Special Report: Living Deaf Part 2
There are many people around the area who are deaf or hard of hearing. It’s a Northland culture that thrives in silence.
“It has everything that any other language has. Just a different mode of delivery”
Sign language is a beautiful language, so expressive and so unique.
“I actually fell in love with it by the second week. And I made it my minor like a week later,” said UMD Senior Kendra Brolsma.
It’s not an easy task becoming bilingual.
“Sometimes I teach the very beginners and they never knew a single sign or anything and they’re struggling,” said Joanne Langdon, Sign Language Instructor.
But semester after semester brings great change.
“When I get them back at 5 its like, oh yeah- you continued, you’re communications. That’s great, that’s really cool and wonderful,” said Langdon.
It takes years of dedication and work to learn another language, but the reward is so positive.
It’s no wonder the Deaf Studies minor at UMD is the second most enrolled minor.
“And as a hearing person, it’s also important for me to help students understand what our role can be as ally to the Deaf community,” said Nancy Diener, Assistant Professor of ASL.
And though that community may be small…
“To be honest, everything I need is here in Duluth, when I request an interpreter, most of the time 90 percent of the time they fill that request immediately,” said Langdon.
Plenty of services are provided, though there’s always room for more art in the Northland.
“More theatre, more art and culture that was accessible and as a deaf person to be able to go to those, that’s what I would enjoy,” said Langdon.
But something the small deaf community can boast about is a large family feel.
“And at Sammy’s it’s like everytime you go there, everyone will like want to stand in line to hug my boys to make sure they are welcomed. It’s like they’re children of the deaf community, it’s like they have all these aunts and uncles,” said Justin Small, Sign Language Instructor.
Every third Thursday of the month, 20 to 50 people meet up at Sammy’s to grab a slice and chat.
“It’s really nice to see the deaf community there because we’re often far apart and isolated and there we can get together in one place and catch up with each other,” said Small.
It’s meet-ups like these where talented students can immerse themselves in the deaf community.
“You can’t get good if you don’t practice”
And of course that means no voice.
“So I walk up and tell them, you have to stand in the corner because you’re using your voice here. There’s no talking here,” said Jack Bender, Northland Deaf Culture Member.
And in doing so, dedicated students reach quite a milestone.
“My name is Kendra, and my sign is…” said Brolsma.
A name sign, a physical or figurative characteristic representing someone, somewhat like a nickname.
“And giving them their name sign is a sign of welcoming them into the deaf community and honoring them for their time spent learning the language and their time learning about deaf culture”
Language and communication students can use in linking cultures together.
“I’m just really hoping I can open my students eyes to a different culture.”
Though relatively new at UMD, deaf education will forever be connected with quite an established Northland community.