ASL: A Touch of Class


Related Articles:

Why ASL?

American Sign Language (ASL) Classes

Learning from a book is probably the worst way to learn.  It is a two dimensional experience, where ASL is a three dimensional language. Learning from a book is a good way to "mis-learn" the language. Books are good as a support system, but not as a primary way to learn. I will add right up front that it is BEST to learn ASL, not some coded expressions of signs. SEE (Signing Exact English) is NOT a lange, it is merely a sign code. I would highly discourage anyone from learning this until after becoming fluent in ASL - then maybe there will be no desire to learn it. A mix of SEE and ASL is commonly called PSE (Pigeon Sign English) and is also not a language. There is no substitute for ASL for clear, culturally correct, conceptually accurate communication. There are other codes that people have developed such as cued speech which are poor attempts to develop communication between Deaf and hearing or even Deaf with Deaf.

Sign Classes: 

If you are looking for a sign language class:

The best sign language classes are taught by the Deaf people themselves. It is important to note that not all Deaf people are qualified to teach, just as all hearing people are not qualified to teach. But to have a Deaf teacher is the best way to learn (secondarily perhaps is a CODA [Child Of Deaf Adult]) because they will understand the nuances in the language because it is their first (heart) language. It is also best if they have studied their language to be able to have a deeper understanding of the language and its background, syntax, etc.

Learn about hearing loss and its affects on the personality, how it affects relationships, and various devices used by the Deaf community. In all your seeking you may find it difficult to find such classes but these are suggested so you can at least know what to look for and know what is missing as well as be better able to evaluate your class choices. Some courses/teachers are ASLTA approved and are among the best classes to take. ASLTA is the American Sign Language Teachers Association.

Attitude Is Important
Sign classes are for more than learning the  signs.  It is to learn the culture, their shared common experiences and to  develop a heart of empathy for those who are Deaf. It is important to learn and to develop cultural sensitivity. Immersion into the culture is the best way to learn, not as a "teacher" to the Deaf, but a learner from the Deaf. Learn their political perspective, their educational views, their language with its idioms, its attitudes and why they have them as a common thread, their social structure, and so on. Become immersed and they will see your heart. Remember, to have "thick skin" (humility) as a hearing person because it is not your culture. And please never presume to speak for them, they are capable to do it themselves. Even after you have been in it for a long time, you are still a learner, a foreigner in a different country.

Remember, most Deaf people do not want people to learn  how to fingerspell, or to sign clearly.  They want people to have a heart to embrace their culture and develop relationships with the members of the Deaf community.  One of the worst compliments that a person can  make is, "I want to learn sign language to sing  and  sign."  This is a totally  wrong motive for learning to sign  and will  alienate you  from the  Deaf community.

If any of the items suggested are not included in the ASL classes near you, study these for yourself. Search out the Deaf views and their perspectives. Too often the hearing or the "professionals" are all to willing to speak up while ignoring the Deaf people's perspective. Learn from the Deaf - all Deaf. And keep your mind open.


Courses should include: 



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