The State Hornet

Q&A: Sac State student talks Oxford, involvement in deaf community

Sac+State+student+Sarah+Potter+works+as+a+tutor+in+the+Writing+Center%2C+one+of+her+many+jobs+on+campus.+Potter+hopes+to+find+student+work+experience+at+a+publishing+house+while+studying+in+Oxford+during+the+2019-20+academic+school+year.+
Back to Article
Back to Article

Q&A: Sac State student talks Oxford, involvement in deaf community

Sac State student Sarah Potter works as a tutor in the Writing Center, one of her many jobs on campus. Potter hopes to find student work experience at a publishing house while studying in Oxford during the 2019-20 academic school year.

Sac State student Sarah Potter works as a tutor in the Writing Center, one of her many jobs on campus. Potter hopes to find student work experience at a publishing house while studying in Oxford during the 2019-20 academic school year.

Robert Pierce - The State Hornet

Sac State student Sarah Potter works as a tutor in the Writing Center, one of her many jobs on campus. Potter hopes to find student work experience at a publishing house while studying in Oxford during the 2019-20 academic school year.

Robert Pierce - The State Hornet

Robert Pierce - The State Hornet

Sac State student Sarah Potter works as a tutor in the Writing Center, one of her many jobs on campus. Potter hopes to find student work experience at a publishing house while studying in Oxford during the 2019-20 academic school year.

Robert Pierce

Hang on for a minute...we're trying to find some more stories you might like.


Email This Story






Sacramento State student Sarah Potter grew up signing American Sign Language, but hasn’t actively used the language in 15 years.

A business administration and English literature double major, Potter is exempt from any language requirements but is still taking classes in ASL and deaf studies in order to relearn the language and act as an advocate for the deaf community during her aspired career in publishing.

Potter’s older brother, Caleb, was non-verbal until the age of 7, so she learned the language alongside him to help him communicate. Potter said others called her an “honorary coda,” with “coda” being an acronym within the deaf community meaning child of a deaf adult.

“Most of my friends were deaf children, we would go to deaf events,” Potter said about her childhood. “But when my older brother went verbal, we stopped signing in the house to help him acclimatize to using spoken language and I just lost my ability to sign because I wasn’t using it every day and I didn’t sign for upwards of a decade.”

Potter is also scheduled to attend Oxford Brookes University in England during the 2019-2020 school year as part of a foreign exchange program. The State Hornet spoke with Potter about her plans for Oxford, future and involvement in the deaf community.

Question: What drove you to want to start signing again?

Answer: I well and truly missed it a lot, it’s a beautiful language. I was a part of the deaf community as a child, and I don’t think I’ll ever get the place back that I once had, it’s very hard to enter the deaf community, it’s very enclosed. So, I don’t think I’ll ever be as fluent as I once was, most hearing people are not capable of gaining that level of fluency. But, I would love to have any kind of interaction I could.

Q: What made you want to go to the University of Oxford?

A: Penguin Random House is probably my number one pick for a publishing house I’d want to work for out of college. They have paid work experiences in London, which is about an hour away from Oxford, and it sounds like an amazing experience. That’s not something you can get here at Sac State.

There’s no big publishing houses in Sacramento, there’s not really any on the West Coast, they’re all on the East Coast. Sac State has been amazing, they’ve given me so many opportunities. I have several jobs here on campus, in academic advising, in the Writing Center, and in other places like that, but there’s nothing in my industry. And so Oxford provides such a wonderful experience to work within the industry.

Q: Has your time with deaf studies helped your childcare career?

A: Absolutely, yes. People have some misconceptions when they see on YouTube those “signed songs.” It’s not really, they’re very rough approximations, it’s more what we would call SSE, which is Sign Supported English. In Camp Adventure, they use Sign Supported English songs, and oftentimes I would hear people say, ‘we’re going to teach your kids some ASL this summer’ and I would go ‘woah, hold your horses, let’s talk about it for a minute’ and I would explain the difference between SSE and ASL and what these songs actually are.

The deaf community finds it insulting a little bit, when people look at SSE like it’s ASL. But it is very helpful to young children to learn a little ASL, I think more people should sign ASL. It’s a very helpful way to communicate.

Q: How does learning ASL compare to learning another verbal language?

A: Very similar and completely different at the exact same time. Exactly the same in that you’re going to pick it up in the same way. Full immersion classrooms work the best with ASL just like any other language. How you would learn it is the same, you have to put in the time commitment, practice it, speak it regularly.

But in the sense of, is it similar to other languages, I would say no. In most languages you have to learn very strict rules. In German there are 16 variations of the word “the” and they’re all assigned to very specific situations and you just have to memorize it all and know when to use the correct “the.” But in ASL, there are things called classifiers, where you sign some rough approximation of what you’re trying to get across, because a sign doesn’t exist for that word, so you have to just sort of make it up. So it’s very fluid and it’s very flexible, very different from other languages that I’ve learned where it’s very strict rules and you just have to memorize them all.

Q: Is ASL a conversion of English?

A: That is a hot button issue within the deaf community. If you would think that ASL is just a physical representation of the English language, well then let’s put American Sign Language next to British Sign Language. If you knew ASL and you ran into someone that only signs BSL and you tried to communicate, you would be speaking two completely different languages. They’re both based from English speaking countries, but the signing is completely different. [ASL] is not just a physical representation of English, it is its own language. That’s actually something that the deaf community takes issue with, that people just assume that that is what it is when it’s not. There’s also the issue that syntax and grammar in ASL is completely different to English.

It’s actually a really big issue in our country. An overwhelming amount of deaf children do not have access to ASL, even if they wanted to. A lot of government funded schools for the deaf don’t teach ASL. They go the route of teaching how to read lips and voice, which, if that’s what you want to do, that’s perfectly fine. But ASL is not made an option for a lot of these kids, and that’s an issue that the deaf community struggles with regularly.

Q: Have you ever considered being a full-time activist?

A: I don’t think I would ever be able to be a full-time activist as I’m just too much of a bookworm. I would very much miss working with books. I also feel that the best advocates for the deaf community are members of the deaf community, and I should just support them. I should just back them up, and encourage them, and lend my voice to their message, because it’s their struggle and it’s their story. And that’s what I would like to be, I would like to lend my helping hand to their efforts.

CORRECTION: May 22, 2019

This story was updated to accurately reflect that Potter will be attending Oxford Brookes University in England starting in the fall. An earlier version of this story incorrectly Potter will be attending the University of Oxford, not Oxford Brookes University.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Leave a Comment

If you want a picture to show with your comment, go get a gravatar.




Navigate Left
  • Q&A: Sac State student talks Oxford, involvement in deaf community

    Baseball

    Sac State baseball team finishes regular season with 33-22 record

  • Q&A: Sac State student talks Oxford, involvement in deaf community

    Campus

    William Molina awarded honorary degree posthumously at Sac State commencement

  • Q&A: Sac State student talks Oxford, involvement in deaf community

    Basketball

    FROM THE ARCHIVES: Black student athletes’ fight for social justice in Sac State athletics

  • Q&A: Sac State student talks Oxford, involvement in deaf community

    Campus

    Only 1 off-campus Greek house subject to Sac State policies

  • Q&A: Sac State student talks Oxford, involvement in deaf community

    Campus

    #SacStateSays: “Why are you stressed?”

  • Q&A: Sac State student talks Oxford, involvement in deaf community

    Campus

    Q&A: Track and field athlete, Khala Clarke, spends her free time blogging

  • Q&A: Sac State student talks Oxford, involvement in deaf community

    Campus

    California American Indian tribal nation donates $750,000 to Sac State

  • Q&A: Sac State student talks Oxford, involvement in deaf community

    Campus

    #SacStateSays: ‘What does Mother’s Day mean to you?’

  • Q&A: Sac State student talks Oxford, involvement in deaf community

    Campus

    Sac State softball pitcher throws first no-hitter in Big Sky Conference championship history

  • Q&A: Sac State student talks Oxford, involvement in deaf community

    Baseball

    Hornets complete comeback with 4-3 win over Wolf Pack

Navigate Right