Expression Australia's Auslan courses go global

Samuel from Rochester, New York recently enrolled in our online Auslan course. We thought we'd check in with him, ask how he is coping with the Coronavirus outbreak in New York and ask why he wants to learn Auslan. Samuel also answered these questions in ASL (American Sign Language). You can watch the ASL video at the bottom of the interview.

We hope you are safe at the moment in New York. What is the current situation like?
I am safe. My family is safe. I am originally from NYC. When the spread of the virus started to pick-up I had just gotten back from my spring break trip. I decided it would be best to stay in my house near college, RIT, so I could focus on my studies. I have been here, in Rochester, ever since. A little over 3 months. I believe NYC just went into Phase 1 of the reopening plan. Rochester is working toward Phase 3 now. For us that means; restaurants, retail, and professional services can resume running with new restrictions in terms of capacity.

What is your background? What do you do for a living?
I just graduated with my degree in American Sign Language interpreting. Up until the virus outbreak I was working as a freelance interpreter in the Rochester area, as well as a full-time student. I am hoping to get back to freelancing as soon as it is safe.

Where did you first hear about AUSLAN? Have you learnt other Sign Languages before? What drew you to learning Auslan?
I heard about Auslan on a trip back in 2015. My first time in Australia. I had just learned the ASL alphabet from a friend in the states. On some excursion in Cairns the tour guide caught me fingerspelling road signs and told me that his cousin was Deaf. Later I did some digging and found out that it was a completely different language.

I have studied other sign languages. Aside from ASL I took classes for LSM and LSF. I also visited Ireland last year and was able to socialize with some club members of Deaf Village Ireland. Luckily the alphabet was similar enough to communicate. I try to make it my goal to find the Deaf club and a sign language dictionary in every country I travel to. The one thing I found most rewarding about learning American Sign Language was gaining this ability to meet and befriend with a whole community I would have otherwise not had the chance to meet. I keep dabbling in other sign languages so I can make that same connection with communities abroad.

I was drawn to Auslan because my aunt just recently moved to Perth. She offered me a bedroom if I ever want to visit. I am definitely going to take her up on that. And the first thing I plan to do aside from catch up with my aunt is visit the nearest Deaf club.

Do you plan to visit Australia and practice your skills in the future? (Once you can travel again)
I absolutely want to come visit, when I can travel again.

Would you encourage others wanting to learn a new skill or language to learn Auslan? Why should they?
Like I said, the greatest benefit of learning any new language is having the ability to meet and befriend the community. Being exposed to different customs and beliefs can only add good things to your life. And specifically learning Auslan, for me the allure is being able to visit such a beautiful country and have an instant connection with people who live there. You’re already bonded over the fact that you share a language.

I’m thrilled! It’s the highlight of my quarantine! I can’t wait to start learning Auslan!

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