Thursday, June 14, 2012

Learn the who, what, when, where and why of learning American Sign Language

By Ariana Lee-Fisher-DSB Staff Interpreter
What is ASL?
American Sign Language (ASL) is a visual language. With signing, the brain processes linguistic information through the eyes. The shape, placement, and movement of the hands, as well as facial expressions and body movements, all play important parts in conveying information.
ASL is used predominantly in the United States and in many parts of Canada. ASL is accepted by many high schools, colleges, and universities in fulfillment of modern and “foreign” language academic degree requirements across the United States.
-NAD (National Association of the Deaf)
Who should take an ASL course?
Of course, we’re going to say everyone! Why not learn another language and help to break down the barriers between the deaf and hearing worlds?  Anyone who works with the community on a daily basis should learn some basic sign language; after all, you never know when you’re going to meet someone whose only language is American Sign Language. 
Others that can benefit from taking an ASL course are new parents with both deaf and/or hearing children.  Research has shown that using sign language with newborns and infants increases both cognitive and emotional development. 
We strongly encourage those in the service field and students studying to become service members of our community to take ASL courses as well.  It is not only important to have basic sign language skills, but to also understand that deaf culture is completely different from other cultures.  Service members need to recognize and understand these differences in order to serve the deaf members of their communities; and since Tampa Bay has the fourth largest deaf community in the United States, many of our local service men and women would greatly benefit from ASL courses.
For those of you with a deaf family member, it’s not too late to take a class and better your relationship with your deaf relative. He/she would greatly appreciate your attempt to learn his/her language in order to build that relationship you’ve always strived to have. 
Why should you take an ASL course?
American Sign Language is an extremely interesting and beautiful visual language.  Being bilingual has never hurt anyone; it can only benefit those who learn.  Learning American Sign Language would help to break the barrier between the hearing and deaf worlds; once you learn the language, you can help teach others and become advocates for the deaf community, as well. 

When is a good time to learn?
Any time is a good time.  If you plan on having children any time in the future and want to use sign language with them…now is a good time to learn some sign language so that you can voice and sign to the baby at the same time.  There are resources like books and websites that you can use to get you started with some basic signing.  Remember, it’s never too late to learn a new language. 
Where would I take an ASL Course? 
Ah, funny you should ask.  The Deaf Service Bureau is offering a 5-week basic ASL course that starts July 11 and costs only $5 per class or $20 for all 5 weeks if you pay online in advance.  If you or anyone you know is interested in signing up you can join the event on Facebook and ask questions or you can just sign up and pre-pay now; and keep in mind, space is limited and the seats fill up fast! It’s best to pre-pay online to ensure that your seat will be available.

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