For the Love of Languages

by Heather Breitbach

This article was originally published on Gallaudet University website.

Laurel Silverstein’s internship at Moshe Sharet, a school for deaf and hearing Israeli children, led her exactly to the career she’d been looking for. The interpretation major and Detroit, Mich. native, who graduated in May 2012, is now working as an English instructor at the school in Tel Aviv, Israel. She will return to the campus this fall to pursue a master’s degree in linguistics.

Laurel’s five-month internship program was through Career Israel, which places college graduates in internships in almost every possible field in the public and private sectors of leading businesses and organizations in Israel.

Having been to Israel several times before and loving the experience, Laurel realized an internship in Israel was a perfect fit for her and her interest in linguistics and language in general.

“I am always interested in language and learning other languages. I think when you truly understand a language, it makes you a better interpreter,” said Laurel.

Prior to leaving for Israel, Laurel worked with a tutor to learn how to write in Hebrew and refresh her knowledge of the language. She also learned basic signs in Israeli Sign Language (ISL) from a friend. Once she was in Israel, Laurel continued to learn more Hebrew and ISL by interacting with deaf friends, teachers, and students.

One of the challenges Laurel faced during her internship involved using Hebrew and Israeli Sign Language (ISL). “I still have difficulty signing in solely ASL (American Sign Language) or ISL without having the two languages overlap,” said Laurel.

During her internship in israel, Laurel taught English to both deaf and hearing children. Working with children in the 2nd to 6th grades, Laurel also taught ASL during their English lessons and helped hearing children with their English writing and reading.

Laurel worked with 4th grade children in particular, preparing them for an important exam that would test their English skills, as required by a policy of the Ministry of Education to expose young children to the English language.

Laurel feels her internship was mutually beneficial to everyone involved. The children “were able to learn a new language from someone who is fluent [in English]. They could ask questions, make mistakes, and feel comfortable,” said Laurel.

“I worked with this boy one-on-one, and in the beginning he couldn’t write his name in English,” recalled Laurel. “But we worked together and now he can write full sentences on his own. Seeing him in the classroom, raising his hand and reading his answers brought a smile to my face.”

“Working with children, you develop new skills of how to work with different people,” she said. “Every day I learn something new with these kids.”

Although she isn’t sure what she’ll be doing after graduate school, Laurel thinks she will be working as an interpreter, possibly in Israel. The challenges are eclipsed by the rich cultural experience of working in Israel, which has become home to Laurel.

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