Students learn American Sign Language as foreign language - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Students learn American Sign Language as foreign language

Hannah Chigawa Hannah Chigawa
Brittney Kong Brittney Kong
Emilia Daquioag Emilia Daquioag
Sergio Robles Sergio Robles

By Cindy Cha - bio | email

MANOA (KHNL) - When you think of taking a foreign language, most people think of Japanese, Spanish or French.

But here in Hawaii, one school offers a foreign language you communicate not with your mouth, but with your hands.

Students at St. Francis school are learning American Sign Language. It is one of the few schools in Hawaii that offers it.

It's very quite in Ms. Daquioag's American Sign Language class. The only noise is the jingles from a key chain she wears around her neck.

She's teaching the basics, finger spelling. Playing games like Hangman helps.

"You have to learn things in different ways like writing it down or finger spelling it for you," said student Hannah Chigawa.

"We learn by watching her, she'll sign, there's different signs for everything," said student Brittney Kong.

None of these students are deaf, however, Ms. Daquioag is. That's why she says teaching a group of hearing students to sign is exciting.

"My students are really good, they're very energetic, you have to calm them down, but they're different, their speaking is different," said Ms. Daquioag through a student interpreter.

American Sign Language was introduced to students at St. Francis several years ago, and like all foreign languages, there's a culture.

"We have a textbook we're reading like how to react to deaf people and how to treat them in their community," Brittney said.  "Before knowing the deaf culture, I didn't know anything about it."

Assistant principal Sergio Robles says he's pleased with the program and the success of the students.

"I know that a couple of our students after they graduated, they're working as a translator so they're doing a very good job," said Robles.

And that's just what Ms. Daquioag wants to hear.

According to the Disability and Communication Access Board in Honolulu, there are more than 40,000 people in Hawaii who are deaf or hard of hearing.

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