American Sign Language (ASL) is a subject that has been overlooked in homeschool settings in the past. Times have changed, making ASL an increasingly popular subject, both in the public school system and homeschool. The need for certified interpreters has grown and sadly there aren’t enough people who know ASL to fulfill much-needed roles in the Deaf and Blind communities. That being said, I will begin by saying, “Yes”. ASL is a great option for foreign language studies.
There is still some debate about whether American Sign Language can be considered a “foreign language”. Some scholars state that foreign languages must have a component whereby students can learn the distinct culture surrounding a language. Others argue that ASL is only a derivative of English. People have even debated whether ASL could be called a language at all.
Each of these questions and concerns hold answers that, in fact, support the legitimacy of American Sign Language as a foreign language. ASL was recognized as a true language by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1989, ASL is a fully developed human language, one of the hundreds of naturally occurring signed languages of the world.
Here are a few cool facts about American Sign Language that are good to know if your homeschooler decides to take it on.
- It is not a derivative of English. It has structures and processes that the English language does not. The grammar of ASL is drastically different from English as well.
- ASL is not a universal language; it is indigenous to the United States and Canada. Because of other languages that are not universal but are indigenous like Navajo, many language scholars now rather use the term “second language” instead of foreign language.
- Although ASL is not considered an international language, it is widely accepted as an official language during international conferences that require certified interpreters.
- The heritage of ASL continues to grow with rich bodies of literature, texts in written and oral modalities.
Foreign languages have values, world views, and customs attached to them. ASL similarly has a rich cultural life in the Deaf community. The deaf culture is being studied by anthropologists, ethnographers (study people and cultures), folklorists, and others interested in cross-cultural communication.
If you are wondering whether an ASL instruction is worthwhile, then the answer is an overwhelming, “Yes!” Let’s explore why it is a good option for a foreign language.
1. American Sign Language provides students with a different perspective of their own language and culture. It gives a better understanding of another completely unique language and a deeper understanding of our own.
2. American Sign Language is the third most-used language in the United States.
3. Most colleges accept ASL as a foreign language credit needed to fulfill graduation requirements. More and more colleges are even offering ASL interpretation programs in order to address the shortage of certified interpreters across the country and even worldwide.
4. ASL provides a competitive advantage and enhances your marketability when entering the workforce. Careers in education, medicine, serving in administration, real estate, hospitality, first responders and law enforcement, multimedia, culinary arts, customer service, and Deaf ministry can all use sign language. The shortage of certified interpreters, both in the U.S. and abroad ensures that a career path as an ASL certified interpreter can be both rewarding and fruitful.
5. ASL is a foreign language is a means of relationship with the deaf community to the world. Over 20 million Americans are deaf or have hearing difficulties, yet few people know enough ASL to even communicate with them. Interpreters are in high demand. Not being able to hear in a world full of sound develops a need for people to bridge the gap between the two worlds.
Like music and art, foreign language enhances opportunities, growth, and intellect. Whatever foreign language you or your child choose to explore, know that studying language, culture, and literature different from our own helps us to see outside of ourselves and towards the world around us.
Jeannette is a wife, mother and homeschooling mom. She has been mightily, saved by grace and is grateful for God’s sovereignty throughout her life’s journey. She has a Bachelor in English Education and her MBA. Jeannette is bi-lingual and currently lives in the Tongan Islands of the South Pacific. She posts daily freebies for homeschoolers!
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