Saturday, October 19, 2013


Many states and many many colleges and universities recognize American Sign Language (ASL) as a foreign language. 

I do not know anyone who came out of high school, or even college, fluent in a second language unless they already had exposure to that language at home.  Despite taking two years of French in middle school, a few years of Spanish in high school and three years of Italian in college, I cannot speak any language other than English.  I do not come from a multilingual family, and found that while I could understand the languages, it took a very long time for me to formulate the words in my head.  By the time I knew what I wanted to say, I was already too far behind in the conversation.  This led to anxiety.  I skipped the oral part of my Italian final my senior year in college.  I could not stand in front of my class for 6 minutes speaking in Italian with no note cards.  I would rather take a zero and risk my GPA than have that experience.  I explained this to my professor and while this did impact my grade, thankfully it did not decimate my grade.  

In order to meet college entry requirements, it is typical that three consecutive years of a foreign language must be studied.   ASL meets this requirement in most states and is acceptable for entry to many colleges, including Ivy League Universities such as Yale.  ASL meets the needs of my tactile learner, and I just happen to know a ASL instructor who agreed to teach my girls, as well as two of their friends every week at her house!

Our class began in September and will continue all year.  After just 6 weeks of lessons, I am simply amazed at how much they are learning.  Not only have they learned the finger alphabet, they have learned many signs for colors, household objects, animals, counting, money, and how to link the signs together to express thoughts. They can sign simple sentences like "I ate eggs and toast today".  In addition to the language of signing, they are being taught about deaf culture.  We have watched two excellent documentaries:

Sound and Fury (streaming on Netflix)

We have finger alphabet signs hanging in our kitchen and both bathrooms.  The girls quiz each other in the car or on the train and do their homework during our library study hall time.  They have a friend who is fluent in ASL and practice with her. 

This has been a wonderful introduction to a beautiful language.  My hope is that their teacher will continue on past May, but should life lead us in different directions, I am grateful that we have several locations where the girls can continue lessons.  However, they will not be as cozy and inviting as learning in a house with the support and encouragement of their friends.  


  1. We did sign language for a little while in our elementary years thinking we would do the same as use and use it for high school transcript credits. In the Georgia we only need two years of a foreign language for college purposes. Now after we did a Spanish review product a few months back we are leaning more in that area and have a good resource (teacher) we can go to. Grace's preference would really be learning Japanese but we have decided it is too hard and not enough folks around to practice the language with.

    1. Having a good teacher is the key isn't it? We tried Rosetta Stone for Spanish and it just did not work for us. We need a class, a teacher and real life practice. Lilah does not relish the idea of being forced to take a foreign language but I need her to meet the state requirements so that she can go to college when she is ready to pursue a career, whether it is traditional college or a culinary arts school.......

  2. The problem with a foreign language is they don't usually teach it in a way that would actually help you in conversing. I took Spanish for 3 years the summer after I graduated I worked as a camp counselor. I had two bilingual boys that spoke Spanish. I could not understand 1 word in 10. I could READ Spanish but not converse. I would LOVE to find an instructor for Keilee for sign language. I have asked a friend who is the director for a small library if he knew teach it. I may really try harder to find someone. Keilee has known the alphabet since she was about 5. I taught her because I know it. I learned in high school but I honestly don't remember how I learned it. This is wonderful and AS ALWAYS has given me a great idea!! Happy Saturday Jess.

    1. I looked into ASL a few years ago and I could not find anyone to teach young children. Now that they are older there are a few places that would accept them into their adult program. Do you have an active homeschool yahoo group in AL? Maybe someone on the group knows of someone........

  3. Signing is a very natural thing to pick up! Even our baby did! I wonder if it is because of the motions and the brain connections?

    1. I agree. My cousin's babies all sign. It comes much more naturally for my girls than trying to pick up a spoken language. It is one class they look forward to every week!


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