American Sign LanguageAmerican Sign Language
A theater background couldn’t hurt when you enter into the study of American Sign Language because often you’ll find all eyes on you. But this language is not about theatrics, of course, although it can be rather dramatic to watch. The set of hand motions that make up ASL is as varied and intricate as any spoken language, and the study of ASL is, in many respects, similar to studying French or Spanish or German. As an American Sign Language major, you’ll not only study the signs themselves but also the accompanying facial expressions and body language that are crucial pieces of this unique communication system. Like any other language, it will take time, patience, and dedication to become fluent. Courses will cover translation and transcription as well as the culture of the deaf—their challenges, communities, and perspectives and interpretations of the world. Some programs employ deaf instructors for the language courses, giving students an enhanced opportunity to truly communicate with the deaf and ask questions about the experiences of the deaf community. If your program offers a concentration in interpreting, you’ll gain the skills necessary to become a competent, professional interpreter—a job that could take you around the world. Other programs might ask students to combine their studies in ASL with another academic field such as psychology or education. However you choose to put it to use, ASL is a challenging major that offers abundant rewards for both you and those with whom you interact.
Like any other foreign language, ASL requires knowledge of more than just “vocabulary.” Studying another foreign language in high school would be useful, as would any studies in culture, history, English, psychology, and philosophy. If possible, try to get involved in the deaf community in your area through volunteer work—you might even get a head start on learning ASL.