Another aspect to consider is that some
students who may have been overlooked
for foreign language study due to
learning disabilities, autism spectrum
disorders, or auditory /visual processing
disorders may be capable of learning and
actually benefitting from acquisition of a
visual language rather than a verbal one.
Also, many hearing people think that any
form of communication done with signs
is sign language or ASL. However, many
modes of communication use the hands
to facilitate interaction and teaching
of English to the Deaf. Signed Exact
English (SEE) is one in which every
English word is signed. It uses ASL signs
and SEE signs, i.e., signs made to cover
signs not found in ASL, because ASL
doesn’t use the same syntax as English.
Pidgin Signed English, also known as
Contact Language, is another tool that is
used to bridge the gap between the hearing
and the Deaf. It uses mostly American Sign
Language signs, but in English word order.
It is similar to ASL in that you don’t sign
the forms of “be” or every single word.
All of these approaches are ways to
communicate with the Deaf and may
be beneficial if communication is the
motivation or if used as a bridge to teach
English skills to the Deaf. However, these
approaches are not foreign languages,
because they do not have a syntax or
grammatical system of their own. They
merely represent English words formed
with the hands in a visual manner. For
this reason, study of these approaches
does not qualify for foreign language
credit at the high school or college level.
When you choose a curriculum, ASL
must be listed as the language of study. A
listing of “sign language” is not enough
to identify the subject as American Sign
Language. Finally, ASL study must include
a study of its history and culture of the Deaf
American Sign Language (ASL) Fingerspelling
Copyright © 2007 William Vicars, Lifeprint.com
community. In no other language have the
creation and evolution of a language been
so obviously impacted by the history and
culture of its speakers as with ASL. Your
study will enhance your understanding
not only of the language but of the lives of
members of the Deaf community as well.
Their struggles and progress have united
them uniquely as a community.
With all this good information from
reputable sources, there are no excuses
to not learn American Sign Language, a
tremendous skill that can be acquired and
enjoyed by you and your students. Do
yourself a favor and after checking with
your colleges of interest and/or your state
requirements regarding foreign language
credit, seriously consider American Sign
Language for your students’ foreign
language credit. The choice can bring joy
to your family and the life of many Deaf
and DeafBlind people.
Renée K. Walker is a Christian wife, mother
of two sons who were homeschooled, and
a certified educator of twenty-eight years.
Renée, Principal of Wynfield Christian
Academy, has an Ed.S. in curriculum and
instruction. She is founder of DeafBlind
Hope, a nonprofit organization that helps
the DeafBlind learn to live an independent
life. Renée, herself, became deaf as a
child and has become progressively blind
as an adult. Contact Renée at rkwalker
@ wynfieldca.org, or read her blog, www
It’s easier with friends.
If we all help a little,
we’ll all benefit a lot.
50 Winter 2010/11 l Foreign Language