Should American Sign Language be Credited as a Foreign Language?

Samantha Garrard, Staff

The American Sign Language (ASL) is a completely unique and distinct language from English. It has its own rules for pronunciation, word creation, word order, and as well as all of the fundamental features of the language.

American Sign Language is a visual language. The brain processes linguistic information through the eyes during the signing. Face expressions and body movements, as well as the shape, location, and movement of the hands, all play a role in transmitting the information. Just as any other language it is just not spoken. ASL works in the same way as any other foreign language does. The grammar of ASL differs significantly from that of English, which is used in many other languages.

American Sign Language is recognized as a foreign language in some public or chartered nonpublic schools that may offer a course in American Sign Language, but it is not accepted by some state schools/universities as a foreign language.

American Sign Language satisfies the curriculum requirements for assisting colleges in their internationalization efforts. There is a misconception that teaching ASL in schools will result in a decrease in enrollment in other languages. This is completely untrue.

As many schools are not accepting ASL as a language, many colleges and universities are beginning to acknowledge ASL and Deaf culture as valid academic endeavors, and are beginning to embrace ASL as a foreign language requirement for admission and exit. ASL is required by law in numerous places to meet the criteria for high school foreign language graduation.

The University of California system (all campuses) will soon recognize ASL as a foreign language requirement for admission and graduation. Harvard and Yale are two of the universities that are looking into taking similar steps. State legislatures have recently been quite active in supporting the teaching and acceptance of ASL as a foreign language. Many states now accept ASL as a foreign language for high school graduation purposes.

Foreign language study provides students with a new perspective on their own language and culture, which is one of the educational benefits of doing so. This is particularly true in the case of ASL. Students will benefit greatly from using linguistic and anthropological methodologies to the study of ASL and Deaf culture. It gives them a better grasp of another culture’s language and customs, as well as a greater appreciation for their own.

ASL should be taught in OCS schools and should be accepted as a foreign language.