Club's 'Silent Dinner' speaks volumes - The Lookout - LCC's Independent Student Newspaper Since 1959
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Club's 'Silent Dinner' speaks volumes

Sign Language Club

LCC Sign Language Club members sign to each other at a Silent Dinner at Applebee's Grill & Bar to get signing hours for the LCC Sign Language Interpreter Program.  Photo by Buu-Tran Duong

Buu-Tran Duong

By Buu-Tran Duong
Freelance Reporter

The LCC Sign Language Club met at Applebee's Grill & Bar on West Saginaw Highway on March 13 from 9 to 11 p.m. for a scheduled “Silent Dinner,” during which members could not vocally speak to each other.

They could only use American Sign Language (ASL) to communicate. They invited deaf members in the community to the dinner to meet people practicing the same language as them.

Many of the attendees belong to the LCC Sign Language Interpreter Program, which started at LCC in 1978. To get into the program, a prospective student has to pass an interpreting performance screening to show basic understanding of ASL.

If accepted, students take classes and have to acquire 240 ASL practicum hours during sophomore year and 160 hours during junior year to graduate. The Silent Dinner is one of many events held to allow students to get practicum hours.

Club adviser and instructor Monique Franks-Balcarcel, who was born deaf, emphasized the club does not teach ASL, but rather promotes and offers opportunities to practice it.

Co-president and junior Kateri Herold’s parents had her learn sign language as a baby, so she grew up bilingual.

“It’s easier to communicate with a child and minimize amounts of breakdowns if they can communicate with you,” Herold explained. “A lot of kids start talking a little later than they can start vocalizing with their hands.”

Herold’s mother knows basic ASL while her father barely knows ASL. She said she finds herself instinctually signing as she speaks, and hopes to interpret for Catholic organizations after graduating. four ASL studentsSome faces of the LCC Sign Language Club: sophomore Elly Bryant (top left), junior Elly Duisterhof (top right), junior Kateri Herold (bottom left) and freshman Alden Wack.  Photos by Buu-Tran Duong

Sophomore Elly Bryant preferred learning sign language over the foreign language options in grade school.

“It felt like a safe way for me to communicate without speaking,” Bryant said.

With a background in theater, Bryant is preparing to sign for one of LCC’s upcoming children's musicals.

Freshman Alden Wack has yet to screen for the program, but said he developed a love of ASL after having a fun and open high school ASL teacher who went through LCC’s Sign Language Interpreter Program and recommended it.

Junior Elly Duisterhof said she is unsure what her plans are after the program and is “terrified,” but knows she has to take it one step at a time. She greatly appreciates the peers, teachers, and experiences gained from the LCC Sign Language Club and program.

Duisterhof said her favorite professor was Andrea Rehkopf, who had no problem admitting when she messed up signing. Duisterhof said she appreciated that.

“(I thought) OK, I don’t have to be perfect in the program," Duisterhof said. “You see a professional interpreter being human with you.”

Feedback that Duisterhof has for the program is to help reduce financial fees for students to shadow professional interpreters to get required hours.

For more LCC Sign Language Club information, contact Club Adviser Monique Franks-Balcarcel at or check out the club Facebook page. More information on the LCC Sign Language Interpreter Program can be found here.



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