ASL talent show attracts both deaf, non-deaf students

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Performers sang songs by way of signs and told stories with motions and gestures at the American Sign Language Literature Talent Show Sept. 30.

The second annual ASL talent show at Dixie State University aimed to bring awareness to deaf culture. Featuring students who are deaf, community members and ASL students, acts at the talent show included a skit from the Disney film, “Hercules,” various jokes and stories.     

Jarin Nelsen, a junior integrated studies major from Fallon, Nevada, said the talent show was to help hearing people see what the culture of people who are deaf is really like. 

Nelsen led the talent show, reading off the names of the acts in ASL and performing as Hercules in the skit dressed in a toga made of gold-colored pillowcases. 

Having been deaf his entire life, Nelsen received help from his wife, Megean Nelsen, a sophomore biology major from Brigham City, to interpret for him after the talent show. 

Megean Nelsen founded the ASL club at DSU a few years ago to give students a place to practice ASL.

“Deaf culture is really big on storytelling,” Jarin Nelsen said in ASL. “That’s what we wanted to show at the talent show.”

Vivid facial expressions and elaborative mimes were used as much if not more than actual ASL in the storytelling.  

“Deaf people use large facial expressions to show their emotion as hearing people do with changing their tone and pitch,” said assistant ASL professor Allyson Hamilton. “ASL is its own language. It’s exciting and vibrant but not any easier than other language to learn.” 

People who are deaf really aren’t much different than people who can hear, Jarin Nelsen said. An interpreter stands in front of each of his classes and translates the teacher’s words to ASL for him.

Jarin Nelsen said he does his classwork like any other student would. He said he wishes more people would be comfortable around deaf people.

“People need to know it’s OK to try to talk with deaf people,” Jarin Nelsen said. “We’ll help you.”

He first learned to talk with ASL after age seven, nearly lacking all communication before. 

“It felt good to finally be able to communicate on my own,” Jarin Nelsen said. 

Jarin and Megean Nelsen said they have a plan to invent a bracelet for people who are deaf that will alert them when the doorbell rings, their phone goes off, or when a loved one tries to catch his or her attention.

“There really aren’t a lot of affordable options when it comes to products that help deaf people manage without all the verbal cues we use in our world,” Megean Nelsen said. “Alarm clocks for deaf people are $85 for example. It’s ridiculous.”  

An announcement was also made at the talent show that Hamilton, Jarin Nelsen and Megean Nelsen said they had been eagerly awaiting for a long time. DSU will now be offering ASL interpretation as an emphasis option for the integrated studies major. The only other places in Utah that offer a degree program for ASL interpretation is Salt Lake Community College and Utah Valley University. 

“This is really big news for the DSU ASL program,” Hamilton said. “ASL interpretation is a great career that’s always hiring.”   

Hamilton said not too many people know much about deaf culture, but the ASL talent show was a great place for students and community members to see a little bit of what it’s like.  

“Deaf people are not handicapped,” Hamilton said. “They’re only handicapped when there are hearing people around.”