Learn a New Language – American Sign Language

Did you know that Wilson Community College offers American Sign Language (ASL) classes and has an Interpreter Education Program for sign language interpreters?

At WCC, we offer a degree and a certificate in the Interpreter Education Program.  The certificate is actually in Deaf Studies and for communication purposes only.  However, if you want to become a Sign Language Interpreter, the AAS Degree in Interpreter Education is required.

To add to the uniqueness of our Interpreting Education program, our primary instructor of ASL classes uses sign language as a sole means of communication. “The Interpreter Education Program opens up a whole new world for ‘Hearing’ people. They learn about a new culture, a history full of oppression and discrimination, and how Deaf people fought, and are still fighting for, their right to equal access to communication/information, which the majority of people access freely on a daily basis. Becoming an ASL Interpreter is a difficult task, but also extremely rewarding because you become the communication bridge that unites the ‘Hearing’ and ‘Deaf’ worlds,” said Catherine Johnson, Interpreter Education Instructor.

Deaf people are everywhere, and knowing American Sign Language (ASL) can help bridge a communication gap. Did you know that the Deaf community also has its own culture? Their cultural norms are very different from the “hearing” community. The units of ASL are composed of specific movements and shapes of the hands, arms, eyes, face, and body language. Do you know how to applaud in ASL? You move your hands back and forth in the air so they can see the applause. Do you know how to ask a “yes/no” question in ASL? You have to raise your eyebrows! ASL does not have a “vocal-auditory” component, meaning it is a silent language and does not use sound to communicate information. Hand, body, and facial movements serve as the ‘words’ and ‘voice intonation’. That’s why ASL is a visual language.

The ASL classrooms at Wilson Community College have their own particular design. All desks are arranged in a U-shaped pattern so the instructor and students can see one another while signing. Maintaining a clear visual connection with whoever is signing is extremely important both in learning ASL and in Deaf culture. Both the instructor and the students are completely silent during the entire class time, using only sign language to communicate. Students also learn how to communicate with one another without words.

“I took an ASL class at Johnston Community College when I was getting my Associate of Arts degree, and I absolutely fell in love with the Deaf language and culture. A friend told me about the interpreter program at Wilson Community College, and I just knew that’s what I wanted to do. My friend told me all about how immersive and rich the program was, and I have definitely found it to be so,” shared Abbagail Fry, ASL Interpreter Education student.

When asked why he chose to pursue a degree in Interpreter Education, Shaquille Goodson said, “I want to be able to communicate with the Deaf community.”  Since starting the classes, he says that learning sign language has changed his life.  He went on to share, “Learning the language makes me feel good.  It’s more than just signing; you have to understand the culture, the paralinguistics.  ASL has given me the strength to continue to grow.”

American Sign Language is the third most used language in the United States, and there is a high demand for sign language interpreters in all aspects of the employment arena. Sign language interpreters can work as educational interpreters or community sign language interpreters in various settings. In North Carolina, graduates with an AAS degree can expect to earn $30-$35 per hour as a free-lance interpreter. Upon passing the National Interpreter Certification test, the average pay can increase to $40-$50 per hour. But the most rewarding reason for becoming an interpreter is the privilege of being involved in the Deaf community.

If you’re interested in learning more about ASL courses or the Interpreter Education Program, contact Catherine Johnson at cjohnson@wilsoncc.edu or Dr. Sheril Roberts at sroberts@wilsoncc.edu.  You can also visit the Interpreter Education page.  #WilsonCC We make Wilson work.


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