American Sign Language (ASL) is a vibrant language that is rich in cultural history and offers unique opportunities for better communication, especially with Deaf and hard-of-hearing students. ASL Colleges offer different specializations, which include interpretation and Deaf culture, in which the former focuses on translating and interpreting ASL and the latter on Deaf cultural history.
Choosing the Right ASL College
When it comes to selecting an ASL college, several factors come into play, such as college reputation, facilities and accommodations, ASL curricula, student experiences, and available resources, among others.
In this article, we will take a look at these important considerations so that you or your child can choose among the best ASL colleges for themselves.
A college’s reputation often reflects the quality of education a Deaf student can expect. Colleges renowned for their ASL programs often have a track record of student success and offer comprehensive courses that cover various aspects of ASL. Not only that, but they also make the necessary adjustments to provide all types of students with the most holistic college experience possible.
Facilities and accommodations
Apart from a sign language teacher or interpreter, there are other accommodations that a Deaf or hard-of-hearing student should consider before deciding among the few ASL colleges. For instance, Gallaudet University in Washington offers real-time captioning and tutoring for the convenience of their Deaf students. There are also institutions that provide assistive learning and alternative communication devices, and test modifications for a more inclusive environment.
Resources for Deaf or hard-of-hearing students refer to organizations and regulations created to provide adequate support for students with unique needs and requirements. Among these resources are the Hearing Loss Association of America, Hands and Voices, the National Cued Speech Association, the National Deaf Center, and Accessible College, among others. Find a college that coordinates with the agencies mentioned, especially if you’re seeking financial assistance to enter your desired school.
One is advised to know the culture and experiences of students in ASL colleges. What you can do is check for testimonials on social media, and online forums, or visit your selected ASL colleges yourself to get a glimpse of what you can expect.
ASL as a College Major
An American Sign Language major involves not only learning the sign language itself but also understanding Deaf culture, the linguistic principles of ASL, and the history of the Deaf community. These programs typically require four years of study in some ASL colleges and offer a Bachelor of Arts degree.
Choosing to major in ASL opens up a wide range of career opportunities, so let’s explore the potential career paths of an ASL degree holder.
Potential Careers for ASL Majors
A bachelor’s degree in American Sign Language opens up different career options beyond teaching and interpreting, such as becoming a speech-language pathologist or, if you’re passionate about advocacy, working in a Deaf community to teach children who cannot afford to attend school.
Top ASL Colleges
There are several prestigious institutions noted for their outstanding ASL courses and programs. Here are a few ASL colleges that are well-known for their ASL programs that you should look into.
Gallaudet University in Washington is a pioneer in the field of Deaf education. Being the only university in the world designed for Deaf and hard-of-hearing students, it offers a unique learning environment with its culturally diverse faculty and student body.
Rochester Institute of Technology – National Technical Institute for the Deaf
The National Technical Institute for the Deaf, a part of the Rochester Institute of Technology, offers an excellent ASL-English interpreting program where students receive a solid linguistic foundation and hands-on interpreting experience.
University of New Mexico
The University of New Mexico’s ASL program is known for its comprehensive curriculum and emphasis on Deaf culture. Students are encouraged to participate in the local Deaf community, gaining valuable real-world experience.
California State University, Northridge
California State University, Northridge, offers a Deaf Studies department with an ASL/English interpreting program. Known for its strong community ties and extensive alumni network, it’s an excellent choice for ASL students.
ASL Classes and Minors
Some people may prefer to take classes or minor in ASL alongside another major. Let’s explore why you might consider this and some ASL colleges that offer these options.
Why Take ASL Classes or Minor in ASL?
ASL classes or a minor can complement various majors and careers. Whether you’re in healthcare, education, social work, or business, knowing ASL can set you apart and enable you to communicate with a wider audience.
Online ASL Classes at Community Colleges
In today’s digital world, online learning has become a popular option, as this gives better opportunities for Deaf and hard-of-hearing students to manage their time and learn at their own pace.
Benefits of Online ASL Classes
Online ASL classes offer flexibility, which makes them ideal for people with busy schedules. They also allow you to learn from anywhere, removing geographical restrictions. Similarly, online learning can provide ample opportunities for individual practice and feedback.
However, online classes may lack opportunities for face-to-face interaction, which is crucial to learning a visual language like ASL. Similarly, not all online courses in some ASL colleges offer a comprehensive curriculum that includes Deaf culture and history.
Community Colleges Offering Online ASL Classes
Austin Community College in Texas and Portland Community College in Oregon offer online ASL classes, which is a more affordable and convenient way to learn the language.
ASL as a Foreign Language: Acceptance and Controversy
ASL’s recognition as a foreign language is a topic of ongoing debate. Many universities, like the University of Rochester and the University of Pennsylvania, among other ASL colleges, accept ASL as a foreign language. However, acceptance varies, with some colleges recognizing it for some programs but not others.
The controversy arises from differing views on what constitutes a “foreign” language. While some argue that ASL, as a unique language with its own syntax and grammar, should be considered foreign, others insist that it’s a domestic language because it’s used within the United States. This debate continues to influence ASL’s acceptance in educational institutions.
Despite its widespread use, ASL is not recognized as a foreign language by several colleges. These colleges frequently classify ASL as a ‘special language,’ which limits its usefulness for meeting foreign language requirements.
Advocacy for ASL Recognition
Various advocacy groups and individuals are pushing for universal acceptance of ASL as a foreign language in colleges. They argue that this recognition will encourage more students to learn ASL, thereby promoting inclusivity and accessibility.
Choosing the right college for ASL studies is an important decision that can shape your educational journey and, most especially, your future career. Several top-ranking ASL colleges provide extensive ASL programs, with options for majoring, minoring, or taking a few classes. Fortunately, online ASL classes at community colleges also offer a flexible learning option. As you explore all of your options, make certain that the school you select will give you the best possible opportunities so that you may learn and enjoy your college as a whole. Pursuing ASL studies not only equips you with a unique skill but also opens doors to diverse career opportunities and allows you to meet incredible people as you tread the real world with the knowledge and skills you have gained.
People Also Ask
What are the best ASL colleges in the U.S.?
Some of the top ASL colleges in the U.S. include Gallaudet University, Rochester Institute of Technology – National Technical Institute for the Deaf, the University of New Mexico, and California State University, Northridge.
Do all colleges accept ASL as a foreign language?
No, not all colleges accept ASL as a foreign language. The acceptance varies among colleges, with some recognizing it for some programs but not others.
What career opportunities are available for ASL majors?
Careers for ASL majors include ASL interpreters, special education teachers, speech-language pathologists, and roles in Deaf advocacy. Knowing ASL can also be beneficial in many fields, such as healthcare, education, social work, and business.
Are there online ASL classes available at community colleges?
Yes, many community colleges offer online ASL classes. These classes can be an affordable way to learn ASL and understand Deaf culture.
How do I choose the right ASL college?
Choosing the right ASL college depends on several factors, including the college’s reputation, faculty qualifications, resources, student experiences, and your personal career goals and aspirations.