A sign to communicate

 Skyline sign language teacher William Wong. ()

Skyline sign language teacher William Wong. ()

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William Wong may not use his vocal cords, but he has a voice. As an American Sign Language (ASL) teacher here at Skyline, he speaks out on the prejudice sometimes given to the Deaf community.

Wong stresses that deaf and hearing people are, except for hearing, exactly the same. He rejects the medical view that others place on the Deaf community.

“Hopefully they’ll change their perspective,” he wrote. “They (will) just pay respect to Deaf people as their lingual and cultural (backgrounds).”

Wong was born deaf in Hong Kong and lived there for 20 years. He attended an oral school for the hard-of-hearing there, and wasn’t even allowed to use sign language in the classroom.

Wong never liked learning to speak or reading lips, as misunderstandings were inevitable. Instead, he talked with deaf students using sign language during recess while playing basketball, soccer and ping-pong.

When Wong moved to the United States in 1975, he had to learn a whole new sign language, since each country has its own form of signing. He has taught ASL for 17 years, writes that he finds teaching both challenging and rewarding.

“The students are wonderful,” he writes.

Wong says his students are very patient and good at paying attention, despite the fact that he doesn’t use his own voice. He says it’s not always easy to pick up on ASL, but he says that he doesn’t mind repeating signing until his students understand. In difficult situations, he’ll sometimes write things on the board to clarify.

ASL student Charlene Lau says class was confusing in the beginning, “but it’s kind of like charades. You eventually figure it out.”

Many times, personal situations in the students’ lives give them the push to pick up the language, despite difficulties in the beginning of the course. Different students in Wong’s ASL class have their own various motivations in learning ASL.

Student Nancy Sessa wanted to take sign language because her niece has apraxia, a nervous system disorder which affects the ability to speak. She says that like any language, it’s easy enough if you study.

“Even right away,” she said, “it’s helping me communicate with my niece.”

Fellow student Regina Choy says that she just wanted to learn something that other people hadn’t tried.

“Because [Mr. Wong] is deaf, it forces us to understand it,” she said.

Choy really enjoys the class and said that more people should take it.

“The teacher is awesome.”

Wong is very happy to be teaching sign language here at Skyline College.

“We Deaf teachers are very grateful that ASL classes are offered in colleges [and] universities across the U.S.,” Wong concluded. “Because students learn to use ASL, they may change their perspectives about the Deaf community and schools and not use the medical view to judge people.”