Why schools should have ASL as language elective

Different+colored+hands+form+the+letters+ASL+in+American+Sign+Language.

Kayla Bowman

Different colored hands form the letters ASL in American Sign Language.

Meghan Krapp, Staff Writer

“American Sign Language (ASL) is a complete, natural language that has the same linguistic properties as spoken languages, with grammar that differs from English. ASL is expressed by movements of the hands and face. It is the primary language of many North Americans who are deaf and hard of hearing and is used by many hearing people as well,” according to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders.

ASL isn’t just a language used by deaf individuals. ASL is used as a first or second language by many Americans, estimating a range of 200,000 to almost 1 million people. These could include friends or family members of deaf people and/or people who just learned this type of language to be able to communicate with people of this community.

Given the prominence and importance of the language, high schools should permit students to take American Sign Language as their language elective.

“When my brother, who has autism, was younger, he didn’t know how to talk and the doctors said that he wouldn’t really be able to talk,” said BPHS sophomore Kayla Bowman. “So, my family started teaching him some sign language.”

ASL should be a course that all students should be permitted to take. This is an important language for teenagers to learn so that they can have a means of communication with people who may not have the luxury of hearing or may have trouble speaking.

In my opinion, implementing an ASL elective would allow students to become more aware of the deaf/hard of hearing as well as promote a better understanding of the community.”

— Kylie Moon

“In my opinion, implementing an ASL elective would allow students to become more aware of the deaf/hard of hearing as well as promote a better understanding of the community,” said BPHS junior Kylie Moon.

George Veditz, a former president of the National Association of the Deaf of the United States in the 1870s, once said, “Sign language is the noblest gift God has given to deaf people.”

Audibly impaired individuals often feel isolated from the rest of society, so having more people who can communicate with them may make them feel more understood and included in our world.

Bowman also recounts a situation at her job when knowing sign language would have come in handy. “There was this one instance at my job where a customer came in and only spoke sign language. Nobody knew how to sign to him except for one of my co-workers, and she was able to communicate with the customer.”

Even if one does not personally know someone who needs to communicate by sign language, knowing how to sign could potentially come in handy when you least expect it.

Many people are in a circumstance where they must use this language in order to communicate. Learning ASL can help to break barriers from those who don’t have to use ASL to those who do.”

— Sydney Edwards

“I believe it’s important for the student body to have an option to learn ASL,” said BPHS sophomore Sydney Edwards. “Many people are in a circumstance where they must use this language in order to communicate. Learning ASL can help to break barriers from those who don’t have to use ASL to those who do.”

And many other BPHS students feel the same way. An Instagram poll posted on the school’s newspaper’s Instagram account asked students, ‘If BPHS offered an American Sign Language course as a language elective, would you take it?’ Out of 141 students who answered, 111 (79%) said they would take the class while only 30 (21%) said they would not.

“It could be a cool idea,” said BPHS sophomore Domenic Depasquale. “I just personally would not take a sign language class. I think it would be hard.”

While learning ASL may be difficult, it could give students the opportunity to learn a language that would be useful for them in the future. Since many universities require students to have a certain amount of foreign language credits in high school, many students are taking a language they don’t really care for just so they can get into certain colleges. Languages like Spanish, French, Latin, and German may be useful for some students on their road to success, many are just learning the language for the credits.

ASL is a useful language for every student to know and also counts as a foreign language at many colleges around the United States.

Over recent decades, many states passed legislation to recognize and identify ASL as a distinct foreign language. This commissioned many universities, colleges, and high schools across the country to not only accept but to administer the language. 

As of Nov. 16, 2020, 145 universities in America are accepting ASL as a foreign language including the University of Pennsylvania and the University of Pittsburgh. To see the full list of universities and for further information about ASL in universities, click here.  

Also, a GED diploma also allows students to attend college and study for a bachelor’s or master’s degree in ASL. Many career opportunities are available for those who speak the language.

For example, for almost every police reporting, there is always someone in attendance who will translate the given information into American Sign Language. So, if a student is interested in joining the Police Force, he/she may have many more career options by knowing ASL.

There are many other occupations in knowing sign language. They can be from a Sign Language Interpreter to a Social Worker. Other settings where careers in sign language occur are hospitals and clinics, social service agencies, and schools. To see more careers related to sign language click here

Knowing sign language can be a very resourceful skill. Giving students the opportunity to learn it at school can increase the number of people in the United States who can communicate with people who are hard of hearing or have speaking disabilities. Many students would benefit from this chance to learn to sign, even if they don’t pursue a career in it. 

High schools should add ASL as a language elective students can take.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email