Friday, April 17, 2015

Deaf woman helps ASL community
By Kayla A. Swenson

Ruth Macari watched her husband’s lips as he asked her what time the neighbors would be over. She signed back in American Sign Language, 6:00.

While college enrollment in ASL courses is on the rise Macari helps serve her deaf community by leading her Mormon ASL woman’s relief society and often interpreting for the deaf.

Although Macari suffers from profound hearing loss she tries to bridge the gap between the hearing and the deaf through her translating efforts.

“Before I could sign, I missed so much, and felt like "half of a person," Macari said.

In her past Macari has worked at a California school for the deaf and is currently tutoring ASL classes at Utah State University. She never gets tired of what she does, calling ASL, “a service language.”

When Macari was eight years old she got in a car crash that resulted in immediate hearing loss. Soon after she learned how to lip-read because she wasn’t taught ASL in her school.

“In my deaf and hard of hearing school they really didn’t want hard of hearing kids signing,” she said. “They were afraid we would stop talking.”

Because of school restrictions Macari didn’t learn ASL until she was fifteen when she attended a summer camp for deaf and hard of hearing kids.

“I understand communication in ASL much more clearly, than when I was lip-reading and sort-of-maybe-hearing what was going on around me,” she said.

“I felt like a whole person again,” Macari said.

A few years after learning ASL Macari and her husband Thomas Macari moved to California where she started working at DCARA a deaf, counseling, advocacy and referral agency.

That is when Ruth Macari started interpreting for deaf people.

“How a deaf person interprets for the deaf is an interesting story,” said Thomas Macari.

He then explained to me how his wife would sometimes find herself in interviews helping deaf people find jobs with hearing people.

“It not easy,” said Ruth Macari. “If the circumstances were right and things were quiet I could get enough from the hearing person to tell the deaf person what was being said.”

Macari is happy that more and more students are making efforts to learn ASL.

“Learning the language of the deaf is potentially a service to us,” she said.

“Hearing people generally have a choice about learning a foreign language, but for the deaf, sign language is the only language that works!” 

Next year Macari will continue helping the deaf community progress as she tutors students learning ASL and helps strengthen her church family through leadership roles.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Bridge program extends DLI programs to high schools
By Kayla A. Swenson

Students enrolled in Utah Dual Language Immersion programs may be able to take college language credits in high school starting in the fall of 2016. The new addition is called the Bridge program.
The Bridge program will give DLI students the opportunity to take the Advanced Placement exam as freshmen and with a passing grade, advance to college language classes in high school. Bridge program graduates will leave high school with a minor’s degree in their target language.
“It’s more like a reward system for the students,”said Chemaris Ethington, a high school Spanish teacher who is researching the progress of the Bridge program. “There will be three college credits offered each semester in 10th, 11th and 12th grade.”
The Bridge program is an extension of state DLI programs where elementary students spend half of their day learning core curriculum in the target language and the other half in English.

“The students are immersed in the program since first grade and by the time they get to sixth grade they will have the equivalent of Spanish 2 at a high school level,” Chemaris said.

“By 9th grade their proficiency is the same as an undergraduate student in the language,” she said. “The Bridge program gives the student the chance to continue studying.”
In 2008, the Utah Senate passed the International Initiatives Bill providing school districts with the funding to start immersion programs in Chinese, Spanish and French. The idea of a bridge program for high schools was just beginning.

“It’s groundbreaking,” said Tempe Mabe, a student studying to be a  dual language immersion teacher. “With the bridge program, students really will be able to learn to communicate on numerous levels.”

On March 20,  seven of Utah’s major institutions met to discuss the implementation of the Bridge program.
Ethington attended the meeting and said that they discussed how college language professors would be selected to teach DLI students and what courses would be taught.

The institutions are considering offering three 3000 level courses in 2016: Spanish film, culture and Spanish for the proficience. The professors chosen to teach in the Bridge program but have a PHD and experience teaching.
“It’s not set in stone because the universities have to approve it,” Ethington said. “They have to essentially be in the same boat.”
It is crucial that all the universities agree so that the language credit will be received at any university.

While the Bridge program is still in the planning stages, Ethington said she is excited for the chance to teach at the high school level but teach university classes.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Students prepare a symposium on Dual Language Immersion programs
By Kayla A. Swenson

Students at Utah State University will be giving a dual language immersion presentation at the research symposium this Friday. The symposium will be hosted by the department of languages, philosophy and communication studies.

Last year the department added two linguistics classes that instruct students on teaching in DLI classrooms. Maria Louisa Spicer-Escalante, a Professor of Linguistics and Spanish, teaches both classes presenting at the symposium.

“I’m excited about the symposium,” said Tempe Mabe, a graduate student in the DLI class. “I think that a lot of people don’t know about the Dual Language Immersion program here in Utah. Most people don’t know that it’s growing.”

Utah’s Dual Language Immersion programs include a 50/50 module where elementary-high school students spend half of their day learning core subjects in the target language and the other half in English.

“We have five languages, 25,000 students and 118 programs in Spanish, Chinese, French, Portuguese and German and we are going to start in the fall with Russian,” Spicer-Escalante said on the immersion programs in Utah.

Throughout the semester students in the DLI linguistics classes have been researching the different modules of immersion programs around the world as well as exploring the politics that affect implementation.

“A lot of people still support English only education,” Mabe said. “I’m from Iowa and I had never heard about dual language immersion programs until I came to Utah.”

Most of the students presenting at the symposium are elementary education and secondary education majors. Recently they have switched their focus to becoming dual language immersion teachers.

Michelle Pfost, an Elementary Education major, learned French while serving an LDS mission in France.

“I love the French language so much I thought that well, I will combine both loves: teaching and the French language,” Pfost said.

For the past semester she has been student teaching the French immersion class at Providence Elementary. Next year, Pfost will teach third graders in the French dual language immersion program at Diamond Ridge Elementary in West Valley.

To end the symposium Pfost will give a presentation regarding reflections on teaching and learning in the DLI programs.

“DLI is a very current thing that could be applicable to students who are getting married soon, starting a family soon and considering what they want to do for their children in the future,” said Elizabeth Abell, the moderator of the presentation.

The Symposium will be held this Friday from 3:00-6:30 p.m. in Old Main.

Monday, April 13, 2015

English Language Center adds writing class
By Kayla A. Swenson

The English Language Center of Cache Valley added a new writing course to the syllabus this semester. The course was designed with the intent to help advanced students further their English education and prepare for the university.

“If the students learn how to write well then their speech skills will also advance,” said Angie Francis, the teacher of the writing course.

Francis said that because the class is so new she is making the curriculum up as she goes. She said that right now the students are learning how to write notes such as thank you notes.

“I think many learn English and speak a little, but when we write English we can’t spell right,” said Bella Boci a writing student from Shanghai, China.

The class has 18 students from China, Japan, Taiwan, Vietnam, Iraq, Iran, Palestine and Libya.

Ronda Kingsford, a coordinator of the center said that there were many students who wanted to take the class but there wasn’t enough room to accept them all.

“We don’t teach writing in the other classes as much as we should,” said Francis. “The students need to know how to write a resume and email. They need to be able to stand out and advance where they want to.”

Many of the students enrolled in the new writing class are preparing to take the TOEFL - the test of English as a foreign language. The exam includes writing prompts that challenge the student’s vocabulary and knowledge of sentence structure.

To enroll at a university non-English speaking students must past the TOEFL.

“Writing is difficult because English logic is the opposite of Chinese logic,” Boci said on preparing to taking the TOEFL. “In English one word can be many things and the sentence is difficult because of the logic.”

Francis said that the students struggle with spelling because English words are not always spelt the way they sound. Right now she is focusing on teaching her students how to brainstorm.

“When I give them a prompt I have to help them brainstorm,” Francis said. “They are processing so much and then they have to translate their thoughts to a different language.”

“They are very intelligent students and it is very fun to see their point of view in their writing,” Francis said.

The nonprofit English Language center offers writing classes every Monday and Wednesday from 12:45-2:45.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Mormon ASL congregation worships together for 18 years
By Kayla A. Swenson

Ursula Jaussi the organist of the Mormon Cache Valley sign language branch began to play a soft hymn. Her fingers hit the chords and the congregation waited to feel the vibration. They raised their hands in unison and began to sing with their fingers.

This Sunday the LDS Cache Valley sign language branch reflected on 18 years of worship services. In 1997 the small branch held its first Sunday meetings in a Logan chapel. Now the branch has 70 deaf members attending from as far as Bear Lake.

“It’s made all the difference,” said Ruth Macari a member of the deaf branch. “Before we went to a deaf branch I’d sit in the front row and I would try so hard to figure out what they were saying that I couldn’t feel the spirit.”

During the worship services a projector magnifies the speaker on a screen above the pulpit so that all members can see the signs. The branch also has three interpreters for visitors who can’t sign.

Macari said that the deaf branch has provided her with the freedom to relax, watch the signs and feel uplifted by the sermons.

“She was an outsider in the hearing ward,” said Thomas Macari, the husband of Ruth Macari. “In the deaf branch she is the relief society president where she can use all of her skills.”

Ruth Macari and other members have enjoyed leadership callings that allow them to give back to their church family. She said that now she can be directly involved in service to the church. 

“I like to be hanging around the deaf people because it is the same language and we feel comfortable,” said Pablo Nieves, a high counselor who looks over the branch.

Members of the deaf branch feel united as they openly communicate with one another. Bishop Doyle Page, the President of the branch said he is grateful for a church family that speaks and teaches in his language.

“When I finally understand the signing I learn a lot about the gospel,” Page said.

Page said that his faith has been built on signs.

“When I am alone I pray in sign language and I can feel that God understands me,” Page said.