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Students enroll in Lake Land College sign language class to complete foreign language requirement

For Shelbi Borta of Royaltown, learning a traditional foreign language like Spanish, French or German didn’t exactly appeal to her. But, as a marketing and management major at the University of Illinois, she is required to fulfill foreign language credits in order to complete her bachelor’s degree.   

“I tried to take some Spanish classes; they weren’t for me,” explained Borta. “But I knew I had to complete the requirements for foreign language, and that’s when I began exploring alternative options.”

That alternative option was a sign language class at Lake Land College. After enrolling in Manual Communication with the Deaf, the introductory sign language course, Borta became very interested in signing and has since completed the second- level class, Advanced Signing, and is finishing the third-level class, Conversational Sign Language, this summer. Even though it means driving from Urbana to Mattoon, Borta said she liked the instructional style offered at Lake Land College and will transfer the credits to the U of I. 

Likewise, for Lucas Snow of Taylorville, who is a music major at Eastern Illinois University, he said that while he completed his foreign language requirements in high school, sign language has always interested him, and he decided to master it just for fun.

“I’ve always been a visual and kinesthetic learner, so signing seemed like a natural fit for me,” explained Snow.

Snow is also completing the third-level class this summer and has expressed interest in in becoming a sign language interpreter. 

According to instructor June Kriesel, the ability to sign adds another layer of diversity to both the educational setting and professional work environment. 

“There is always a need for sign language interpreters. It’s a solid and unique skill to have,” said Kriesel. 

In Conversational Sign Language, students prepare for signing conversations and stories with a focus on building narrative skills. They also learn to incorporate American Sign Language structure and grammar into formal settings. Kriesel also focuses on exposing her students to deaf culture.

Earlier this summer, students participated in a silent dinner, where they dined with native signers in order to practice their skills. Likewise, for a project in class, students are required to perform a song of their choice in American Sign Language. Borta performed “The Story So Far” by New Found Glory and Snow performed “Feeling Good” by Michael Buble. 

To learn more about sign language classes at Lake Land College, contact Kriesel at 


Cutline:  Lucas Snow of Taylorville performs “Feeling Good” by Michael Buble in the third-level sign language class, Conversational Sign Language, at Lake Land College. Sign language classes offer an alternative foreign language option for students required to complete foreign language credits. 


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