In middle school, I worked side by side with a deaf boy, Thomas, as his peer helper. I was in charge of helping him with two assignments a day, taking him to our activity class, and making sure he felt included with the other students. Working with him made me realize how hard it can be for deaf children to communicate and succeed in life. Years later at work, I came in contact with Kenny, a deaf gentleman who impressed me a lot. While working daily with Kenny, I learned he wasn’t born deaf; he was just hard-of-hearing and later in life his hearing got worse, so he was then considered deaf.
After talking closely with Kenny, I found that the hardest thing is that when he is part of a larger group of people, especially when not many people sign, he cannot follow conversations. As Kenny and I discussed his struggles, I came to notice a larger need for American Sign Language. Because some of the deaf community exclusively read lips to respond or exclusively sign, I feel signing should be offered as a second language at all colleges.
American Sign Language (ASL) should be offered as a second language at all colleges because, like other foreign languages such as Spanish, French, or German, there is a high possibility a person needing to talk to someone whose first language is ASL. In “Sign Language: A Way to Talk, but Is It Foreign” (NY Times) discussed how ASL should not be considered a foreign language, due to it not being foreign and only used in the United Sates. It has no literature in the sense of a written language (NY Times). This is not completely, true though. Compared to “Is American Sign Language a ‘foreign’ language?” discusses how deaf students at Northern Illinois University “weave their fingers in complex patterns.” (Lourgos)
It is a very controversial topic on why it doesn’t agree with being a foreign language. Places around the world have variations of ASL, some ranging to only 20 characters. As the New York Times explains how each country has a form of sign language but none of them are really the same. “British, French and German sign languages have different grammars, syntax and signs, different not only from each other but also from spoken English, French and German” (NY Times). I highly believe in ASL should be given the same status as foreign language in American Colleges. Yet, many countries have many forms of sign languages but are different. Many other foreign languages are taught but in many different varieties and so anywhere you go no matter what language you use; it could be difficult to talk to others due to the way you were taught.
I completely agree with Jade Chapman who said, “Our society would benefit from ASL being considered a foreign language.” She goes on to say, “It would enable the deaf community to be included into everyday life. It would create a bond between the deaf and hearing. It would help them not feel so isolated, and the hearing community would feel a fulfillment from the knowledge they gained” (TheGuardian). With my personal experiences with Kenny and Thomas, I learned that they do feel alone, and difficult feeling they are part of society.
“Sign Language: A Way to Talk, but Is It Foreign?” The New York Times. The New York Times, 07 Jan. 1992. Web. 26 Apr. 2016.
Opponents are discussing whether or no A.S.L should be considered as a foreign language. Many think since A.S.L shouldn’t be considered because it’s an American form, not a foreign form. Yet people do agree that A.S.L does have its own syntax and grammar, but since it doesn’t have a written form they frown upon it. Many colleges and even some high school have accepted A.S.L in as a foreign language.
Lourgos, Angie. “Is American Sign Language a ‘foreign’ Language?” Tribune digital- Chicago tribune. 18 Apr. 2010. Web. 27 Apr. 2016.
Several universities have face the issue of how to treat ASL. Colleges such as Northern Illinois University, University of Michigan—Flint, and Boston University have faced this issue in different ways, recognizing the need to deal with the communication needs of the deaf.
Chapman, Jade. “We Must Teach Sign Language in Schools.” The Guardian. Guardian News and Media, 30 Dec. 2014. Web. 27 Apr. 2016.
Jade Chapman explains how difficult it is for his sister to just do simple task, such as shopping, visiting the doctor or simply even answering the door at home. Being in the deaf community creates a huge barrier with other around people if they can’t sign. Sign language was made an official language in 2003, yet its barely taught in schools. Teaching ASL would benefit our society and create a bond between the deaf and hearing communities. It’s hard for the deaf community not to be able to socialize, and they may feel unfairly isolated.