DePaul University College of LAS > Academics > Modern Languages > Student Resources > Language Resources > American Sign Language

American Sign Language

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Why Study ASL?

American Sign Language is a complex, visual-spatial language that includes the hands, body movements and facial expressions to convey a message. As one of the fastest growing languages, it is the primary means of communication among Deaf people and the 4th most studied modern language at colleges and universities in North America. ASL is a fascinating language to learn and can be beneficial both personally and professionally.

One key advantage of learning ASL is the improvement of nonverbal communication skills. According to one study, only 7% of the meaning conveyed by a typical utterance regarding feeling or thought comes from the actual spoken words. Another 38% percent is conveyed by voice and tone while the remaining 55% percent is derived from body language. When the body language conflicts with the words, a listener will typically pay more attention to non-verbal messages (Mehrabin, 1972). How much more could humans understand as a result of being attuned with the non-verbal messages happening around us on a daily basis?

A mastery of ASL could provide an edge in seeking employment.
  • Educators ~ Today more than ever it’s common for educators to have children who are deaf or hard of hearing in their classroom. Many opt to learn ASL for this reason alone; however, others decide to become certified to teach ASL in the public schools. Educators with ASL teacher certification are qualified to teach ASL to both hearing and deaf students.
  • First responders ~ According to the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA), hearing loss is the third most prevalent chronic health condition facing older adults. As the population ages and the incidence of hearing loss increases, sign language becomes more and more relevant – especially in emergency situations when communicating with someone who is deaf or hard of hearing is critical.
  • Service providers ~ Social workers, counselors, psychologists and medical professionals are also finding it beneficial to learn sign language. In fact, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires that hospitals provide an appropriate means of communication to any patient, family member or visitor who is deaf or hard of hearing. The ADA also covers legal, education, law enforcement and employment systems.

Why Study ASL at DePaul?

DePaul University offers a minor in ASL. It is designed to provide students with a background in ASL and Deaf Culture. Students may obtain entry-level jobs in settings working with the Deaf and Hard of Hearing in a classroom setting, as a residential supervisor, vocational trainer and many more. A minor in ASL will also lay the groundwork for students to become advocates and allies of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing community.

DePaul offers a wide variety of major concentrations to choose from. Another popular approach with ASL minors is to combine an ASL minor with a related major field of study such as Education, Counseling, or Psychology for a more well rounded grounding in the issues relating to the Deaf and hard-of-hearing in their field.

There is a large Deaf and Hard of Hearing population in Chicago and studying ASL at DePaul gives you a greater opportunity for exposure to a diverse community and to experience both the language and its associated culture through practical application.  In doing so the student is offered networking opportunities from various events, deaf related organizations and agencies which can lead to an enriching experience and better job prospects.

Professional Organizations

  • ASL Honor Society (ASLHS) ~ ASLHS seeks to enrich the learning experience of those studying ASL. Some of the benefits offered by the ASL Honor Society include: awarding honor cords and medals based on academic achievement, encouraging service learning projects that benefit the ASL community, hosting the annual Deaf Art and ASL Literature competitions, awarding the only national scholarships to students majoring or minoring in ASL, Deaf Studies, Deaf Education, and Interpreter Education; and financially supporting ASL education via grants for teachers to assist in purchasing equipment or materials for use in the classroom.
  • ASL Proficiency Interview (ASLPI) ~ ASLPI is a holistic language evaluation used to determine global ASL proficiency.
  • Center for the Assessment of Sign Language Interpretation (CASLI) ~ The principal activity of CASLI shall be the development and administration of knowledge and performance tests that measure the proficiency of an individual to interpret between deaf individuals who use sign language and individuals who speak English. This testing is conducted solely for the purpose of RID, Inc. certification.
  • Educational Interpreter Performance Assessment (EIPA) ~ The EIPA is a tool that evaluates the voice-to-sign and sign-to voice skills of interpreters who work in the elementary through secondary classroom using videotape stimulus materials and a procedure that includes a comprehensive rating system.
  • Gallaudet University ~ Gallaudet University is the world's only university designed to be barrier-free for deaf and hard of hearing students. Gallaudet strives to bring excellence to the campus through a variety of backgrounds, skills, experiences and perspectives.
  • Illinois Deaf and Hard of Hearing Commission (IDHHE) ~ IDHHC is an executive state agency that promotes education and awareness of the legal requirements for effective communication on behalf of people with hearing loss in Illinois. IDHHC is governed by eleven (11) Commissioners who are appointed by the Governor's office. At least six (6) of the Commissioners must be deaf, hard of hearing, or DeafBlind. The Commissioners meet on a quarterly basis at the IDHHC office in Springfield, Illinois.
  • Journal of Interpretation ~ The Journal of Interpretation (JOI) is a scholarly publication of the Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf that includes articles, research reports and commentaries relevant to the interpreting field.
  • National Association of the Deaf ~ The National Association of the Deaf (NAD) is the nation’s premier civil rights organization of, by and for deaf and hard of hearing individuals in the United States of America.
  • National Consortium of Interpreter Education Centers (NCIEC) ~ List of ASL-related organizations
  • Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf (RID) ~ RID, a national membership organization, plays a leading role in advocating for excellence in the delivery of interpretation and transliteration services between people who use sign language and people who use spoken language.

Language Proficiency Development

  • ASL dictionary
  • Spread the Sign ~ Spreadthesign is an international Leonardo da Vinci project within the Transfer of Innovation program, which is supported by the European Commission through the Swedish International Program Office of Education and Training. Our goal is to share sign languages from different countries via the Internet.
  • ASLized ~ ASLized fosters the integration of American Sign Language (ASL) educational research into visual media and literacy.
  • ASL app ~ THE ASL APP is all about teaching you conversational ASL. Packed with 1000+ signs and phrases, easy navigation and features, with different signers, The ASL App is designed to make learning easy, accessible, and fun.