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A Sign of Things to Come: ASL is on the Rise at Eastern

American Sign Language (ASL) is a language elective at Eastern offered all the way up to ASL four. Only a few years back, it was expanded to include the higher-level courses of three and four. Since the expansion of ASL, the overall size of the classes have exploded. Ms. Rachel Whitmore has been teaching the class at Eastern for 5 years and has seen a significant increase in students since her start at Eastern. From offering only two hours of ASL per day to the current six hours, it is clear that more and more people are signing up for the class each year. So why the sudden interest? 

Many people take ASL simply to knock off the requirement of two language credits, but loads of students have a genuine interest in sign language. The usual languages that are offered, Spanish and French, are verbal, and oftentimes students struggle with that method of learning. In ASL, all of the communication is through gestures, facial expressions, and muscle memory. I asked Ms. Whitmore what motivated students to join her class and she shared that “I think one of the biggest reasons more people are signing up for ASL is because there’s more talk about it,” which is true: people are talking about it more than in years past. Students tell their friends that they enjoy learning ASL, then their friends join to be able to know sign language. It’s incredibly fun being able to communicate with others without having to say anything.

American Sign Language is a culturally-expressive language with such diverse history. To take a class and learn ASL includes aspects of grammar, syntax, history, and most importantly, how to sign. The best part is, it’s never too late to take the class and the basics can be learned within a few weeks of taking it. If you’re looking for a language or elective credit, I urge you to take even one year to see just how fun it is.

Two students using sign language to communicate with each other during their ASL class.
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