ASL Courses to Learn American Sign Language

ASL is said to be the third most used language in the United States after English and Spanish. A quickly growing number of people in North America are interested in learning ASL.

Since the 1980s, a growing number of schools from high schools to post-secondary institutions have offerd 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.

Where to take ASL classes?

If you are seeking to take a face-to-face ASL course or online, check out the following possible secondary and post-secondary institutions in your area for their calendars or catalogues that may offer classes:

- colleges
- community colleges
- continuing education programs
- ASL/Deaf organizations or associations
- services for the deaf and hard of hearing
- schools
- universities

When you start learning a signed language, it's a strong recommendation to take sign language courses taught by Deaf instructors whenever possible. Buy products or use services from Deaf-owned, Deaf-run businesses, organizations, websites, and services. Why? A long history of oppression, discrimination, and economic deprivation of the minority, cultural appropriation, hearing privilege, and so on.

Plus, it's a rich, unparalleled learning experience directly from Deaf instructors in terms of Deafhood, Deaf experience, Deaf being, Deaf humor, Deaf culture, cultural norms and nuances (e.g. how to get someone's attention, communication styles and strategies, etc.).

Credits vs No Credits

Some programs offer credits for the courses, some non-credit courses. Some offer ASL classes in the evenings.


Consider your goals or needs whether you need a certificate 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). Or, it's just for your personal interest.

If you are already a university student, you probably are required to take a language or you might take it as one of your electives.

For a career in interpreting or deaf education, 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.

The first ASL credit course in North America

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 teacher Caroline Sue Bailey, a American-born, Canadian native ASL/Deaf speaker.

The video above was broadcasted on TV in the late 1980s, I believe. A copy of this video was sent to the former students by the ASL teacher Sue (Caroline) Bailey (1949-2016).

The ASL teacher Sue Bailey 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 how proud she was of her students who loved her.

the earliest ASL class
ASL L1 students at the Alberta School for the Deaf, 1989.

Where are some of these ASL L1 students and teacher from the first ASL L1 course in high school in North America today?

Interesting, about five of these students from the first high-school ASL course in North America have become ASL instructors across North America today. One of those students is the ASL instructor and creator/founder of this website (!

Today there are numerous wonderful, vibrant Deaf ASL instructors across North America.

Related posts

Also see how long to learn sign language

How to pick the right program for sign language class.

Qualifications to look for in an ASL instructor.