Going Through the Motions: Jessica Johanson


While not many people might be able to guess it, freshman Jessica Johanson is an avid signer. She began learning American Sign Language (ASL) when she was in second grade and has been doing it ever since. “Sign language … has this beauty to it,” said Johanson. “All languages have their own beauty, but sign language is totally different.”

ASL has proven to be a helpful tool for Johanson when communicating with others who use the language. She described one experience when she was able to speak with a homeless woman, who was deaf, during an event she assisted at called Church in the Park. “She was listening to the choir and had no idea what we were singing,” Johanson explained. “I came up to her and I introduced myself, and you could see her face expression totally changed.” Her knowledge has come in handy in other instances, including communicating with a woman while waiting for the Sprinter, and asking a Target employee, who was hearing impaired, a question.

Many of us might not know that the woman sitting across from us on the bus or the man down the aisle at the grocery store can only speak through signs. “I wish that more people knew sign language,” said Johanson. “I think that that [would] definitely help everyone who was deaf.”

ASL has given Johanson many amazing experiences, but one of her favorites was participating in the Shamu Christmas Show at SeaWorld. She performed with a sign language group called “Love in Motion” for two seasons. “After the show, we would meet some deaf people that [were] in the audience,” said Johanson. “It’s amazing because, of course, they weren’t expecting sign language … [T]hey got to actually hear, in their way, some different songs.”

As for where sign language will take her next, Johanson hopes to take ASL classes at Palomar to learn more “conversational” signing. She said that she’s continually expanding her knowledge. “I’m still learning new words every day, and I’ve been taking it for many years.” Johanson said one of her favorite parts of signing is seeing “the joy on people’s faces.” “[Deaf people] live in a world where they can’t communicate and [ASL is] … a way that you can communicate with people, it’s pretty amazing [and] outstanding.”