Vernon Mandarin and ASL students continue language studies at Cano

Students who began learning Mandarin Chinese and American Sign Language at Vernon World Languages Academy four years ago are now in ninth grade.

This year, Cano Freshman Academy is offering these students an opportunity to continue learning in high school level courses.

In the Mandarin class, students waited for their teacher to log in via Zoom from China.

Together they practiced using their new vocabulary words to form complete sentences. Students practiced out loud, and their teacher assisted with pronunciation.

Priscilla Paez, a French teacher at Cano is the class facilitator for the Mandarin class.

“It’s been a fun experience,” freshman Giselle Garcia said. “You learn a lot of things. The first year, we learned how to introduce ourselves in Chinese, the second year we started learning a bit more writing, and our third year we learned a bit of both and a few more things such as how to introduce our families, or what we like to eat.”

Balahram Leyva decided to first take the class because Mandarin was new and different.

“I don’t know where my life is going to take me,” Leyva said. “I don’t know what kind of people I am going to meet, but I could meet someone who only speaks Chinese and needs help communicating.”

In the ASL class, it was quiet as the teacher and students communicated through sign language.

“It’s been a wonderful experience,” freshman Lola Tamez said. “We started with basic things like charades just to get our body language moving and facial expressions moving in sixth grade. By our seventh grade year, we were pretty solid at staying quiet in the classroom and only signing. Now, it’s a lot easier for us to have full conversations in sign, with my teacher too. I will come into her classroom and start signing to her and start telling her about my day, telling her about what is going on.”

Owen Bush first decided to join the ASL class to help him communicate with someone.

“When I was going into sixth grade, I was playing football for a travel team, and my coach was deaf,” Bush said. “I wanted to be able to communicate with him more. So, I started taking ASL. The experience has been fun. It is an honor learning how to sign with these students and with the teacher who helps me get through the class and helps me try to be the best.”

Lorene Rodriguez is the American Sign Language Teacher at Vernon World Languages Academy and now teaches the ASL course at Cano.

“In this class, the students learn a lot about the deaf culture, the language, and the history,” Rodriguez said. We go into depth on how it is the same and how it is different, and how to advocate to bring awareness to the community.”

Students in the ASL class also explore possible career options they can pursue by learning to sign.

“I am a trilingual student,” Tamez said. “I know English, Spanish, and ASL, so I think adding sign language to my resume is just something that would help me in the future. Personally, I would like to go into the medical field, so I think that could help me a lot especially if I want to be an orthodontist. It would help me communicate with patients.”

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