American Sign Language (ASL)

American Sign Language – Rationale and Goals

Rationale

Acquiring a new language opens the door to a world of new experiences. As students study a new language, they develop an understanding and appreciation of other people, cultures, beliefs, and ways of life, while also developing a deeper understanding of their own culture and personal identity. They learn new ways to think, learn, and communicate with others, and gain a new perspective on their experiences and the world around them. The study of American Sign Language (ASL) rewards students with these and other benefits.

For many people who are deaf or experience hearing loss, ASL is the language of choice in North America. Since the publication of linguist William Stokoe’s Sign Language Structure in 1960, ASL has been recognized as a complete and complex language with its own grammatical rules and syntax, which are not based on, or derived from, any spoken or written language. It is a visual language.  

ASL is an integral part of North American Deaf culture and community. Individuals who are deaf have traditionally been seen as people with a disability. However, Deaf culture values deafness not as a disability but rather as a characteristic of a community’s cohesive cultural identity. A key feature of this cohesive culture is its language. Deaf culture, like all cultures, is based on a community of people who use the same language to communicate, and ASL reflects the values and norms for interaction within that cultural language group. In the ASL curriculum for Grades 5 to 12, students are provided with opportunities to learn about Deaf culture and community through exposure to the language, history, customs, and arts of Deaf people.

Canada’s unique cultural heritage, a rich and varied tapestry of experiences and perspectives – from those of First Nations, Métis, and Inuit to those of people newly arrived – is part of the historical and contemporary foundation of our country. The ASL curriculum offers opportunities for students to explore, understand, respect, and appreciate their own and others’ cultural heritage.

The study of ASL supports many careers and professions. In medicine, dentistry, the hospitality industry, education, and other career areas, the ability to communicate easily with Deaf adults and children through ASL is a great asset. It is becoming increasingly important for organizations that provide services to the Deaf community to have employees who are proficient in ASL.

The study of ASL not only develops the knowledge, skills, and attitudes needed to understand and communicate effectively in ASL but also expands students’ knowledge of language learning in general. In using ASL to create and convey meaning, students can discover new ways to express their individuality. Communicating in authentic situations in another language increases self-confidence in communication skills, enhances students’ critical thinking, and promotes respect for others regardless of differences.

Goals

The B.C. American Sign Language (ASL) curriculum aims to support students’ development as educated citizens through the achievement of the following goals. Students are expected to:

  • use ASL as a form of self-expression
  • communicate with purpose and confidence in ASL
  • appreciate the interconnectedness of language and culture
  • expand their understanding and appreciation of other cultures
  • deepen their understanding of their first language(s) and of their own cultural identity
  • understand the educational, travel, and career opportunities that acquiring an additional language offers
  • recognize the benefits of language-learning