Name: Audrey Seah
Language: American Sign Language (ASL)
Location of Study: Washington D.C., U.S.A.
Program of Study: Gallaudet University Summer ASL
Sponsors: Center for the Study of Languages and Cultures
A brief personal bio:
Born and raised in Singapore, I first came the United States in 2000 for college and earned a BA in music composition from Fresno State. Following a few years of work in digital marketing and pastoral ministry, I returned to school to earn my MA in Liturgy and a ThM at St. John’s School of Theology-Seminary in Collegeville, MN. I am currently finishing my second year in the theology PhD program at Notre Dame, specializing in liturgical studies. My research interests include issues in inculturation, postmodern sacramental theology, liturgy and culture, and sacramental access for people with disabilities.
Why this summer language abroad opportunity is important to me:
The SLA grant will occasion a large step forward in allowing me to gain the linguistic proficiency I need to study the theology and worship experience of the oft-overlooked linguistic minority group whose native tongue is American Sign Language (ASL)—the deaf. My research, to which knowledge of ASL is vital, aims to uncover practical and theological insights from the perspective of deaf Catholics who worship in ASL. In doing so, I hope to enable better worship experiences for the hearing-impaired, bridge the worlds of the hearing and deaf in worship, and contribute to a greater theological understanding of what a diversity of (dis)abilities mean for the Church as the Body of Christ.
What I hope to achieve as a result of this summer study abroad experience:
My basic training in ASL has allowed me to understand simple conversations and actively form short sentences. However, I cannot yet comprehend sermons, actively participate at Mass, or have extended dialogue in ASL, all of which are crucial to my research on deaf Catholic worship. I intend to take intermediate to advanced courses in ASL this summer at Gallaudet University in the hopes that I will gain the skills I need to form complex sentences and understand the nuances of sign language interpretation. I also intend to immerse myself in the socio-cultural world of native ASL speakers through which I can learn about and experience Deaf culture.
My specific learning goals for language and intercultural learning this summer:
At the end of the summer I will be able to:
1) engage in day-to-day conversations in ASL with native signers on topics related to daily life.
2) read Fingerspellings more quickly and with ease.
3) participate in masses celebrated in ASL—understand liturgical prayers, sign liturgical responses at mass, and engage in discussions about worship in ASL.
4) demonstrate an increased awareness of and sensitivity to Deaf culture in relation to hearing culture
My plan for maximizing my international language learning experience:
Because of the presence of Gallaudet University, Washington DC and especially the areas surrounding the campus, affords numerous opportunities for immersing myself in Deaf culture and communicating in ASL. By living on campus, I will be interacting with those around me primarily in ASL. Additionally, I hope to participate in extra-curricular activities on campus and deaf socials in the city. Last but not least, I intend to attend signed worship services available throughout the city, visit and worship with St. Francis of Assisi Deaf Catholic Church in Landover Hills, MD, and attend events organized Washington archdiocese’s center for deaf ministry.