American Sign Language (ASL) was cited to be "the fourth most used language in the United States" after three other languages (Spanish, French and German). [Ref]. ASL is now ranked the third most studied language in the U.S. of higher education as of Fall 2013 after Spanish and French. [Ref]
A quickly growing number of people in North America has been interested in learning ASL. There has been a growing number of ASL courses offered in schools from preschools to universities since the 1980s.
Courses in ASL Linguistics and ASL/Deaf Studies have flourished since the 1970s in parallel to the growth of ASL classes and instructors.
ASL instructors in the early days were typically qualified native Deaf Ameslan. Today, more ASL instructors are expected to meet standard qualifications in this field.
Institutions should consider these standard qualifications when hiring ASL instructors who should meet the following criteria (which may vary slightly from a region to another):
- Native or, if not available, near-native (highest fluency) ASL (usually Deaf) speaker. A document or certification of a high score on ASL Language Proficiency Interview (ASLPI) or assessment conducted by a qualified organizations, such as Canadian Cultural Society of the Deaf (Canada), Gallaudet University, and ASL Teachers Association (U.S.), especially rated by certified Deaf native signers.
- Masters degree or higher, or if not available, Bachelors degree. Or, a letter of support from Deaf-run organizations.
- In-depth knowledge of Deaf Culture and community, comparative linguistics, and interpreting issues. Has a strong background, interaction, and experience in Deaf culture and community of Deaf people.
- Experience in teaching ASL and using a standard curriculum (e.g. Signing Naturally).
- a ASLTA or ASL Instructor certification or a degree in this relevant field, or experience equivalence. An interpreter certificate is not an appropriate qualification for teaching ASL and itself is a conflict of interest.
Native Americans, Blacks, Deaf people, and other oppressed groups alike have experienced or suffered a long, painful and traumatic history of systemic oppression, discrimination, cultural appropriation, oppressor privilege, and economic deprivation, and so on.
As it's unconscionable for white non-native teachers to teach Native American languages embedded with culture and history for obvious reasons, similarly with signed languages of Deaf people with history and culture, consider hiring or take courses under qualified Deaf ASL instructors whenever possible. Furthermore, support Deaf-owned, Deaf-run services, organizations, websites, and businesses whenever possible.
It can be a unparalleled learning experience directly from qualified Deaf instructors in terms of history of oppression (audism), Deafhood, Deaf experience, Deaf being, Deaf humor, Deaf culture, cultural norms, nuances of language, and so on.
Also see how long to learn sign language
Also see how to pick the right program for sign language class.
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.