Why Learn American Sign Language (ASL)
The benefits of learning sign language at an early age are numerous. American Sign Language (ASL) is one of the most widely used languages in the United States, and the fourth-most studied second language at American universities. At least 35 states have recognized ASL as a modern language for public schools, and hundreds of colleges and universities in the United States are offering ASL classes.
ASL is primarily used by American and Canadians who are either deaf or hard of hearing. There are approximately 250,000 – 500,000 ASL users in the United States and Canada, most of whom use ASL as their primary language. In addition, ASL is used by:
- hearing children of deaf parents,
- hearing siblings and relatives of the deaf,
- hearing adults who are becoming deaf and are learning ASL from other deaf individuals, and
- a growing population of hearing, second-language students learning ASL in elementary, secondary, and post-secondary classrooms.
Being proficient in ASL allows you to communicate with a wide range of hearing, hard of hearing, and deaf individuals—including students in mainstream and deaf school or university programs and deaf or hard of hearing residents and business people in your community. In addition, ASL improves the quality of family communication for hearing people with deaf or hard of hearing family members.
Story: From Volunteer to White House Intern
Story: At Central Washington University, Deaf Instructors and a "No Voices" Policy Motivate ASL Students to Succeed
ASL is deeply rooted in the Deaf Community and Culture. Studying ASL promotes better awareness of and sensitivity to the deaf and hard of hearing community. As someone proficient in ASL, you will develop a strong appreciation for deaf culture, and you can promote understanding and acceptance of the language among others.
Career Opportunities from Learning American Sign Language
One especially exciting career path open to bilingual hearing professionals is interpretation. There is a great need to increase the availability of qualified ASL interpreters in the community and mainstream programs in schools and colleges/universities. Some places interpreters are in demand include hospitals, courts, governmental agencies, community activities, and local, county, and state legislatures.
Likewise, professionals in public and private agencies and educational settings—such as teachers, counselors, consultants, therapists, and specialists—use ASL to serve the deaf and hard of hearing. Law enforcement and emergency response workers also benefit from a knowledge of ASL.
Deaf and hard of hearing people proficient in ASL may be interested in becoming ASL teachers. Qualified ASL teachers are certified by a national professional organization, the American Sign Language Teachers Association (ASLTA).
Story: Demand for American Sign Language Interpreters on the Rise
We find ourselves drawn to many languages for their beauty and the emotional responses they trigger in us. While perhaps not as vital as the reasons listed above, this is clearly true of ASL. ASL is a visual language with its own grammatical rules and semantics. It is unique in that its beauty, unlike spoken languages, is seen rather than heard.
Adapted from the North Carolina Chapter of the American Sign Language Teachers Association (NC ASLTA) and the North Carolina Association of the Deaf (NCAD) Ad Hoc Committee
American Sign Language Scholarships and Grants
American Sign Language Honor Society ASL Scholarships
The Society offers scholarships to students majoring or minoring in ASL, Deaf Studies, Deaf Education, or Interpreter Preparation from campuses with an active chapter.
National AMBUCS Scholarships for Therapists
AMBUCS awards yearly scholarships to college students pursuing a future career in therapy – including speech language pathology and hearing audiology.
Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf, Inc. (RID) Scholarships
RID offers numerous scholarships to Registry members seeking to complete interpreter preparation or certification.
Looking for an ASL Program?
While initially developed to report language enrollment figures, the MLA database provides a comprehensive listing of postsecondary language programs, allowing you to refine your results by language, geographic area, and/or type of institution. The data is based on MLA’s 2013 survey.
To Get Started:
- Select your language(s), up to eight
- Narrow your search, as desired, and click “search now”
- Expand your findings to reveal specific schools offering programs in your language by clicking on the small triangles on your results page