The list of states that have passed legislation recognizing American Sign Language (ASL) as a foreign language, and permitting high schools and universities to accept it in fulfillment of foreign language requirements for hearing as well as deaf students continues to grow.
The University of Michigan-Flint is the latest university to officially join the list. On January 27 2010, UM-Flint signed an agreement with Mott Community College (MCC) to allow the transfer of ASL classes students take at MCC. The ceremony was held in Northbank Center.
“We are so pleased to be partnering again with the University of Michigan-Flint on an agreement that highlights the importance of supporting the education and career development of our students,” said Dr. Amy Fugate, Vice President for Academic Affairs at Mott Community College. “MCC already enjoys an excellent reputation in the community for our American Sign Language and Interpreter Education Program. This partnership demonstrates another area of collaboration between the two colleges, recognizing ASL as a foreign language and providing students with an opportunity to receive academic credit toward foreign language requirements. This agreement is a significant step for both our colleges as we expand our mutual commitment to provide students with a seamless transition between institutions.”
“It was an inquiry from a student, Jill Maxwell, and the way she framed her request that led me to ask our college’s curriculum committee to do a study,” said D.J. Trela, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. “An almost year-long study that included faculty forums, ultimately led to the faculty voting to add ASL.”
While Maxwell is not deaf, many of her family members are. She said all she wanted to know was why a bi-lingual student could fulfill the foreign language requirement by testing out, and the same treatment wasn’t given to a student who used ASL at home?
When she was told of the college’s decision she said she was happy for future students. “It will help support a continuation of the natural language of the deaf community.” said Maxwell.
According to the Center for Applied Linguistics, “ASL is a visual/gestural language, with its own syntax and grammar like any other language, distinct from English and other spoken languages, from sign languages used in other countries, and from English-based sign systems used in the United States. Although the precise number of ASL users is difficult to determine, ASL is the predominant language — in other words, the language used most frequently for face-to-face communication, learned either as a first or second language of an estimated 100,000 to 500,000 Americans (Padden, 1987), including Deaf native signers, hearing children of Deaf parents, and adult Deaf signers who have learned ASL from other Deaf individuals.”