By Heather Kuch
“Talk to the Hand” is the Ohio Wesleyan American Sign Language (ASL) Club which gives students the opportunity to learn a new skill in a variety of creative ways.
The club meets weekly to learn ASL, to gain an understanding for the deaf culture and to improve their signing abilities.
According to the ASL webpage, “ASL is a complete, complex language that employs signs made by moving the hands combined with facial expressions and postures of the body. It is the primary language of many North Americans who are deaf and is one of several communication options used by people who are deaf or hard-of-hearing.”
Junior Thomas Liwosz, the president of Talk to the Hand, said the club uses different techniques to help members learn sign language and to expand on the topics they know.
“At club we learn sets of signs and practice them,” Liwosz said.
“For example, we may pick the topic food or countries and the vocab will focus on that for the week. There is usually a game or activity that helps us learn and practice. We also may just practice conversation skill through story telling.”
Junior Stephanie Toole, treasurer of Talk to the Hand, agreed with Liwosz and said the club tries to cover a variety of areas of interest when they study ASL.
“We learn about different topics at each meeting, ranging from the alphabet and numbers (near the beginning of the semester), to classes and majors, as well as holiday-themed signs, like Halloween, for instance,” Toole said.
The club plans a variety of events throughout the year for members and OWU students. Liwosz said they have worked to share and improve their sign language skills though the use different art forms.
“So far this year we have attended a event at OSU to watch the performance of a deaf poet, and we learned to sign ‘Call Me Maybe’ to perform at Culture Fest,” Liwosz said. “We plan on learning another song this year, and there are other possible events, but nothing has been decided yet.”
Toole said the club does volunteer work in addition to hosting events to educate the campus community about the ASL.
“In the past, we have attended a basketball game at a deaf school, which we are hoping to do again this year,” Toole said. “We also participate in CultureFest each year to teach the OWU community more about deaf culture.”
Toole said the club has helped her to better understand the deaf community and to improve her signing abilities.
“I joined Talk to the Hand because speech and hearing is my sorority’s (Delta Zeta) philanthropy, so I was very interested in learning more about the deaf and hearing impaired and sign language,” Toole said.
“I have gained more knowledge about sign language and communicating with the deaf and hearing impaired since I joined, and I have also been able to meet some wonderful people through being a member of the club.”
Sophomore Megan Keppler agreed with Toole and said she joined the club because she has an interest in studying ASL.
“I joined the ASL club because I love learning new languages and knew that ASL could be quite interesting and useful,” Keppler said.
“What I am getting out of it is that I get to learn about a whole ‘nother culture that most people don’t think about and I can meet new people who I wouldn’t have otherwise.”
Liwosz said he joined the club because of his prior interest in ASL. He agreed with Toole about the club improving his signing abilities and said the club has taught him other skills as well.
“My interest in Talk to the Hand started because my mother taught me some signs and I took a course on sign language during my senior year of high school,” Liwosz said. “I have gained some leadership skills from ASL.”
He said the opporunity to take on a leadership role started two years ago.
“At the end of my freshman year, I was elected public relations officer and last year I was elected as ASL president. ASL has also helped me become a better teacher because I have been planning the meeting lessons, and sign language is being used more and more in education.”
Liwosz said the club has helped him to find new ways in which he can use sign language, which come in handy in his daily life.
“When I am struggling with studying for an exam, I sign my notes to myself and it always sticks better when I do that,” Liwosz said.
“Needless to say, when I am at a party with music blaring, it is easier to sign to my friends than to yell things at them they will never hear.”
The club meets on Wednesdays at 7 p.m. in the Welch TV lounge. Liwosz said all students are welcome to come regardless of their experience with sign language and attending meetings is not a requirement of membership.
“The important thing to remember is members can join at anytime and are always welcome,” Liwosz said.
“Even if they know no or little sign language or are advanced, everyone is welcome. We usually have between 5-10 members at a meeting, but there are a large number of students who follow club event and do not come to meetings because of other commitments.”