American Sign Language (ASL) is the third most studied foreign/second language in colleges and universities in the United States after Spanish and French. Similarly, it is one of the most popular learned second languages in Canada as well.
If you are seeking a face-to-face sign language course in person or online, some of these possible secondary and post-secondary institutions and other services in your area may offer sign language classes:
- community colleges
- continuing education programs
- Deaf organizations, associations, and clubs
- services for the deaf and hard of hearing
- schools for the Deaf
- some public schools
Not all of them may offer sign language courses. Check out their calendars or catalogues or contact them for any programs.
Depending on where you live, search online (e.g. Google) for one or a few of these programs offered in your region. Try queries, such as "ASL course in Washington, D.C." or "ASL class in [your region, city or state]".
In addition to the academic learning, contact Deaf organizations, associations, and such for references to Deaf tutors if you need a one-to-one tutoring service.
Some programs offer credits for the courses, some non-credit courses. Some offer ASL classes in the evenings.
Whenever possible, support Deaf-owned, Deaf-run services, organizations, websites, and businesses. Why? Native Americans, Blacks, Deaf people, and other oppressed groups alike have a long, traumatic history of systemic oppression from discrimination and economic deprivation to oppressor privilege and cultural appropriation.
Learning a language is deeply woven with culture and history. As for Native American languages, it's naturally appropriate for a Native teacher to teach their Native languages for reasons. Likewise with signed languages of Deaf people -- if you had an opportunity, try to take sign language courses taught by qualified Deaf instructors. It can be a unparalleled learning experience directly from qualified Deaf instructors in terms of Deaf culture, Deafhood, Deaf experience, Deaf humor, cultural norms and nuances (e.g. how to get someone's attention, communication styles and strategies, etc.), and, not lastly, oppression (audism).
Consider your goals or needs whether you need a certificate or degree or not, what career you wish to pursue (e.g. an interpreter, an educator for Deaf children, a counselor, a parent of your Deaf child, etc), what profession you do in your field where you have deaf clients, and such.
If you are already a university student, you probably are required to take a language or you probably take it as one of your electives.
For a career in interpreting or deaf education, you might want to take credit-based ASL courses of all levels. And, then take English-ASL interpreting programs for interpreters. Check with the programs for requirements.
For credit courses, a common textbook is the Signing Naturally series. Other textbooks are sometimes used as well for other purposes: older textbook A Basic in American Sign Language by Tom Humphries.
ASL courses boomed in the 1980s in North America and enrollments continue to be growing. Since the 1980s, a growing number of schools from high schools to post-secondary institutions have offered ASL classes across North America. In post-secondary education, ASL courses are prevalent in many cities in North America. More than a few bilingual ASL-English schools were founded in the U.S.
The earliest known three-credit courses in ASL and Deaf culture in colleges were taught by Eileen Paul and Barbara Kannapell way back in the 1980s at the University of Maryland.
The first ever credit ASL course offered in high school in North America took place at the Alberta School for the Deaf in Edmonton, Canada in 1989-90(?). As the students' first and/or native language was ASL, this ASL (L1 as a first language) course was designated for Deaf students. The course was taught by Sue Bailey, an American-born, Canadian native-ASL Deaf teacher.
ASL teacher Sue (Caroline) Bailey (1949-2016) originally from the U.S. taught at the Alberta School for the Deaf for many years before she retired and lived in British Columbia. Months before she passed away in 2016 from cancer, she wrote to her former Deaf students telling them how proud she was of them.
Bailey sent a copy of the video recorded from the TV broadcast in the late 1980s. About five of these students from the first high-school ASL course have become ASL instructors across North America today. One of those students is the ASL instructor and creator/founder of this website (handspeak.com)!
ASL L1 students at the Alberta School for the Deaf, 1989.
Today there are numerous wonderful, vibrant Deaf ASL instructors across North America.
How to pick the right program for sign language classes.
Why does one learn sign language?
Qualifications to look for in an ASL instructor.
How long does it take to learn sign language?
New to sign language? "Where do I start?" or "How do I start learning sign language?" This ASL Rookie guide lists some selected links to the tutorials for ASL beginners to get started and keep rolling. It may be a useful review for intermediate-level learners and ASL students as well.
Some tutorial pages are a mix of free and premium versions. Access to premium content and links below are available in the PatronPlus subscription. More links/posts will be added from time to time.
Are you able to carry everyday conversations in ASL? Are you a student in the intermediate levels and beyond, who wishes to boost up your signing skills? You've come to the selected tutorial series. (Some premium content are available to PatronPlus membership.)
Stories, poems, performance arts, etc. in sign language.
This documentation project follows a child's language acquisition, literacy development, and phonological acquisition in sign language, specifically ASL, from newborn to age five in a natural native-ASL environment and visual culture.