American Sign Language should be taught in schools

Christina Judy, Staff writer

Most students on Mercyhurst’s campus grew up having to take some secondary language in their elementary and high schools.

The overall importance of learning a new language is undeniable as it improves one’s ability to communicate effectively with individuals of different cultural backgrounds and creates common ground between two people getting to know each other.

Traditionally, schools in the U.S. will teach younger students Spanish because of our geographical location and how widely used the language is in our modern day.

In high school, we typically had options for a language to learn, most commonly, Spanish, French, Latin, and Mandarin. However, I would argue that the most important language to learn alongside English is American Sign Language (ASL).

ASL is beautiful in its complexity because it is a language created using manual (completely reliant on your hands) and non-manual signs (facial expressions).

My first thought when I learned about ASL was how could one formulate that many ways to move your hands as to create an entire language that is successful in communicating.

That is the amazing part about this language and is what makes it so intricate.

ASL is also extremely practical because it allows people to communicate with not only deaf and hard of hearing individuals, but also with people who are hearing but are non-verbal and they use ASL as their primary form of communication as well. All of these individuals are prominent members in our society.

“Communication is key,” is a phrase that we are all familiar with and have been badgered about in our entire academic careers.

We are taught how to properly relay thoughts and ideas to each other to function effectively together.

The ability to communicate well is imperative because it allows for goods to be purchased and services to be provided. Individuals who rely on ASL for their form of communication cannot be excluded from that.

Therefore, I believe that for the sake of inclusion and independence, sign language should be learned by all individuals interested in pursuing a career in which they will encounter others as customers or patients.
In a world where service providers are proficient in ASL, individuals relying on this form of communication can become more independent by having opportunities to engage with people in all realms of their society. The benefits for people in our society learning ASL does not only benefit those relying on sign language for communication, but is also advantageous to the person learning it.

Learning ASL improves one’s

ability to interpret body language and to have better control over their own.

Additionally, it allows for you to connect more deeply with individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing by understanding them. In doing so, you

become more aware of the deaf community and the challenges they face in communicating in certain environments within our society.

Being deaf in a hearing world is a constant, every day challenge. If kids grew up being taught sign language it would make communicating with people much more accessible for deaf and hard of hearing individuals going about their daily lives.

Lastly, learning a second language makes learning additional languages easier, which would be valuable if you are pursuing a career where you must encounter people of different linguistic backgrounds or if you are traveling and wish to feel more included with that culture.

ASL has also become more popularized as it has made its way into our mainstream media. At the Super Bowl LVII halftime show, there was an ASL interpreter that did absolutely amazing and was commended for her efforts.

At the Disney Parks Christmas Day Parade of 2022, there was a deaf family invited to Disney and the character Anna, from Frozen, greeted the children in the family by signing with them.

Needless to say, ASL is important to learn in our society to allow all of us to communicate and form relationships with each other.