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Man using sign language to communicate.

American Sign Language (ASL) Studies

A common misconception about American Sign Language (ASL) is that it’s the English language “spoken” with gestures. But in fact, it’s far more intricate and nuanced than that. ASL is actually its own language, with its own unique syntax and grammar. And like many languages, ASL is a bond for those who practice it. Beyond communication, ASL is a source of pride, community, and culture.

Degree Types
Major , Minor
Complementary Programs
Distinctive Requirements
Demonstrated Competence in ASL

Why McDaniel for your degree in ASL?

McDaniel’s major and minor in American Sign Language (ASL) Studies offer a variety of courses related to the language, culture, and literature of Deaf people in the United States and Canada. 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., and completing a January Term in an ASL environment.

Future Career Paths

Students who complete the major or minor in ASL Studies will be well prepared to apply for McDaniel’s Master of Science in Education for the Deaf.

Additionally, experience in ASL can supplement McDaniel’s pre-med or pre-health track, giving you a distinctive highlight on your graduate school application. Healthcare providers who speak ASL and understand the needs of the Deaf community will not only be better able to serve deaf patients and their families but will also be better prepared to serve all patients with dignity and empathy.

Graduates with a B.A. in ASL could go on to advanced degrees in speech and language pathology, teaching, interpreting, social work, mental health, Deaf and hearing linguistics, neuroscience, computer programming, and more. Their career paths will likely support the education and development of minority students in the Deaf community.

McDaniel Pre-Med Track

McDaniel's breadth of academic opportunities provides you the chance to craft compelling and highly distinctive major/minor combinations that support compelling applications for medical dental or veterinary school. Many McDaniel students double or triple major, giving you breadth and depth in your academic studies and a more competitive application for your next step.

Learn more about the Pre-Med Track

MCDANIEL COLLEGE BA/MS PATHWAYS M.S. in Deaf Education from McDaniel College Accelerated Bachelor’s to Master’s Programs

For students wishing to pursue a career in teaching Deaf students, McDaniel College offers a nationally recognized graduate program in Deaf Education. All courses are taught in ASL.

Students can choose from traditional enrollment after receiving their undergraduate degree or McDaniel's Accelerated Bachelor's to Master's program, resulting in a Bachelor of Arts in ASL and a Master of Science in Deaf Education. 

For ASL Majors, the BA/MS Pathway allows students to gain valuable knowledge and qualifications while saving time and money to meet their career goals through the attainment of an advanced degree.

ASL minors will be well prepared to enter the Master's program upon completion of their undergraduate degree. The ASL minor provides a critical foundation for the graduate degree and includes courses that satisfy prerequisites for Deaf Education.



Distinctive Courses

ASL 1140 - Dominican Republic and the Educational Life Experiences of the Deaf

Students will be involved in presenting instructional activities at the National Deaf School of the Dominican Republic as well as at a private school serving Deaf students with learning disabilities and behavior issues.

ASL 2012 - Fingerspelling & Numbers

This course will introduce the grammatical foundations and mechanics of fingerspelling and numbers used in ASL, increasing fluency in fingerspelling and numbers for the ASL learner. In this course, developing fundamental skills in ASL receptive and expressive skills associated with fingerspelling and numbers will also be covered.

ASL 3370 - International Perspectives on Sign Languages and Deaf Culture

The study of diverse signed language and socio political structures of Deaf communities in various countries and the impact on society. This course provides a global perspective of a linguistic and cultural minority group.

ASL 4492 - Seminar in ASL Studies

This course examines current trends and issues in the study of ASL and ASL Linguistics as it relates to the socio-cultural aspect of the Deaf community.

McDaniel Commitment in Action

The McDaniel Commitment—a series of opportunities guaranteed to all students—provides enhanced mentoring and coaching, and ensures every undergraduate student completes at least two meaningful experiential learning opportunities.

Two women sit at a table with five children in school uniforms and show them how to make ASL signs.

2024 Jan Term to the Dominican Republic Chronicling the experience

During the 2024 January Term session, five McDaniel students accompanied Associate Professor of Education Emeritus Mark Rust to the Dominican Republic to learn about the education of Deaf individuals and meet the Deaf community on the island.

Hear from Amia Groomes (ASL/Communications major), Marley Wilson (ASL major), Lorelei McElroy (ASL major), Kathy Taveras (Kinesiology major with minors in ASL and Athletic Training), and Katie Baur (Elementary Education major with ASL minor) through daily blogs about their experience.

Photo of white male standing in front of a brick building wearing a blue patterned shirt.

Department Chair, Charles Herbold Faculty Q&A

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.

Class of 2023: Capri Savoy

Senior Spotlight Class of 2023: Capri Savoy Meet a Green Terror

Social Work and American Sign Language (ASL) major Capri Savoy learned to be a role model on the Hill through experiences like captaining the cheerleading team, joining the ASL Club, and interning with the Carroll County Department of Social Services. "I have had two internships: one in the ASL department, where I helped teach ASL to students, and my senior placement for Social Work, where I helped vulnerable adults who may be experiencing abuse, neglect, or financial exploitation."

McDaniel College M.S. alumna Clara Jean "Jeanie" Mosley Hall '76

Spotlight Clara Jean "Jeanie" Mosley Hall M.S. ’76

Think back to when you were a child just learning to speak, read or write. Learning the nuances of one language was hard enough but imagine that you had to learn two — and serve as an interpreter for the adults in your life. That’s the situation Clara Jean “Jeanie” Mosley Hall M.S. ’76 was born into as a Child of Deaf Adults (CODA).