ASL and Deaf Studies Certificate program

The American Sign Language/Deaf Studies Certificate is an interdisciplinary program in which students learn about the history, culture, and language of the American Deaf community. Extensive research in recent decades has established that American Sign Language is an autonomous, natural language, comparable in complexity and expressiveness to oral languages, that American Sign Language is associated with a distinct culture of Deaf Americans, and that the study of American Sign Language provides opportunities for exploration and research comparable to those offered by spoken languages. Through the study of ASL, students come into contact with a language which is not only semantically and grammatically very different from their own, but one which operates in a different sensory channel as well. As with the study of any foreign language, students come to understand the nature of their own language better by broadening their understanding of how languages may be constructed.

There is now a substantial and growing multi-disciplinary literature documenting a distinct Deaf culture in the United States. Students who study ASL discover a rich and complex cultural group that has created a wide range of social, political, and economic organizations, a periodical press, a distinctive material culture, rules of etiquette that differ from those of the larger hearing society, a unique means of transmitting cultural knowledge between generations, and a fascinating history. Students of ASL also encounter a rich and diverse literature. Like most of the languages spoken in the world today, ASL does not have a written form, but it does have a large and rapidly growing literature recorded on film and videotape dating back to the early 20th century.

Students in a wide variety of disciplines find the ASL/Deaf Studies certificate a useful addition to their major, in particular those majoring in linguistics, anthropology, history, American Studies, psychology, education, speech pathology and audiology, and social work. The program permits students to link study in three or more disciplines into an organized investigation of a language and culture. In addition, a certificate in ASL/Deaf Studies will serve as a valuable confirmation for employers and graduate schools of a student’s specialized knowledge in the field.