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Picture of Kalleh
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There was an interesting article in the Chicago Tribune today about whether sign language should be considered a foreign language: Link
quote:
They say that American Sign Language is distinct from spoken English and that its coursework provides a new perspective akin to the cultural immersion they'd experience in French, Spanish or other traditional language classes.


While some colleges agree that it is, others don't. What are your thoughts?
 
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My understanding is that the syntax of ASL is quite different from English. fwiw wikipedia tells us that it's like Italian in that the personal pronouns don't need to be expressed, and that there is no copula, among other things. So yes, it is not simply English in gestural form.
 
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It's quite distinct in vocabulary and syntax. It even has dialects. It's not English. ASL (link) is quite distinct from Signed Exact English (link). When I worked at a local high school, I discussed ASL and SEE with the sign interpreters there. The deaf kids were having problems similar to non-native speakers of English dealing with English syntax, and that is why the schools tried to make them use SEE. Of course, then they had fluency problems with ASL.

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Ceci n'est pas un seing.
 
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This is a no-brainer: it's not understood by English deaf people.
 
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Here's a recent link with a couple of teachers discussing the pro's and con's of ASL as an accredited FL. According to the link quoted at the close of the thread, about 40 states in the US have legislation on the subject. Much of the legislation seems geared to offer credit to those who use ASL outside school. There seems to be a fair amount of enthusiasm in FL circles for teaching ASL at the primary level, and we see that at some schools in my region.
 
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They say that American Sign Language is distinct from spoken English and that its coursework provides a new perspective ...

I don't think there's any doubt that ASL (or any other signed language, for that matter) is a separate language to spoken English.

Whether its study provides a new perspective is another matter. The article appears to be mainly about students who have their hearing, who are studying ASL for possible use in a future career, or simply for credits.

Beyond learning a little of the difficulties experienced by deaf persons, I don't see that it will enhance their broader knowledge of the world that much. There is no separate literature, for example. There are no large communities of ASL users that learners can visit to gain insight into their culture in the same way that MFL students can visit Paris to learn French, for instance.

There is a small possible bonus that, because ASL syntax and use of classifiers and inflexion differ radically from spoken English, the student will become more aware of their use in foreign languages, which may assist when learning another language, such as Japanese.


Build a man a fire and he's warm for a day. Set a man on fire and he's warm for the rest of his life.
 
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Originally posted by arnie:
There is a small possible bonus that, because ASL syntax and use of classifiers and inflexion differ radically from spoken English, the student will become more aware of their use in foreign languages, which may assist when learning another language, such as Japanese.


Yes, I like this angle of it. Plus of course you have the obvious benefits of an exercise in communication requiring body movement rather than speaking/writing, which makes it particularly apt for young learners.

Here is an interesting quote from a website at Indiana U: "You might think that modern-day ASL came from England, but it doesn't. It came from France. England has its own version of signed language which is very different from ASL. An American who only knows ASL will have a hard time communicating with someone from England who only knows Modern British Sign Language. But a person using ASL has a good chance of being able to communicate with a person using French Sign Language - even if they don't speak French!"
 
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Yes, that is interesting. I had known that BSL and ASL were mutually unintelligible, but before I took an interest in this thread I didn't know that ASL was descended from FSL. Because the Australians' and New Zealanders' first schools for the deaf were set up by British people, it is not surprising that they use modified versions of BSL, Auslan and NZSL. However, I was particularly surprised that the sign language used in Ireland is based on FSL. On reflection, perhaps I shouldn't really be too surprised, given their political and religious history.

Apparently the first schools for the deaf were Protestant, and taught BSL, naturally enough. The (majority) Catholic schools disapproved of signing until fairly recently. Presumably once they started, they used FSL as a basis partly because France was another mainly Catholic nation, and also because they wanted to emphasise the difference between Ireland and the UK. In Northern Ireland, apparently, BSL is still taught in the Prod schools, and Irish Sign Language is taught in the Catholic ones. No wonder that province is deeply divided ...

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That is so strange, Arnie! Over here I expect the reason ASL is based on the French is that our system was developed by Thomas Gallaudet. Although American, seeking to learn how to teach the deaf in England (in 1815 or so), while there per wiki he encountered "Abbé Sicard, head of the Institution Nationale des Sourds-Muets à Paris, and two of its deaf faculty members, Laurent Clerc and Jean Massieu. Sicard invited Gallaudet to Paris to study the school's method of teaching the deaf using manual communication." Clerc accompanied Gallaudet back to America where they founded the Gallaudet school in Hartford, CT (later Gallaudet's son founded the University in DC)
 
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I hadn't known that ASL was distinctly different from BSL. It's even more interesting to find it related to FSL.

I, though, tend to agree with this comment from arnie:
quote:
Beyond learning a little of the difficulties experienced by deaf persons, I don't see that it will enhance their broader knowledge of the world that much. There is no separate literature, for example. There are no large communities of ASL users that learners can visit to gain insight into their culture in the same way that MFL students can visit Paris to learn French, for instance.
I have a hard time thinking that it should be considered a foreign language in colleges.

Maybe I am just behind the times, though.
 
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I have a hard time thinking that it should be considered a foreign language in colleges.

I don't see why not. Just because a language is not written down doesn't diminish it. I seem to remember some universities okaying programming languages as a foreign language back in the '70s or '80s.


Ceci n'est pas un seing.
 
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It all depends on the reason for requiring a foreign language. My Ph.D. program required a foreign language so that you could read the literature in another language. In fact, the test was to translate a paper into English. Acceptable foreign languages were German, French, Russian, Chinese, Japanese and, I think, Spanish.
 
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Originally posted by neveu:
It all depends on the reason for requiring a foreign language. My Ph.D. program required a foreign language so that you could read the literature in another language. In fact, the test was to translate a paper into English. Acceptable foreign languages were German, French, Russian, Chinese, Japanese and, I think, Spanish.

I agree. And musicologists still need German, I think, for researching old texts usually not in translation? I would be happier about ASL as a college-level language if it were one of several learned just to the intermediate level so as to compare structurally in a linguistic program for example.
 
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Yes, most linguistics PhD programs have one language req that is for one that a lot of the pertinent lit is in, but the other one is usually a non-Indo-European language and no necessity that it is written or unwritten.


Ceci n'est pas un seing.
 
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I would be happier about ASL as a college-level language if it were one of several learned just to the intermediate level so as to compare structurally in a linguistic program for example.
Agreed, Bethree.
 
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I think it should depend on the major (as I'm sure , in most universities, it does). When I was in school, the only foreign language recognized by the Chemistry Department was German.
 
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That is hilarious, neveu. Big Grin
 
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When I was at school (secondary school, not college) all those who intended specialising in Chemistry were encouraged to learn German. Apparently the heavyweight academic journals in the field were published in German. I've no idea if that's still the case.


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