American Sign Language (ASL) is an intricate and nuanced language with its own unique syntax and grammar. And like many languages, ASL is a bond for those who practice it, and a source of pride, community, and culture.
The ASL major and minor in ASL Studies offer a variety of courses related to the language, culture, and literature of Deaf people in the United States and Canada as well as a glimpse at international perspectives in the field. This program of study includes various opportunities for immersion in the language and culture of Deaf people including an option to be a visiting student for a semester at Gallaudet University in Washington, D.C., or at the National Technical Institute for the Deaf in Rochester, NY.
Offers a nationally recognized graduate program in Deaf Education for students wishing to pursue a career in teaching Deaf students. The ASL Studies minor provides a critical foundation for the graduate degree.
Q&A with Prof. Debbie Colbert“My biggest dream is that everyone can sign nationwide.”
What surprises new ASL learners?
That there’s grammar on the face that gives information, shows feelings and opinions. In English you would use your voice, tone, and inflection. Also, that there are five parameters to ASL linguistics: hand shape, location, palm orientation, movement, and non-manual signals. I’ve even met Deaf people who are surprised to learn there are rules!
ASL is both a major and minor at McDaniel. What do you think about pairing ASL with other subjects?
It’s a nice double major or minor, because now you can work with Deaf people. If you are a Psychology or Education major, you’ll be able to sign with a patient or a student and converse with them directly. My biggest dream is that everyone can sign nationwide.
What do you hope students take away from your classes?
That ASL rules and grammar structures are unique from English. There’s a bridge that needs to be built between them for interpretation. I love to see that spark of realization in my students. And those who take my linguistics class get a foundation in non-manual signals. I tell them that being bilingual is a strength, and they should go out and be ambassadors and allies.
Faculty Q&ACharles Herbold
What inspires you to teach ASL?
I am passionate about teaching ASL because, as a Deaf person, I understand the importance of effective communication and equal access for all. ASL is a vibrant and expressive language that allows Deaf individuals to fully engage with the world around them. Through teaching I can empower others to bridge the Deaf and hearing communities, break down barriers, and foster inclusivity. This not only benefits the Deaf community but enriches the lives of those who learn ASL and gain new perspectives. ASL is not just a language; it is a rich and expressive form of communication that reflects the values, history, and experiences of the Deaf community.