Signing up for sign-language classes is meaning “taking a number” at West Lafayette, Indiana,’s Purdue University. Last fall, all eight sections were filled to capacity, and more than 450 students had to be turned away due to lacking capacity. Let’s see how long it will be before Sign Language will be introduced into the GED program!
All across America, the demand for sign-language at college level classes has been increasing over the past years, according to American Sign Language (ASL) linguists at Purdue. We also see that a large number of universities and colleges have approved ASL for second-language or foreign-language credit.
Over the last two decades, the picture has changed dramatically, as reported by linguists at Boston’s Northeastern University, a school that has been recognizing ASL as a foreign language since the mid-197o’s. Today, there are numerous post-secondary schools that are offering ASL instruction, and over 80 colleges and universities are accepting ASL for foreign-language requirements.
Numerous K-12 school districts are accepting ASL as a foreign language, and many students are genuinely interested, as shows at the Nursing Department of Clemson University, in Clemson, South Carolina, where now also ASL is being offered as a foreign language. Many feel that students should be offered the option to continue ASL in college. Many students may be attracted to ASL because it may seem more interesting or easier than spoken languages, but soon they’ll realize that, just because ASL is gestural and visual, this doesn’t make it easy at all.
Many students may be attracted to ASL because it may seem more interesting or easier than spoken languages, but soon they’ll realize that, just because ASL is gestural and visual, this doesn’t make it easy at all. The Sign Language comes with its own set of grammatical rules and structure which is more like Navajo or Japanese than English, and that much of the vocabulary consists of words with several morphemes.
There are also many small pieces of words that have their own meanings and effective note-taking will be made available soon. Sign language comes in many varieties and is definitely not the same across the globe. We can see some 200 different forms of sign language across the world, and particularly American and Chinese sign languages are extremely complicated and different.
There are several people, though, who question if ASL can be considered a second language or a foreign language. American ASL is, after all, indigenous to the U.S. and practically all people who communicate via ASL in America, write and read in English. This controversy is mainly coming from individuals who do not comprehend the nature of ASL or other sign languages. Most likely, you won’t come across any controversy among (international) linguists. There are foreign-language departments at universities and colleges that are balking at the designation and that have created comprehensive study plans, but those are mostly literature-focused departments.
At Clemson University, the department of foreign languages is open to this idea but requires the deaf community to prove its own one-of-kind culture. Boston University is recognized for the school’s deaf studies programs but doesn’t recognize that ASL fulfills all foreign-language requirements. This has been a long-standing and ongoing battle, as indicated by teachers of the school’s Programs in Deaf Studies. At Boston University, ASL was recently recognized as an independent ‘language’, but that’s not seen as enough. Well, let’s hope GED Testing Service will sign language to its testing program soon as well to offer persons of all ages an even better chance to earn a secondary education degree.
The Linguistics Department of the University of New Mexico accepts both ASL and Navajo (another indigenous language) in fulfillment of second-language requirements, and according to the school, applying anthropological and linguistic methods to the study of deaf culture and ASL is a fantastic exercise. So let’s keep on pushing to make our schools better to leave the students with a far better understanding of other peoples’ customs and language and provides a deeper and better appreciation of their own culture and language.
In several foreign-language departments, teachers have been expressing concern that including ASL in the curriculum could lead to reduced enrollment in some other languages and that Spanish would face some real competition. Evidence has indicated, though, that the opposite is actually true. Many ASL students, and of all ages, say they are interested in more and other languages and that they will be taking a traditional foreign language course later on.
Purdue University is reporting a slight shift in what types of students take American Sign Language. Traditional enrollment was by students going into healthcare and education majors, but these days, they see more and more business majors. Students are seeing the various market opportunities and let’s face it, deaf people are consumers, too. Over 300 students graduated from the Education of the Deaf Program offered by Boston University, and quite a few of them hold teaching positions, though some have continued to earn a Ph.D., while others again have chosen different career fields. All of these students, though, have non-traditional views and ideas regarding deaf people. Check also this list of schools that accept ASL as Foreign Language.