Student finishes third in national ASL competition
Hard to tell if Priscilla Castillo left ’em all speechless.
One thing we know for sure – when she participated in the contest, she was.
She had to be. It’s in the rules.
The contest in question is the American Sign Language Honor Society’s National Literature Competition, in which Castillo, a graduating senior at Quincy High School, had to accurately copy-sign a 20-second story to American Sign Language.
Oh, and the judge of the contest was the person who first translated the story to ASL.
Castillo took third place in the nationwide competition.
“Our goal was to do exactly what he had done,” said Castillo, who recorded a video of herself signing the story and then submitted the video to the competition. Participants are judged on their facial expressions and the accuracy of the signs.
Castillo participated in last month’s competition as extra credit in ASL2, a QHS class.
“I was surprised; I wasn’t expecting it,” Castillo said. “But I was pretty proud of myself because we did do a copy-sign story earlier in the year. And to look at that video and to look at what I had done for this competition, there’s a huge improvement.”
The copy-sign entails signing numbers one to 10, and it has to be exact. One little mistake means she has to start over. Castillo said she did about eight or 10 takes of the video.
This was the second year that Castillo took an ASL class. (She took ASL1 her junior year.) What drew her to the class was the opportunity to learn another language, she said.
“We don’t have a lot of deaf people. The deaf community is more in Wenatchee, and I don’t get out there that much,” she said. “But just knowing that I can help someone if it ever occurred that I needed to.”
Although she has only met one deaf person in her life, she relishes the opportunity to communicate with people and to cross the language barrier in more ways than one. In addition to ASL and English, Castillo also speaks Spanish.
American Sign Language, however, presents challenges that the other two languages don’t. ASL has fewer words than English.
For example, to say “I want an apple” in ASL, a person would sign, “Apple me want.” And the sign for “apple” (right fist, or left if you are left-handed, with index finger up and curled, twisting on your cheek) and the sign for “candy” (straight index finger) are similar.
Students wanting to take ASL1 have to be ready to make a commitment to it, Castillo said.
“You have to be willing to practice,” she said. “You don’t necessarily need the memorization skills, but definitely be prepared to build those, because you do have to memorize everything.”
The class also has taught Castillo a deeper appreciation for deaf people, their plight and their triumphs, she said. One such example of the latter is Nyle DeMarco, who won the latest full season of the TV competition “Dancing with The Stars,” despite being deaf.
“Disability is just a title,” Castillo said. “They are capable of anything.”
— By Sebastian Moraga, email@example.com