The silent world of sign language

A world without sound.  The sound of the rain pouring onto a tin overhang, gone. The sound of a sultry singer’s smooth falsettos, gone. The sound of a loved one’s familiar voice never known.

This is the everyday life of someone who is deaf. While this seems sad to those who can hear, the silent world is all people of the deaf community know.

Many people only know that people are deaf, and they speak sign language. Most do not know much about the deaf community.

Pat Masterson is there to teach people about the many different aspects of the deaf community.

Masterson, 59, is a sign language professor at City College.  Every semester she comes to campus hoping to excite students about sign language.

“I want to get them so excited that they want to stay in class,” Masterson says.

Students can become frustrated when they feel like their workload is too much in one class.  Sign language can be one of those classes.

“Once they realize how much work it is, if I don;t have them excited, then they will drop,” Masterson says.

Masterson knows all about the work it takes to get through sign language courses when she started taking sign classes at City College. After a few interpreting jobs at offices she began interpreting for American River college. she eventually made her way to where she is today, at City college teaching sign language.

In her classroom,”NO VOICE” is written on the board.  Masterson uses grandiose facial expressions to capture the student’s attention without sound.  Her clever wit and passion for teaching is expressed through sign language and helps students feel more comfortable.

From the first day of the semester students learn Masterson’s teaching style quickly.

Masterson’s former sign student Jessica Davis says,” It was hard for me to adjust to the fact that we couldn’t say anything throughout the class. But as we learned more about the deaf community I think a lot of people respected it.”

Davis mentions how much she learned about the deaf community.  This is because Massterson makes it a point to inform students about the people who use this language every day.

“As with other languages, culture is important in order to really understand the language,” Masterson says.

She informs students about the culture by showing emotionally moving videos about the deaf community, sharing stories of individuals who are deaf, and incorporating volunteer work into assignments.

Each student in her sign classes must write a paper about an event they attend. The event must be a deaf event,m meaning the community must be the focus of the event.

There are many options Masterson gives students, including deaf sporting events, bingo games and ice-cream socials.

“We have a lot of sign students volunteer at these events,” Norcal Center event organizer Tammy Lavario says, “Sometimes we have so many that  we don’t have any jobs for them. It’s great!”

While there are many options for an event, Masterson has only one goal when sending her students out to these events.

“If we can get students to go out into the community and make friends and see the advantages of doing that,m then they get back probably more that they give,” she says.

Masterson has successfully taught get students at City College for many years now.

When asked about her favorite part of teaching sign language she says, “Learning as much from my students as they learn from me.”