Students on Signal Mountain will be exposed to a new way of communicating in 2014 as the MACC begins to offer American Sign Language for both children and adults starting Monday, Jan. 13. Classes will be held each Monday from 4-5 p.m. for kids and from 6-7 p.m. for adults.
The classes are offered through Chattanooga School of Language, which is owned and operated by Laurie Stevens.
"MACC Director Barb Storm was super excited to offer sign classes to the public," said Stevens.
Storm said she grew up with a deaf cousin, which is why American Sign Language is so near and dear to her heart.
"I grew up with her not being able to communicate until she learned sign language," said Storm. "When I learned sign language, it was like a whole new world opened up."
Taught by instructor Adele Gant, the six-week beginning sign language course is intended for the hearing and costs $60 for residents and $75 for nonresidents.
"I think it gets forgotten about, but it's very much a language and has its own community," said Stevens of American Sign Language. "It's just another way to communicate, and it's a catalyst for language learning. It should be recognized whether or not someone in the family is deaf."
"It's a language we needed to offer that's very neglected," said Storm. "I think the people of Signal Mountain are very cultured and place an emphasis on wanting to make people feel comfortable."
Stevens said the best time to learn American Sign Language is as early as possible.
"At that age, their cognitive development is still forming, so it has a bigger impact when learned at a younger age," she said.
In addition to the cognitive and developmental benefits of learning another language, learning American Sign Language also exposes students to another culture.
"Being aware of other people's cultures is very important and valuable," said Stevens.
She said some couples take the class as one spouse begins to lose their hearing.
"It's cool to hear all the different reasons people are taking it," said Stevens.
Students will be able to communicate at a basic level when the course is complete, she said. If students are interested in furthering their studies after the introductory course, Stevens said Chattanooga School of Language may offer more advanced classes in the future.
Stevens said Chattanooga School of Language is also considering offering a sign language class for babies at the MACC if interest exists.
Call the MACC at 886-1959 to sign up for sign language classes or to get more information about sign language for babies.