By Danielle Fielder, Ka Lā staff writer
The American Sign Language (ASL) instructor, Cory Park, hopes his class will help more students learn about deaf culture. This is Park’s second semester at Honolulu Community College (HonCC).
Before coming to HonCC, Park had a lot of experience signing, but little experience in front of a classroom. Park is a CODA, or Child of a Deaf Adult, and worked as an ASL tutor and teacher assistant.
Park also took sign language classes at BYU Hawaii, which he said gave him a better understanding in how the language works and provided a foundation for his own teaching.
Now, Park teaches two classes at HonCC, ASL 101 and ASL 102, and hopes to eventually offer more ASL classes in the future. He says his favorite part about teaching is being able to express himself through sign and see his students learn or “make those connections, have those ‘aha’ moments.”
Malia Wheeler, a Liberal Arts major and student in Parkʻs ASL 101 class, recommends the class and thinks Park is a great teacher. “Iʻve definitely met a lot of deaf people, and seeing their face light up when you can actually sign with them is the best thing,” she says. “I think everyone should take at least one class, and more if they enjoy it, which I know they will.”
Park’s father is deaf and his mother is a nationally certified ASL interpreter, so ASL is one of his primary languages. Growing up as the child of a deaf man, Park says, “life was normal” and does not recall many moments when people were rude to his father. Park says that everyone thought his ability to sign and his father being deaf was unique. In high school he started an ASL club and he began informally teach his peers ASL.
Park believes hearing people should learn ASL in order to understand the culture and communicate with people. “You never know when it could come in handy, whether you’re at school or work or wherever you might be,” he said. “They’re everywhere, we just don’t see them.” Although ASL is a language, it is also a culture for many hearing impaired, CODAs, ASL interpreters, and sign language enthusiasts everywhere.
The most important advice Park would give to someone trying to learn ASL for the first time is, “first off, know that it’s not English” and “don’t be afraid to go out of your comfort zone.”
If you ever meet a deaf person and aren’t sure what to do, Park says, “don’t make any assumptions or biases. Don’t think that because they’re deaf or because they can’t hear, that it means that they can’t do other things. Just show them the same courtesy you would anyone else. Be respectful and try to accommodate their needs.”