Sign language interpreter brings new energy into Sign Language Club

Leah Larson, Layout Editor

Every Tuesday after school, the Sign Language Club meets to not only learn new signs, but also to create a community that’s more like a family than a club.

Sign language interpreter Janelle Hunt restarted the club last year. She was the advisor for the sign language club at Mission Middle School as well and decided she wanted to carry it on at Bellevue West.

Hunt first started learning sign language in 2008, when she went through the interpreting program at Iowa Western.

“I’ve always liked sign language,” Hunt said. “When I was in high school, there was a thirty minute show that I watched every morning as I was getting ready.”

The television show was called “Sing it With Sign.” Within the 30 minute episodes, it taught viewers new signs. By the end of the program, they would know how to sign a new song. The love Hunt had for this show carried on into her career choices.

Hunt wanted to be an interpreter, but she chose to go into business after high school. After a while, she decided to go back to school and get her interpreting degree.

Hunt said she also loves being able to pass on her knowledge about sign language to students at West. Sophomore Elley Anders, who had no prior motivation to learn sign language, said Hunt played a big part in her journey with sign language.

“I don’t know every single world obviously,” Anders said. “But I can have a pretty decent conversation with someone who is deaf.”

When going about teaching new learners, Hunt said she starts with the basics. Learning the alphabet provides beginners with the capability to spell out the words they may not know. Hunt then builds up from the basics, teaching club members different sentence structure, how to say something without knowing the correct sign, and more.

“It was hard at first,” Anders said. ”But I’m a pretty visual learner so it was a lot easier to learn ASL than it was any other language.”

Hunt manages to educate and create a fun environment at the same time. The club regularly plays games that get members excited about learning the language.

“I think the kids really just enjoy being able to talk with their hands and having a whole other language that you don’t even have to open your mouth for,” Hunt said.

Learning sign language isn’t just a fun activity, though. It’s a life skill that can lead to better job opportunities and even high pay within those jobs.

“I think today being bilingual in any second language is always a plus,” Hunt said.

Having the knowledge of sign language also benefits others who rely on it to communicate every day.

“Out in the real world, there’s a lot more people who use sign language than people notice,” Anders said. “The more people that know sign language, even if it’s just like the alphabet or the basics, you can at least communicate with someone.”