Tyler Herron '13

Hometown: Columbus, OH
Majors: American Sign Language and English Interpreting & Spanish
Senior Study Title: “The Acculturation Experience of Congenitally Deaf Hispanics in the United States and the Field of Trilingual Interpreting”
Advisors: Dr. Geoff Mitchell and Ms. Peggy Maher

Thesis Abstract

With more than 50 million Hispanics living in the United States, that population makes up the largest and fastest growing minority in the country, according to the 2010 U.S. census.

Of the world’s Hispanic population, 4.2 percent – or 2.2 million people – have a severe hearing impairment, according to the U.S. National Center for Health.

The Hispanic Deaf community, a “minority within a minority,” includes the population of Hispanic deaf and hard-of-hearing (DHH) individuals who live in the U.S., use sign language and identify with the values and principles of the Deaf community.

Tyler Herron ‘13, who double-majored in American Sign Language & English interpreting and Spanish, aspires to become a certified trilingual interpreter. When it came time to select a topic for his Senior Study, he wanted to pursue research that would help him learn more about the population he would be serving: the Hispanic Deaf community. He also wanted to improve the skills that are necessary for trilingual interpreting.

For the first part of his Senior Study, Herron did an in-depth analysis of the Hispanic Deaf community’s experience of learning to adapt to American culture while maintaining its own heritage and ethnic culture.

“I explored the acculturation experience of immigrant and first-generation congenitally Deaf Hispanics into the society of the U.S. with particular attention to discrimination, family beliefs, family decisions, personal identity, school enrollment, language preference, community acceptance and, in particular, the availability and quality of resources,” Herron explained.

In his research, Herron found that Deaf Hispanics have a unique experience that is unlike the experience of any other minority, given their unique context of inheritors of three different languages – Spanish, American Sign Language (ASL) and English – and three unique cultures – Hispanic, Deaf and U.S. American.

“Throughout the span of their lives, Deaf Hispanics encounter numerous obstacles that encourage them to neglect two of their three cultural identities and assimilate to merely one,” Herron wrote. “Among these assimilating factors, Deaf Hispanics encounter struggles with familial relationships, communication boundaries, adverse education systems, career limitations and a larger, bearing society that doesn’t comprehend their triplicity.”

The second part of the Senior Study was a 12-month skills project that focused on improving Herron’s trilingual interpreting skills, or his ability to interpret from ASL into Spanish and from Spanish into ASL.

“One resource to which Deaf Hispanics are entitled under the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 is trilingual interpreting services,” Herron wrote. “Fluent in ASL, English, and Spanish and knowledgeably competent of their respective cultures, trilingual/tricultural interpreters aim to facilitate the linguistic and cultural differences between two interacting parties with the goal of achieving successful communication.”

During the self-improvement project, Herron worked with a mentoring team of two certified interpreters: a child of a Deaf adult who is also pursuing a master’s degree in teaching interpreting, as well as a trilingual interpreter who is fluent in ASL, English and Spanish.

“These individuals served a dual purpose of both mentoring me through the process of improving my interpreting skills as well as evaluating video samples as mile markers throughout the Senior Study,” Herron said, noting that he found that his trilingual interpreting skills improved 33.7 percent (ASL to Spanish) and 20 percent (Spanish to ASL) over the course of the 12 months.

Herron said his Senior Study sheds light on the limited resources available to Deaf Hispanics and the parents of Deaf Hispanics in the U.S., which “consequently strip the child from any opportunity to achieve his/her full potential and independence,” Herron said.

“Additionally, it draws attention to the difficult conflict that can arise when two homogeneous cultures (Hispanic and Deaf) clash, often times resulting in a taxing identity issue,” he continued. “Overall, the implications of the study suggest that Deaf Hispanic children and their families require early intervention services (with trilingual interpreters and tricultural professionals), a trilingual education placement that focuses on literacy and that is taught in ASL (a scarce resource due to fiscal limitations), and finally improved vocational rehabilitation services, including assignment of trilingual interpreters and/or tricultural counselors to Deaf Hispanic's cases.”

Herron’s advisors, Dr. Geoff Mitchell and Peggy Maher, were so impressed by Herron’s Senior Study that they recommended it for the library’s permanent collection as an exemplary thesis.

Mitchell, associate professor of Spanish, said he recommended Herron’s Senior Study because the topic was innovative and timely.

“Tyler’s work was meticulous and extremely thorough, and the text was very well written,” Mitchell said. “Although I love the typical Senior Study topics related to Latino literatures and histories, I always learn something new and interesting from cross-discipline studies such as Tyler’s.”

Maher, associate professor of sign language and interpreting, said Herron’s study serves “as an exemplar of excellence and creative project design.”

“His substantive, multifaceted study and projects therein are unique among senior studies at Maryville and concern an area of strong current and future needs in the Unites States and beyond,” Maher said. “His vocational growth was in gaining insight and experience in his trilingual interpreting skills. He grew in compassion and astuteness in regard to the larger societal issues, needs and challenges of Deaf Hispanics and their families in the United States.”

Herron was recently accepted to the VRS Interpreting Institute’s (VRSII) School to Work Program in Salt Lake City, Utah for the January through April term. Herron is the first student from Maryville College to be accepted to the highly competitive program, which provides a course of study designed to assist recent graduates in obtaining additional supervised experiences to gain the practical skills necessary for successful employment in the field of interpreting.

“For Tyler, acceptance in the VRSII is a stellar achievement,” Maher said. “The competition is fierce.”

Read the full text of Herron's Senior Study >>