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Photos of American Sign Language Class

American Sign Language

DIVISION OF COMMUNICATION DISORDERS

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American Sign Language (ASL)

ASL is a complete and complex language that employs signs made by moving the hands combined with facial expressions and postures of the body.  ASL is the language of the Deaf community in the United States and Canada. UW students can learn ASL through the courses offered in the Division of Communication Disorders. ASL may be a useful modality when working with young children with language or learning difficulties, or anyone who has trouble communicating orally.  ASL will also be useful to any professional working in educational or healthcare settings.  

Deaf History.

The exact beginnings of ASL are not clear, but some suggest that it arose more than 200 years ago from intermixing of “local signs” and French Sign Language.  Dr. Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet was a major figure in ASL.  In 1814, Gallaudet met his neighbor’s daughter, Alice Cogswell, who was Deaf. Gallaudet noticed that Alice was very smart and he became interested in how he could help Deaf children learn. Gallaudet met a French teacher who was Deaf named Laurent Clerc, and eventually Gallaudet, Clerc, and Dr. Mason Cogswell, Alice’s father, established the first School for the Deaf in Hartford, Connecticut in 1817.  Today it is estimated that as many as 500,000 people in the United States communicate using ASL.

ASL at University of Wyoming.

The Division of Communication Disorders first offered formal classes in American Sign Language in 1979. Three ASL courses are offered:  SPPA 2110 ASL 1, SPPA 2120 ASL 2, and SPPA 4130 Advanced ASL.   ASL 1 & 2 are required for the Bachelor of Science in Speech, Language, and Hearing Science. ASL can also be taken as a foreign language for other degree plans, and ASL courses count towards the Disability Studies minor.  For students pursing degrees in speech-language pathology and audiology, learning ASL ties to accreditation standards that require that these professionals be familiar with multi-modal communication.  An additional advantage to learning a new language, like ASL, is that language shapes our thought, cognition, and worldview. Students frequently experience seeing the world through new eyes when they learn ASL.   ASL will provide any student with new experiences and perspectives, and will provide insight to Deaf culture and communities. 

ASL Faculty.

Esther Hartsky Assistant Lecturer ehartsky@uwyo.edu

ASL Pedagogy.

The ASL classroom at the University of Wyoming is a full immersion environment. This means that silent classrooms are employed and students are fully immersed in learning and using a visual language.   The classes focus on basic conversation, dialogue, and vocabulary development. Students also learn ASL sentence structure and grammar, intermixed with aspects of Deaf culture.  The instructors employ a highly interactive and engaging teaching style. Students are assessed on both their receptive skills (understanding what is signed) and expressive skills (producing ASL accurately). 

ASL Courses from other Universities/Colleges.

If a student has taken an ASL course from another college or university program, it may transfer.  Students should turn in official transcripts to the registrar, additional action may be required. If automatic transfer of ASL credit does not occur, students should contact the registrar, and then contact the ASL instructor. A copy of the course description and/or syllabus may be required. Credit is not available for high school courses, but these students are strongly encouraged to continue their study of ASL.

Language Proficiency Requirements for direct placement in ASL 2.

There are ASL proficiency requirements for direct placement into ASL 2 for students who have not taken ASL 1 at the University of Wyoming or a recognized community college/university. 

Students with a strong background in ASL but no college credit in ASL can take the ASL Proficiency Interview Exam.  Students who perform well on the exam may be directly placed (with an instructor override) into ASL 2. This exam is for placement purposes only; no college credit is assigned or available for the ASL Proficiency Interview Exam.

ASL Proficiency Interview Exam process:

  1. Student contacts ASL faculty via email to request to take the proficiency exam for direct placement (override) into ASL 2. The student should explain what background, courses, and exposure he/she has had with ASL.
  2. If ASL faculty approves the request, students will need to schedule the exam with the instructor.
  3. After the exam, ASL faculty will discuss the results and decisions about the student’s request for direct placement.
  4. When direct placement is granted, ASL instructors will request the override with the Communication Disorders main office staff. Space availability in classes in not guaranteed.

ASL Teaching Assistants. 

Students who wish to be a Teacher’s Assistant must be recommended for this role by an ASL instructor. To be recommended, students: 1. must demonstrate strong sign skills through the ASL Proficiency Interview Exam (see above) and 2. should have taken Advanced ASL recently and earned a strong grade.

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