Sign language classes to be offered in North Suffolk

Published 8:23 pm Monday, December 26, 2011

Next month, Suffolk residents will get a chance to learn a new language without speaking a word.

Starting in January, classes on American Sign Language will be offered at the Courtyard Marriott on Harbour View Boulevard.

Diann Shorter, who owns Sign With Me Virginia, will teach the classes, which will take place once every other week for six weeks.

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Shorter, who has been signing since she was young and teaching ASL for more than eight years, said she started her business last year to help teach people sign language and the intricacies of deaf culture.

“I feel like the deaf community has it really hard and people need to learn how to communicate with them,” she said.

This will be the first time Shorter has offered these classes in Suffolk.

The classes will take place from 7 to 9 p.m. Jan. 10 and 23, Feb. 6 and 20, and March 5 and 19, and they will focus on conversational sign language.

“What I do in my class is I teach you how to go out on the street and speak it,” Shorter said. “I do a mixture of everything — I teach you grammar; I teach you the proper way to sign, but I also add idioms, like things you can use when you’re shopping.”

She said the class will cover everything from eating out at a restaurant to handling emergency situations.

The class costs $150 per student, which covers course costs, a textbook, two DVDs, and two pocket guides. Individuals must be 15 years old to register for the classes.

Additionally, if one person registers for full price, he or she can bring along several of his or her friends to join the class for half price, but materials are not included for the others.

Shorter said people should only register if they are committed to work on it because it is intense and requires students to complete homework.

However, she said, the class can be beneficial to everyone because American Sign Language is the third most used language in the United States.

“It’s a matter of what you want to get out of it,” Shorter said. “It can further your career, like any language.”

This summer, Gov. Bob McDonnell signed a bill that allows ASL to be used as a foreign language requirement in schools and colleges, so people who are looking to get their degrees can get a head start on ASL studies with her classes, Shorter said.

Also, she said, business owners can benefit from learning sign language because it can widen their customer bases.

“You’ll be able to work with the deaf community,” Shorter said. “And the deaf community is very large.”

To register, send your name, name of class and its location, time of class, date of class, age, cell phone number, home or business phone number and email address to

The class maximum is 20, but if at least 10 people do not sign up, the class will be canceled.

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