Should American Sign Language be a world language class offered to everyone?


Photo by Cady Blackstock

As Nebraska passes a bill, ASL classes are a possibility for credit requirements in high school.

It was about a month into school, we were all getting used to these new restrictions because of COVID and the weird seat placements at lunch. My friends and I were in a predicament where we couldn’t communicate across the room we were sitting in. At that moment, we wished that we knew at least some sign language so we could communicate with each other across the room. My friends and I later were talking about the possibility of taking an ASL class for beginners. That made me wonder why ASL is not a world language class for all.
American Sign Language (ASL) is a main way of communication for people who are deaf or Hard of Hearing (HOH). ASL is just like any other language, it has its own culture, syntax, and grammar. It also uses facial expressions and movement that help bring the words to life. People who can hear don’t typically learn ASL unless it could be helpful to another person, but learning sign language can have many benefits.
“ASL can be beneficial to learn just as it is beneficial to learn other languages like Spanish or French,” Alyse Krejdl, Educator of Deaf and Hard of Hearing for LPS, said. “When you broaden your skill set by learning another language you expand your ability to have meaningful interactions with people of different cultures.”
Children who have learned sign language at young ages also have better communication skills. “The sooner [hearing] children are exposed to sign language, the more fluent they will become,” a website called Deaf Linx said.
Another benefit to everyone learning sign language is the universal understanding. Having knowledge of ASL can give you the ability to help more people just like if you know another language. Nurses, flight attendants, police officers, or other people can also benefit from learning sign language. Even just the basics being taught to all can help, such as the alphabet.
High schools offering these classes as credit requirements are just a perk of allowing the classes to all students. “It can help to bolster communication between the students, and prevent mainstreamed deaf students from feeling isolated at their schools,” Deaf Linx said.
If classes are not offered at your school, there are other places that you can take ASL Beginners classes. In Lincoln specifically, Southeast Community College or Southeast Nebraska Regional Program all offer ASL classes. You can also learn ASL in many different ways like informational videos on YouTube – the options are endless. During these classes, you can also learn deaf culture. “This gives the students the opportunity to understand the challenges the deaf community faces, and the opportunity to become advocates in the program.” Deaf Linx said.
As of August 18th, 2020, Nebraska State Legislature passed a bill that ASL is a separate language as English so it can be counted as World Language credits in high school, so why has it not become a class that everyone can take?