A Conversation With My Deaf Quadrilingual Student


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In the summer season of 2018 I uncovered that I would be conference my first deaf[i] pupil in my American Sign Language (ASL) Course. Just after a decade of training ASL the vast majority of my college students were being hearing students. Only a handful have been tough of hearing or Small children of Deaf[ii] Grown ups (CODAs). 

I was enthusiastic, nervous and eager to embark on this new journey. I was ready to lastly practical experience each day interactions and communications with anyone who was a indigenous signer and 1 who lived in the Deaf Group we expended the entire university yr researching. But it wasn’t really as I envisioned. 

My new deaf university student was fluent in Spanish and Colombian Sign Language (CSL) only. I had to re-examine the text once more. My very first deaf college student not only signed but spoke a completely different language. She would study ASL and English for the first time. She would be on a journey to grow to be quadrilingual. This would be a new expertise for us all. 

Past 7 days, Valentina graduated and was honored with the opportunity to discuss at graduation. When I seem again at our journey alongside one another I imagine of the numerous classes I figured out from our journey about the final four years. Valentina brought with her just one of the most varied identities I have ever encountered in a scholar: deaf, female, Latina, multi-language learner, and so substantially a lot more I would arrive to discover over these 4 yrs.

Valentina taught me what it meant to encounter problems head on with an innate intelligence, dedication and perseverance I was blessed to witness initially-hand. She challenged me to guarantee I was legitimate to my teaching philosophy to make every single effort to fulfill each pupil wherever they had been, provide differentiated schooling, though making sure the two rigor and cultural relevance in my curriculum. She was in a position to master ASL, American Deaf Society, history and literature. In return, she taught us about the treatment method of deaf folks in Colombia and quite a few Colombian signals. This would show to be, by far, the most exclusive and enlightening instructing encounters of my vocation.

I interviewed Valentina in July of 2020, and asked her abide by up thoughts in early June of 2022. Below is the story of her journey in her personal terms.


What is your title and where by were being you born?

My identify is Andrea Valentina Rueda Pena. I moved to The united states from Mosquera, Colombia in early September of 2018.

Were being you born deaf?

My mother grew to become significantly ill and experienced a high fever when she was expecting. This triggered me to be born deaf.

When did you get your 1st cochlear implant?

(Note: A cochlear implant is a small, advanced digital product that can support to present a perception of audio to a individual who is profoundly deaf or seriously tricky-of-hearing.) 

I acquired my very first cochlear implant when I was a few decades previous and my 2nd at eleven a long time old. The cochlear felt weird and uncomfortable. I could only hear noises and sounds but no speech. In Colombia, they just implant every single deaf individual and do not persuade signing but focus on speech. They assume cochlear implants will make matters much easier for deaf men and women, but no. I desire I under no circumstances experienced a cochlear implant. It does not function for me. They advised my mother I would under no circumstances hear or talk, but I uncovered to converse with a large amount of training and therapy. My lecturers in no way signed before I was eleven. They and my listening to good friends would discuss and I would publish matters down. When listening to people today uncovered a minimal fingerspelling, it was usually complicated for the deaf as many did not know how to go through or create in Spanish.

A Discussion With My Deaf Quadrilingual Scholar Simply click To Tweet

When you 1st came to The us, what did you assume?

I didn’t know what to be expecting. I assumed the other students in the university would be deaf as perfectly. I did not realize I would be the only deaf particular person in the total faculty. Whether it was men and women, tradition or teachers, it was all so diverse, but I was fired up to learn and get a improved education and learning. We initially arrived to Orlando, frequented Disneyworld for a week and then flew into San Francisco. We settled in El Sobrante, California. We were only intended to remain for a yr. I did not want to continue to be. I skipped house. But my mother wished superior prospects and a improved foreseeable future in this article. She preferred me to have new experiences and study diverse languages.

When you very first arrived to The us, what ended up the variances amongst American and Colombian Deaf Cultures?

The biggest big difference is that below in America, Deaf Tradition is embraced and celebrated. I know I can turn into no matter what I want in existence. There are no obstacles.

Notify me about some unique matters you might study listed here that you would not in Colombia? I try to remember when we viewed a motion picture and you explained to me you had by no means found a deaf person travel ahead of.

Opportunities are unique for deaf people today here. Deaf individuals can’t get a license in Colombia. But deaf folks have terrific receptive expertise so are in a natural way good motorists. It was strange to see people today indication and drive at the very same time. Now, I want to find out how to drive so that I can go and see my buddies and drive myself to school. I am taking it gradual and practicing.

How was it traveling to the Deaf college (California Faculty for the Deaf, Fremont)?

I was like “wow”! They experienced artwork and other points wherever they could be artistic, but I did not want to go there. I would overlook the academics and buddies I created right here.

Did you choose in man or woman or online discovering?

Certainly in person. I did not experience snug on the Net. And with masks, I could not see anyone’s facial expressions or examine any lips. Except if they signed, it was incredibly complicated. I miss out on observing faces.

Do you experience like you are quadrilingual in ASL, English, Spanish and CSL?

I honestly do not imagine that I am quadrilingual yet. I continue to have a ton to master, even in Spanish and CSL.

What’s the most important change between CSL and ASL?

ASL is a whole lot less complicated since it would seem condensed, shorter but complete of expressions. CSL has a great deal far more wide variety, but I adore them each. Sign language helps make factors less difficult to converse with Deaf men and women from all around the environment.

Why must people today discover indication language?

The biggest cause to master ASL is to open up a lot more interaction concerning deaf and listening to men and women and to make guaranteed deaf persons are provided in all discussions.

What do you want to do in the potential?

At initial, owing to my really like for animals I preferred to be a veterinarian. I adjusted my head simply because I do not want to go to college for so long and did not like the thought of possessing to do medical procedures. Now, I want to do something in the arts like develop into a photographer. I also want to learn extra ASL, English and Spanish as nicely. And of study course I want to aid Deaf folks and be concerned with the Deaf neighborhood.


Valentina was chosen to give just one of the graduation speeches for the class of 2022. In this article is a part of her speech.

Currently being the only deaf individual in the overall faculty was tough but I had instructors, an interpreter, and I was ready to make close friends. Understanding equally English and ASL at the very same time, I have to have to use Google Translate to enable. I also wanted to immerse myself in and master this new American Deaf Society that was so distinct from my encounter in Colombia. I was ready to go on industry excursions to the Faculty of the Deaf in Fremont and the Deaf Expo in Pleasanton. I met Deaf model Nyle Dimarco and Deaf dancer Antoine Hunter. I acquired how to interpret tracks from Spanish to English to ASL.

I want to thank Pinole Valley for educating me and offering me these ordeals. Many thanks to my family for supporting me all my daily life. I would also like to thank my instructor Ms. Lamons, tutor Ms. Richards and Interpreter Ms. Melvi due to the fact I know they will constantly be there to go on to assistance me. To the class of 2022, I wish you all the greatest for your futures.


As I study her graduation speech, I appeared back again on our journey alongside one another: checking out, mastering and dealing with so considerably together. I consider about how nervous I was at the commencing, and replicate on how significantly I have developed as a teacher as a outcome. I have figured out so a lot extra about the gorgeous variety in Deaf Cultures and signal language programs from all over the entire world than I could have at any time examined in a book. As educators, we are generally confronted with unfamiliar experiences like these, but these 4 a long time reminded me of the attractiveness in embracing new and thrilling difficulties.

Thank you, Valentina! I am so blessed to have experienced you as my 1st deaf student! Your outstanding expertise, inventive spirit, and contagious smile are reminiscences that have remaining an imprint on my instructional occupation that will final a life span.

[i] With the increase of Deaf Scientific tests in the 1970s, the usage the capitalization of (D)eaf grew to become typically applied in order to distinguish in between individuals who establish as belonging to a cultural and linguistic minority, in distinction to “(d)eaf”, which refers to an audiological situation. Some authors have opted to use the mixed “d/Deaf” as a far more inclusive term. – Gallaudet University, ASL Join

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