American Sign Language
Learn valuable communications skills and meet your language requirement
American Sign Language (ASL) is one of the fastest growing languages in the United States and is the indigenous language of the Deaf community. ASL is a natural, visual, non-spoken language with its own distinct grammatical structure. The shape, movement, and location of the hands, facial expressions and body are used to communicate with one another. ASL as a visual language, uses a different modality of communication compared to spoken languages.
Why learn ASL at the University of Minnesota?
ASL has a rich, complex grammatical construction and is very different from English on every linguistic level from phonological to morphological and syntactical; Deaf culture is also different from English-speaking culture.
The modality of the language is different with ASL being a visual-spatial language. A fundamental component of speaking ASL is learning how to express and receive language in a visual and physical modality without the use of aural and oral channels.
In order to speak ASL coherently and accurately, it takes time to learn how to communicate spatially rather than relying on signs in linear-like sequences of spoken language. ASL’s pronunciation and grammatical features is dependent on simultaneous expression of hands, eyes, face with brows and mouth movements, and body while using space, depicting verbs, etc.
ASL as a sign language is not only a useful skill but it also helps you to gain a new perspective how human languages are governed. Studying ASL promotes cross-cultural understanding between both cultures and helps you to have a greater sense of understanding of the Deaf community and its distinguished tradition (e.g. science, literature, film, theater, poetry, and art). Learning ASL also opens possibilities of working with Deaf people in the community while expanding your personal horizons.
The American Sign Language Program welcomes students from the state of Minnesota, around the country, and the world. Our ASL Program aims to create a learning culture that is inclusive for all. We embrace a belief that the learning community is enriched and enhanced by the dimensions of diversity and identity including, but not limited to: race, color, ethnicity and national origins, gender and gender identity, age, sexuality, marital status, parental status, socioeconomic status, age, culture, disability (physical and mental ability), political beliefs, and religious beliefs. All the dimensions of diversity our students and faculty bring to our ASL classes are viewed as a positive gain, strength, resource, and benefit. Everyone deserves to feel respected, included, safe, and challenged. Our work in evaluating and advancing the curriculum through racial lens in terms of promoting inclusion, equity, diversity, etc. is continuous and evolving. Read our full diversity statement.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the demand for American Sign Language interpreters is expected to grow rapidly, driven by the increasing use of video relay services and video remote interpreting, which allow people to conduct online video calls and use an American sign language interpreter.
As more and more people learn ASL, the range of careers working with the ASL and Deaf community have expanded exponentially. Learning ASL as a second language opens unlimited opportunities and is helpful in choosing a career path in fields not limited to:
- ASL interpreting
- Deaf culture
- Health and medicine
- Language specialist/assessment
- Social Services: counseling, psychology, sociology
- Speech hearing sciences
Senior teaching specialist
Senior teaching specialist