The Precedent

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From stage to ASL

ASL students translate White Christmas for deaf community

Perry High School ASL students translating for the play White Christmas. Taken December 7, 2017 by Skye Reynolds.

Perry High School ASL students translating for the play White Christmas. Taken December 7, 2017 by Skye Reynolds.

Skye Reynolds

Skye Reynolds

Perry High School ASL students translating for the play White Christmas. Taken December 7, 2017 by Skye Reynolds.


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American Sign Language is an unparalleled language that combines emotion, movement and soul to create beautiful stories without a single sound. Deaf communities is a world in which others learn their language in order to compel complex conversations.

Senior student signer Paloma Soracides was drawn into the deaf world and now aspires as an ASL interpreter. Throughout her four years of signing Soracides’s abilities have developed to help her overcome stage fright and sign fluency.

“I’ve always seen the signers…and I noticed the year three [signers] got to do that.. I immediately knew I wanted to do that,” Socracides said.

Soracides and other advanced sign language students, who have looked into a career with daily deaf interaction, strive to improve their skill before diving into the deaf world. Students who are serious about signing are encouraged by many to learn what it is really like to interpret in a normal conversation.

The school offers students the opportunity to translate the script and songs during live theatre performances. While the actors recite lines and sing show tunes, signers stand to the left of the stage and translate the meanings into American Sign Language.

In the most recent theater production of “White Christmas,” the dialogue used difficult language due to the slang of the script that the interpreters had to sign for.

Socracides said,“[the actors] have different accents, they talk fast, they talk too slow, they have to sing and stretch out their words and it just varies.”

Opportunities to interpret in “real life scenarios” are rare in high school, especially for future graduates like senior Tommie Larsen.

“I started freshman year, and me and Paloma are the first kids in Perry to go,” Larsen said, “we actually made it into a class, and we are the only two in Sign 4.”

Thereafter, Larsen became invested with the deaf world by being a tutor for elementary and high school deaf students to, also, translating school plays.

“Signing for [White Christmas] is a little chaotic because of all of the 50’s slang…from English, ASL is very blunt and literal. There’s nothing that is personified or imaginative,” Larsen said.

Students go through 30 to 40 hours of practice to improve their signing skills every time a production is put on. Angela Van Tongeren, being the only ASL teacher since the school’s opening, has encouraged her students to experience the ASL world.

“The program’s core is centered around the task of helping advanced students decide on pursuing a career in the language,” Van Tongeren said.

By succeeding in all ASL levels and pursuing in level four, real life experiences have definitely come into play for Larsen and Soracides. The deaf community has not only taught them how to become better at their language, but also to show the work and fulfillment of becoming apart of a new world.


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The student voice of Perry High School
From stage to ASL