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Deaf Studies to offer Paris summer trip

Courtesy photo
Courtesy photo

Lamar University study abroad will offer a deaf studies and deaf education program to Paris, July 18 to Aug. 3. The program will offer three separate, upper-level credit DSDE courses, including interpreting in tourism, international deaf studies and advocacy and policy decision making.

Students will attend the World Association of Sign Language Conference Interaction andthe World Federation of the Deaf Conference. Students will also explore one of the oldest public deaf schools in the world, tour historical sites, meet and greet interpreters from around the world, and learn new ways of communicating.

“We’re going to Paris, France, because that is the birth place of American Sign Language, as we know it,” Zanthia Smith, assistant professor of deaf studies and deaf education, said. “A lot of the signs that we use in American Sign Language are French Sign Language in origin, so we felt that Paris would be an important place to go and learn more about how the culture has (diversified) and developed here in America, as American Sign Language.”

Smith said that the program is different from others because of the two major international deaf conferences.

“We are going at a really opportune time, because the students are going to have an opportunity to not only see Paris, but we are also going to be there while people from around the world are going to be there signing,” Laura Maddux, assistant professor of deaf studies and deaf education, said. “The students are going to be exposed to a lot of international influences in that way.”

The program is open to all majors with the equivalency of an ASL IV, Maddux said.

The students are required to already have a foundation in sign language, Smith said.

“They have to have at least two years of sign language instructions before they’re allowed to go on the trip because the activities focus on them being able to sign,” she said.

Cain Chiasson, certified sign language interpreter, will teach the interpreting in tourism course, where students will interpret at museums or for excursions.

“It gets the students used to the idea that they have to know about art, museums and culture to be able to interpret that appropriately,” Smith said. “A lot of deaf people are traveling, and it’s good for them to be able to have an interpreter so they could interact and have access just like anyone who can hear.”

Maddux will teach the international deaf studies course.

“The students will be able to do a research project and invest in all aspects of deaf life, interpreting all of those kind of things in a number of different countries,” she said. “I want them to learn the contents, getting to see the Louvre and the Mona Lisa, the Notre Dame and all of those things, and to see them grow, change and realize that they can do things that they didn’t know that they could do.”

Smith will teach the advocacy and policy decision-making course.

“What they will be working on is law, and how does it affect them as an interpreter and affect their client,” she said. “And also, how policies are established for teaching or working with individuals who are deaf and hard of hearing.”

Being in Paris during the conferences will give students opportunities to interview and poll an international community that they won’t have access to in the states, Chiasson said, in an email interview.

“Paris will be abuzz with Deaf from around the world at that time, and we will make use of every opportunity to socialize and practice with native deaf language users,” he said.

Maddux said that her role is to help students adjust and feel comfortable to the many different types of sign languages while they’re in Paris.

“Sign languages around the world are different, so you have to learn to adapt to other people and figure out how to make it work,” she said. “We’ll see deaf people or interpreters and we’ll have to try to interact with them in ways that my students have never had to do before, and facilitating that interaction and drawing them into it will be really beneficial for them.”

Study abroad takes the learning out in the world and out of the classroom, Chiasson said.

“It is more beneficial for students to learn by doing rather than by learning from a book,” he said. “Authentic, real-world experiences are invaluable.”

For more information, call 880-1848 or email

Story by Vy Nguyen, UP staff writer

Category: News