of Sign Language currently used in the United States: American Sign (ASL), Pidgin Signed English (PSE), and Signed Exact English (SEE). ASL is used by many deaf in the United States, thus its use promotes assimilation into the Deaf Community.

What is a good email signature for a teacher? ›

What details should email signature for teachers include? Your email signature should include basic personal information like first name, last name and job title. You can also add the name of a school subject you teach, which will be especially helpful when communicating with students' parents.

Which is the best greeting for an email to a teacher? ›

Begin your email with a greeting addressing the professor politely, such as "Dear Professor Smith" or "Hi Dr. Jones". After your message, end with a closing and signature, such as "Sincerely, YourName" or "Thanks, YourName". If the professor does not know you well, use your full name.

Do ALS teachers required a license? ›

To qualify as an ALS volunteer, the applicant must be a licensed teacher (LET passer), a resident of the target community/division and has the ability to speak the local language.

How long is the training in ALS education? ›

B. Learning Delivery
ALS ProgramProgram Duration
Lower Elementary Level (EL)approximately 4-5 months
Advanced ELapproximately 8-10 months
Junior High School (JHS)approximately 2 years
Senior High School (SHS)ALS SHS curriculum for issuance – in the interim, learners will complete the 2 year formal SHS program
1 more row
25 Jun 2019

Can ALS graduate go to college 2022? ›

1. As early as 2016, ICC has a formal documentation addressed to the govt specifying that ALS Passers & Grade 10 completers can enroll as 1st Year College students. 2.

What 3 important qualities must teachers have? ›

Some qualities of a good teacher include skills in communication, listening, collaboration, adaptability, empathy and patience. Other characteristics of effective teaching include an engaging classroom presence, value in real-world learning, exchange of best practices and a lifelong love of learning.

What inspired me to become a teacher? ›

Many teachers discover that their love of children draws them to teaching, or that their own love of learning makes them passionate about teaching. Some teachers enter the profession because they're eager to make a difference—people tend to remember their teachers for an entire lifetime, long after school is over.

What makes a teacher unique? ›

Teachers are often warm, caring, and open individuals, who help students feel comfortable in the classroom. Students should feel safe to share their ideas in a supportive learning environment. What distinguishes mediocre teachers from good ones is the ability to create this sense of belonging.

Is ASL hard to learn? ›

Sign language is one of the easiest languages to learn. So many of the signs are commonplace gestures. Children pick up on the signs quickly and are eager to use them. The fact that it is easy helps encourage the learning.


1. Protecting and Interpreting Deaf Culture | Glenna Cooper | TEDxTulsaCC
(TEDx Talks)
2. Public hearing 29: The experience of culturally and linguistically diverse communities - Day 2
(Disability Royal Commission)
3. How To Sign In BASL (Black American Sign Language) | Strong Black Lead
(Still Watching Netflix)
4. Sign language is bridging the gap in Brooklyn.
(PIX11 News)
5. Celebrating and preserving Black American Sign Language
(ABC News)
6. Deaf Poets Society | Douglas Ridloff | TEDxVienna
(TEDx Talks)

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