To celebrate Deaf Awareness Week we’re excited to highlight our biweekly American Sign Language (ASL) classes. The origin of ASL classes at Yelp remains a mystery, but Yelp folklore leads us to believe that they were started by one Yelp engineer who wanted to communicate freely with a hearing-impaired teammate. This engineer went directly to Jeremy Stoppelman to discuss offering the classes and he loved the idea. Thus ASL classes at Yelp were born!
Classes began as one-on-one learning sessions but, to accommodate the growing interest, classes now take place every Tuesday and Thursday and have between 10 and 12 students. The classes are taught by an external ASL teacher, Maren Nymo, who teaches 9 levels of ASL with 8 weeks of lessons each. After completing one level, class members automatically progress to the next, enhancing their skill set, speed, and understanding of ASL. Students in Level 1 classes start by learning the basics like the alphabet, common words. Soon after, they begin learning more abstract concepts, like telling stories about their lives.
Wenting Wang manages the ASL classes at Yelp, keeping track of open slots and emailing interested employees when new classes are available. Priority is always given to individuals working with hearing impaired teammates, but anyone at Yelp is welcome to sign up to learn and develop their ASL skills.
Wenting has been learning ASL for a year and a half now, and is currently a Level 7 student. While working at Yelp’s Hamburg office and attending an Engineering Learning Group talk, she noticed an interpreter at the session and became immediately fascinated. Realizing that there were hearing impaired employees at Yelp made her want to start to learning the language. It seemed like a perfect way to enhance her skills while also contributing to the culture at Yelp.
For anyone who’s concerned about learning ASL, or aren’t sure where to start, Wenting offers this welcoming advice: “Just come and join. It was a surprise for me when I first started learning to find out that people know a lot of sign language by nature, and that we use sign language everyday.”
Alongside helping teams work better together, we’re passionate about providing learning opportunities for employees to learn new skills they’re interested in. Want to join the team?