ASL 1/ Research Paper
Benefits to Learning Signed Language: A Global Perspective
20 years ago I was a sophomore in college and realized that I had to start my two years of required foreign language studies. I was going through the course catalog with my counselor trying to decide between French and Spanish when at the top of the list I saw American Sign Language. I was stunned to realize that I had the opportunity to learn ASL, something that I had always been interested in. Over the next two years I fell in love with the language and my professors. Now, as I look back on all that I gained from learning American Sign Language, I realize that maintaining the language and continuing to progress in my learning can only enhance and benefit my life and those around me. The benefits to be gained through learning sign language are vast and have global implications.
For the sake of this paper I will be focusing on the benefits of learning a signed language. American sign language is only one of many signed languages throughout the globe. “There are somewhere between 138-300 different types of sign languages used around the globe today.” (AI-Media) Sign languages range from American, French, British, Arabic, Japanese, Spanish, and Ukrainian, just to name a few. This means that there is largely untapped potential for students of these languages.
When you think about the benefits associated with learning another language the first thoughts, and search engine hits, usually focus on cognitive benefits. Cognitive benefits are described as “using your brain more effectively to make connections when learning new things, increased problem solving skills, and improvements in comprehension.” (gradepowerlearning.com) Learning a second language exercises the brain which strengthens the overall health and vitality of this important organ. You can’t get more beneficial than that!
Another benefit that has become widely recognized is the ability to teach specific signs to infants. These children can learn to recognize and repeat signs in order to communicate well before using their voices. “Research shows that sign language speeds up speech development, reduces frustration in young children by giving them means to express themselves before they know how to talk, increases parent-child bonding, and lets babies communicate vital information.” (educationalplaycare.com) While this benefit is great, most of these children lose their signs as soon as they learn a verbal language thus making the benefits important, yet short-lived.
Learning sign language, in any country, teaches people a second language, but in addition to this is the benefit of learning about a new culture and community. Recognition of the deaf community is an important part of learning sign language. It gives a history and depth to the language that enhances the knowledge gained in learning sign. Learning about the deaf community also brings awareness to deaf culture which benefits the sign language students as well as the deaf communities around them.
The last potential benefit that I will explain has to do with bringing awareness to sign languages. Just like my experience 20 years ago at Arizona State University, many people never realize that American Sign Language, and other sign languages throughout the world, are actually recognized languages with their own syntax and rules. These signed languages are just as important to recognize and learn as Spanish, French, and Chinese. The most common misconception is that people sign using English sentence structure and vocabulary. This couldn’t be further from the truth and once a person makes the decision to learn sign language they are quickly disabused of this notion. Taking the time to learn sign language and learn about the deaf community shows others the importance of this language and brings awareness to an otherwise overlooked group of people. In this instance not only is the student benefitted by attaining knowledge, but the deaf community benefits as more people take the time to learn and understand their culture.
Learning a signed language, whether it is ASL, or a signed language from another country, is beneficial to the student as well as the community around them. Learning a new language, and about the deaf community, enriches the lives of many. Learning to sign, at any age, benefits cognitive development and strengthens the brain. For the sake of this paper I can truly not find any potential negative consequence for learning a signed language. Benefits to learning ASL are vast and are something that I am looking forward to experiencing.
Web: www.ai-media.tv.com/sign-language-alphabet. Toronto, 2021
Web: www.gradepowerlearning.com/benefits. 2021
Web: www.educationalplaycare.com/blog/signlanguage. 16 June 2016.