Life with ASL

Sophomore Izzy Fenwick learned sign language at a young age


 People usually learn their native language at a very young age. Sophomore Izzy Fenwick learned an additional language – American Sign Language – to communicate with her parents.

With deaf parents ASL was Fenwick’s primary language she learned to use on a daily basis. 

“I never really took ASL classes,” Fenwick said. “My parents just taught me. I always compare it to a kid learning Spanish [as an additional language]. You’re just around it so much, so it’s just natural.”

Fenwick says ASL can be challenging because some people learn different words in different ways.

“I think the challenges were that my parents would teach me a different version of it, but somebody else would do something different,” Fenwick said. “So I had to adapt to how people say different things, kind of like slang.”

Now that Fenwick is older, she says ASL helps open up to more cultures and helps her communicate with deaf customers at work. 

“I think it helps you be more open to other cultures and be more understanding,” Fenwick said. “It helps out – like at work, there are a lot of deaf people that come in.”

Fenwick says that she learned to speak English from her sister, grandparents and her neighbor growing up.

“My sister can hear, my grandma can hear and the rest of my family can hear, so they immersed me more with speaking English,” Fenwick said. “I was around my neighbor a lot which really helped me learn grammar.”

Fenwick has advice for anyone learning ASL.

“I would tell them to stick with it and don’t over complicate, a lot of deaf people want to embrace ASL and the deaf community.”