Sign language lessons coming soon

Published 10:18 pm Monday, January 15, 2018

Suffolk residents will have the opportunity to learn how to sign their names, feelings and other words essential for communication in American Sign Language.

Beginner classes for Sign With Me Virginia will begin in Suffolk this Monday at Panera Bread, 6255 College Drive. Three classes will be held from noon to 2 p.m., 2:30 to 4:30 p.m. and 6 to 8 p.m., respectively.

Diann Shorter, owner of Sign With Me Virginia, will teach the class once a week for 12 weeks. Students will learn topics like introductions, times of day, directional verbs and leisure activities.

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They will eventually be prepared for situations ranging from eating out at restaurants to medical emergencies.

“You have to build a foundation, and you have to learn the basics,” Shorter said.

Shorter has been signing since she was young and has taught ASL for more than a decade in the United States and abroad. She said she wants to use her class to help teach people learn about both sign language and deaf culture.

“There’s a huge deaf community here, and interpreters are widely needed,” she said.

Portsmouth resident Natalie Carpenter, 53, is past the halfway mark in one of Shorter’s classes. Carpenter works at the Brentwood Veterinary Clinic in Chesapeake and hopes to use her ASL skills to better communicate with deaf pet owners, she said.

She also takes the class with her daughter Megan, 14, who is interested in pursuing ASL in college.

Carpenter said that she appreciates how Shorter uses multimedia and interactives games to explain concepts.

“It’s very good, and it’s pretty hardcore,” Carpenter said. “You’re going to learn to sign and sign correctly.”

College student Michelle Johnson, 28, said she also enjoyed Shorter’s class.

“I felt she was very passionate about teaching others, and not just showing us the book way but showing us various other ways,” Johnson said.

The class costs $230 for lessons and materials. Those interested should send an email with their names, cellphone numbers, and their desired courses with dates and times to Only six students will be admitted per class.

Visit or call 968-2121 for more information.