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Learning American Sign Language

  • 21 August 2016

American Sign Language (ASL) is one of the fastest growing languages of study in the United States for a variety of reasons. What could be some of the reasons why people want and decide to learn ASL?

The reasons vary widely from personal to professional. Most of the ASL students give their reason as “wanting to be able to communicate” with their Deaf relative, neighbor, or co-worker.

High schools offer ASL as a foreign language study along with Spanish, Japanese, and other languages. Taking ASL meets the high school graduation requirements for a foreign language. Some of the students take ASL because they think it improves their acting abilities or enhances their visual acuity. There have been reports that students take ASL because they wanted to date someone who was Deaf. Sometimes students who have been recognized as mainly visual learners think studying ASL will benefit them. Some of those students always wanted to learn more ASL since learning fingerspelling as a child.

College students are required to take a foreign language and many consider ASL an interesting choice. Serious students of ASL may even choose their college to major in Deaf Studies, or Deaf Education. Those who continue to study ASL and Deaf Culture may eventually decide on careers that involve the ability to speak ASL such as teachers of deaf students or community/educational interpreters.

Sometimes professionals like EMTs, police, firemen, or emergency responders decide to learn ASL because it will enhance their ability to communicate with Deaf people they come across in their dealings with the public.
Parents with newly-identified Deaf babies and Deaf children could decide to study ASL as the language of choice for their family. Parents believe that speaking ASL is a sure way for their Deaf child to acquire language, and fluent ASL is a wonderful path to eventually acquire English as a second language. Teaching ASL signs to hearing babies has also become a proven way to increase early communication between parents and babies and is more widespread and popular than ever.

Clearly, there is more than one reason why students take ASL. People take ASL for fun or necessity, and get a glimpse into a fascinating culture with the prospect of meeting people they might not meet in their daily lives.