Immigrant finds new home and language: ASL

November 4, 2019
It is tough to find the words in any language to describe the perseverance of Ali Hussain. “It can’t be explained how isolating language is if you don’t have it and you can’t access your education,” Solano County Office of Education assistant director Marianne Duncan said. “That’s why his story continues to inspire me. The more he learns about what’s possible, the more he wants to do.” Ali is deaf — and he’s on a mission to educate. “Oftentimes, people who can hear will look at people who are deaf, someone like me, ‘Well, you’re not as good as me,’” Ali said. “Or ‘You’re lower than me. You can’t do such and such.’ I’m like, ‘No. I can do just as much as you can.’ It doesn’t matter if you’re hearing or deaf, we are equal.” Born in Pakistan, Ali had limited access to education. He went to school when he was 6 years old, but language barriers prevented him from learning with the rest of his peers. “I tried my best to learn to read and write the language there in Pakistan,” Ali said. “And I was lost most of the time. I was able to get several things from visualizing it and seeing it on paper. But the struggles that I had was because there was no communication.” In 2014, Ali moved with his family to California. The learning curve would prove steep. Learning a new language in a new culture is a challenge in and of itself. But Ali needed to learn two languages: English and American Sign Language. “When he came here in the ninth grade, he had no language whatsoever,” Deaf and Hard of Hearing teacher Katherine Reyes said. “So the limits of his language were pointing, utterances, grunts. And that was how he communicated. He didn’t understand what people were talking about. But he wanted to understand. He wanted to learn.” Ali credits his teachers, interpreters and classmates at Rodriguez High for helping him find a sense of belonging.  “I felt empowered here,” Ali said. “A lot of different people on staff were willing to help me and teach me. And just build my confidence. And give me those opportunities that I could grow and learn and then finally have a point in my life where I could see a future.” Ali graduated from Rodriguez High in June and now plans to pursue a career in technology in hopes of finding ways for the hearing and deaf to communicate more effectively with each other. He even has dreams of attending Harvard Business School. “He’s very inspiring,” Reyes said. “He’s inspiring to other students here. He shows that it doesn’t matter where you come from. It doesn’t matter if you didn’t have language exposure at a young age. You can start. You can start now if you haven’t picked it up yet. You can still do it. If you keep going, then you can succeed. That’s what Ali is embodying. That’s what he’s showing.”
When Ali Hussain emigrated from Pakistan in 2014, he lacked the ability to communicate in any language.

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