The educational system in the United States has recently taken a toll due to the increased measures mandated with regards to the core curriculum. Education is focused on learning more of the core subjects such as mathematics, natural sciences, English, history, and social sciences rather than allowing students to explore different areas of study. Although there is some emphasis on learning new languages, for most grade schools these classes are solely limited to Spanish, French, Chinese, and German. My question is that where did American sign language go? It is most definitely a language that is pertinent to helping us communicate as a society.
American sign language is used mainly by the deaf and hard-of-hearing community but it is also crucial for the hearing community to learn sign language in order to better connect with the deaf community. In the effort to break barriers, we are instead increasing the gap between both communities by refusing to acknowledge the importance of learning this universal language.
I have always been interested in learning ASL, and I want to become a member of the ASL club here at Emory University. I went to a few club meetings at the beginning of the year, and due to other activities and academic rigor as well getting adjusted to a completely new environment in college, I was unable to continue as a member of the club.
However, this semester, I am looking forward to most likely becoming an active member of the club so that I can learn a new language and be able to connect with people who are different than me.
Aside from being an important language to learn, the timing of learning such a language is also equally as important. In grade school, children are more prone to learning at a quicker rate than when they become older. Due to the prefrontal cortex of the brain still being developed when we are children, we have a greater capacity to process and store new information, such as learning a new language, playing a new instrument, or gaining a new skill.
Imagine walking up to a barista at a coffee shop who is hard-of-hearing and surprising her with the fact that you know sign language! It is such a humbling experience to be able to establish connections and extend hands of friendship with different people. I know I would be ecstatic if someone unexpected knew a language that I spoke at home such as Hindi.
Language establishes a certain bond with people that you often cannot get any other way. It shows others that you care about the culture and their community. This is why ASL should be a language option for foreign language classes in grade school as well as in college. I hope to see it implemented into our educational system in the next few years!