Imagine not being able to express yourself or communicate with the everyday ease that most of us take for granted? This is the reality for proximately seventy million deaf people around the world ( wfdeaf.org). Through immersing myself in an American Sign Language (ASL) course this semester as a part of my degree requirement, I have learned so much about Deaf Culture and the daily dialogues that I take for granted. I would like to share my experiences thus far in taking this course and offer my opinion on ASL in schools.
I chose to take ASL this semester to fulfill my language requirement for my history education degree. What I did not expect was to be fully immersed in Deaf Culture by taking this course with an instructor who is deaf. On the first day, we had an interpreter there with us to help us transition into the course; we also took a Deaf Culture quiz. I was amazed at how little I actually knew. However, both of these aspects were short-lived, as the next day of class, we said goodbye to our interpreter and our ignorance and began our journey learning sign language. I was a bit nervous in the beginning, being that it was a completely new language and concept to me, but I quickly caught on with the help of my hilarious teacher and classmates. Now, ASL is probably my favorite class to attend because I am learning so many new things that I know will help me in my future career as an educator, especially if I decided to further my education by obtaining my master's degree in special education in the future.
Speaking of that, let's discuss ASL within the schooling system. Personally, my high school did not offer ASL as a language option, so I opted to take four years of Spanish. While I enjoyed Spanish and find it useful at times, I find that ASL could be an almost universal language if everyone were to learn it. I think that as a staple, all schools should offer sign language, perhaps even starting it at a young age in elementary schools. If nothing else, I think that people should be required to learn the basics or perhaps even just the alphabet, so that they could fingerspell words and communicate somewhat effectively if needed.
As I continue to learn more and more about sign language and the culture that surrounds it, I am becoming increasingly aware of how many aspects of my life that I take for granted. I can call and order take out or converse easily with my friends, and I am always easily understood. This is not to pity those who cannot, it is simply to make others aware of the day to day luxuries that we have. I am so thankful to be learning this amazing new skill that will undoubtedly help me down the road in communicating with my future students and others alike. Although it is always difficult to learn something new, communication is one of the most valuable tools that we possess in our society, so we should take full advantage of any communication opportunity that we come across; by doing so, we can hopefully create better understanding of one another, thus building inclusive of all in a better world.