ASL students respond to Jimmy Kimmel

Castro Valley American Sign Language (ASL) students wrote letters in response to Jimmy Kimmel, a celebrity comedian, after he invited a deaf interpreter on his show and made fun of the way he translated using his hands and facial expressions.

What bothered the ASL students the most was listening to the American late-night talk show, “Jimmy Kimmel Live,” with and without the sound of the audience’s laughter. The deaf linguist may have been confused whether the audiences were laughing at what he was translating, however they were clearly busting their stomachs by how his eyes, eyebrows, and mouth moved proportionally to his hands.

“Facial expression is part of the grammar in ASL and it wasn’t appropriate to laugh and make fun of it,” said junior and ASL student Kira Chen.

The interpreter was first brought to attention when signing for the Hurricane Irma press conference. Kimmel seemed to think the expressions the man made was material for a witty joke, when the translator should have been recognized for his distinctive way of interpreting.

Many of the letters the students wrote explained how facial expressions were words in the deaf language, and allow for a more meaningful message than just hand gestures.  

“When that person [Kimmel] was speaking he was like really gesturing and like raising his voice and stuff but in ASL you can’t do that. You have to overexaggerate,” said sophomore Ashley Chacon.

About one million people have disabling hearing loss, making ASL the fourth most spoken language in the United States.

Chacon also viewed the issue in a positive way which brought attention to the importance of ASL. “It is a good thing people got to see what ASL is and that people are able to experience it,” she said.

“It’s not common for hearing people to understand the importance of facial expression and that’s why we wanted to educate Jimmy Kimmel and his team,” said senior and ASL honors student Emily Salazar.

One thought on “ASL students respond to Jimmy Kimmel

  • December 14, 2017 at 8:52 am

    Thanks for taking the time to educate Jimmy Kimmel (and me) about the use of facial expression in American Sign Language. I’m sure he meant well, but no one should mock another person’s culture or language, especially one you don’t really understand.

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