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Hard-of-Hearing Student Embraces a Different Kind of Language Barrier

Destiny Yarbro, a Hard-of-Hearing student this semester, and Kara Kitchens, her close friend and interpreter, are bringing a different style of cultural immersion to Semester at Sea. The duo met only one year ago at Brigham Young University, where their similar interests led them to a parallel class schedule including Deaf Literature and Polynesian Dance. Kara graduated in August, and Destiny will finish in May, but they’re sharing one last semester together on board the MV Explorer.

Destiny hasn‚Äôt let any obstacles stand in her way. ‚ÄúI decided I‚Äôm going to travel the world,‚Äù Destiny explained. ‚ÄúThere are definitely less Deaf students that travel abroad because there‚Äôs an additional language barrier, but it’s available. It just takes a little more homework to get things lined up.‚Äù

Researching Deaf schools around the world paid off in Brazil, when the duo made new friends despite a complex language barrier. ‚ÄúI kept reading references to a Deaf school in Manaus, so we started asking around,‚Äù Destiny explained. Locating their destination was only the first challenge of the day. At the school, the pair set up a 4-step language chain, beginning with a Deaf woman who spoke Libras (Brazilian Sign Language), and a hearing woman who interpreted Libras with her limited English skills. Kara then translated from English to ASL (American Sign Language) for Destiny to understand. ‚ÄúIt was more than 4 language barriers,‚Äù Destiny said of the conversation, ‚Äúit was a pathway.” After such a warm welcome in Manaus, she hopes to visit a Deaf school in each of next 11 ports.

Photo Credit: Brian Scannell
Kara Kitchens, signing the word “World,” with Destiny Yarbro

Destiny, who’s had her eye on Semester at Sea since high school, now recognizes the impact of a global education. “I didn’t really know what to expect with SAS,” she said, “but now I see that it’s an eye-opening, door-opening experience.” Destiny graduates in a few months, but already has sights set on grad school. “I wanted to do a masters program before, but I wasn’t sure in what,” she said. “I’m excited that this could be it. I’d like to map out sign language across the globe, find out each language’s roots and where they start.”

Both Destiny and Kara have been surprised by the amount of student interest in Deaf culture this semester. ‚ÄúWe had people ask us to start a class or club back in the Bahamas before we even got on the ship,‚Äù Kara explained. Their ASL club now fills classrooms to capacity, and they‚Äôve scheduled ASL dinners on alternate days when the club doesn’t meet. ‚ÄúPeople have been really willing to work with me,‚Äù Destiny said. ‚ÄúI know there‚Äôs that barrier, but everyone is very engaging and willing to try.‚Äù

Destiny’s advice to those learning ASL, or any foreign language, is simple—“a smile goes a long way.”

Watch the video below to see the language barrier between Destiny and Jackson, from Manaus, as they count from 1 to 30 in both ASL and Libras.

  • Culture
  • Education
  • Life on Land

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