Thursday, August 14, 2008

Nipissing University Teaching the ABCs of ASL

Last year Nipissing University received a grant from the provincial government worth approximately $500,000.00 in order to establish American Sign Language (ASL) classes for students to take for non-credit. The idea is to target this programming initiative to Education students in the hopes of creating an Additional Qualification (AQ - courses that teachers take to upgrade their skills after they’ve completed their Bachelor of Education year). Eventually an entire section of Education students will be for Teachers of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing (the official title) that will emphasize ASL.

The funds are largely used to subsidize the classes for students in order to encourage us to enrol in the classes. A two week ASL camp (much like summer band camp but without the instruments or sexual references) occurs in July each year - no oral speaking permitted!

I have not attended the camp but I have taken the first and most basic ASL class: ASL 101 (or coded by Nipissing University SIGN 0101). Students need to have taken two ASL classes in order to qualify for the AQ courses.

So, after having taken ASL 101 and experiencing the teaching methods of a completely deaf instructor (yes, he’s deaf, and fantastic), it was to my delight that more courses will be offered by NU throughout the fall and winter. If you are looking for a new experience and are interested in sign language, you can sign up through WebAdvisor; there’s also an announcement for students posted there with more details.

The unique characteristics of ASL truly make it an appealing language. Just like spoken English, French, or Spanish, ASL is an actual language with it’s own cultural references, inside jokes, and etiquette requirements. Individuals who are deaf and/or hard of hearing are not disabled; they can communicate with their peers in their own language and are able to participate in society. When I placed myself in those shoes, I was amazed at both the fun I had while learning the language and not being able to talk while taking the classes. I was still able to communicate!

ASL requires the use of not just hand gestures, but facial expression and upper torso movement too. The classes are currently offered for $190.00 through the Continuing Education office over weekends for 30 hours/course and have no credit value toward your degree. However, it is a great experience that I would encourage every student to take advantage of at university.


Big Green Giant said...

I had mentioned in this post that the classes are aimed at Education students. However, I forgot to mention that ANY NU student can take the classes whether in Education or not. My apologies for not making this clear.

Also, since taking one of the classes, I've discovered many other people who have either taken classes, know some of the language, or know of someone who is Deaf/Hard of Hearing. This experience must be part of the phenomenon where once someone experiences something, they notice more related activities about it that they may not have recognized otherwise.

Anonymous said...

ohhh that is a very interesting and benefitial class I think. I would take the class if I were there!! ohh I miss Nipissing U...

anonymous-9ae said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
anonymous-9ae said...

After throwing it around in my head for a few days I finally chose to enroll in the class. I read this afterwards, I'll admit I was thinking of withdrawing out of it but now knowing the instructor himself is deaf makes it that more of a real experience, connecting with someone who relies on that mode of communication. I've met only one deaf person in my life and it was a bit of an awkward moment, knowing ASL would be extremely helpful, if not to me than at least to the other person in the conversation.