By Matt Boniface

Are you one of the many that talk with your hands? Have you ever wanted to learn another language? There’s a local group that can help you with both. Students and community members alike are welcomed to join ‘TAMPA ASL Socials’. This group of community members meets on a regular basis to patron businesses, meet new people and converse; they do this all in American Sign Language (ASL). It meets every Thursday in the food court of the Westfield Brandon Mall starting at 6:30 p.m. and on Fridays at 6:30 p.m. on a rotating schedule of local restaurants in the surrounding Tampa area. Due to graduation of the students involved, meetings take a hiatus after Thanksgiving and begin again the second week of January.

“Everyone is welcomed, from kids to adults,” said Joseph Cacciatore, one of the group’s regular members. An average meet-up will have roughly 15 to 20 attendees ranging in proficiency from those just beginning to learn sign language to fully fluent. Members can be hearing, hard of hearing or deaf.

There is one major rule at these events: No “Voicing,” meaning no talking with your mouth. Out of respect for the deaf members, the group encourages all attendees to speak using only sign language. “Turn it off,” Joseph explained. No one expects attendees to be experts in sign language. People of all skill levels are encouraged to attend and learn. College students are encouraged to attend these events to fulfill a requirement for their classes. Caitlyn Pashnick, an HCC student, “My teacher requires five observation journals per semester… [and] I’ve always wanted to learn it.” She began studying sign language in August and seeks to use what she learns as a dispatcher for the sheriff’s department, where she currently works.

Elias Goutoufas, ASL Instructor at Hillsborough Community College, “Our ASL events are open to everyone who loves American Sign Language.” Elias is the group’s Community Events Informer and attends the Friday meet-ups on a regular basis.

For more Information visit www.aslevents.info or join the Facebook Group ‘Tampa ASL Socials.’ Event times and locations are updated regularly in both locations.