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ASL Students Get Hands-On Experience at Pah!

Mrs. Caine (pictured left), the previous ASL teacher, orders from the owner of Pah!, Lillouie Barrios (pictured right), using ASL.

Liz Bernal is a first-year teacher, and the new American Sign Language teacher this school year, bringing changes like a completely new classroom layout without desks. Previously, she was an ASL interpreter for two years after graduating from Utah Valley University. As a first-year teacher, Bernal said, “It definitely threw me for a loop at first, because it’s a lot. When you’re a teacher, you’re expected to do a lot of things all at once. But now that I’ve gotten used to it, I’m having a lot of fun.” 

For the future, Bernal would like to add another year of ASL. The other two languages offered here at Barlow have four years of classes to take, while ASL only has two. For those who join ASL as a freshman, retaining that language without continued use for two years will be difficult. The trade-off is she’ll need to remove a period of an ASL 1-2 class to add a 5-6 class. Although this change will not happen by next year, it is an improvement she hopes to make. 

An opportunity for these ASL students is to visit Pah! for some extra credit and a great ASL experience. Pah! is a deaf-owned restaurant that also hosts community events. Lillouie Barrios and his husband, Victor Covarrubias, own the restaurant in southeast Portland. Covarrubias is the only hearing staff member who still uses ASL to communicate with both hearing and deaf customers. 

The name, Pah!, is ASL slang. Pah is the movement you make with your mouth when you do the sign for “finally,” “success,” or “at last.” The name idea comes from Barrios’ background, saying, “And of course, this is a world that a lot of cis-gendered, white people have been in charge for a long time and so finally — Pah! — we can have our turn.”

The community event offered there is the Silent Chat Night, a great opportunity for those learning ASL to interact with deaf people, develop their skills, and see how to put those skills to use. 

Madison Moua is one of the students who has gone to the Silent Chat Night before. She says that initially, being around people who are more experienced with the language was nerve-wracking, but she enjoyed the games. She enjoyed their food and thought the french fries were delicious. 

Bernal sees many benefits in sending students to the Silent Chat Night, saying, “At Pah!, you really get the chance to practice the language more in-depth, and one thing that I get to talk to the students more. Here I have very limited interactions with students, because there are so many of them, and there’s only one of me… But at Pah!, there are usually only a few students who go, so I get to sit down with them and work back and forth.”

If you are interested in visiting Pah!, you don’t need to know ASL! They have a workaround with a speech-to-text tablet, and a notepad to clarify things, so visiting is a great way to support a local small business.

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Natalie Brooks
Natalie Brooks, Staff Writer

I am Natalie Brooks, and I’m a sophomore this year. This is my 1st year on the Banner and I am very excited to join. I love food, cats, and books. My favorite book is The Book Thief.


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