American Sign Language (ASL) looks really neat, but is it worth learning?
This question is common amongst CSD majors. After all, it seems like CSD and ASL go hand in hand, right? (shameless pun…)
While it is true that ASL is used by certain CSD professionals, there are various factors to consider. Before making the decision to pursue the language, ask yourself these questions:
Why do you want to learn ASL?
Where do you want to work after you graduate?
What is the program like at your school?
For me, ASL was something that I had always found interesting and beautiful. Unlike spoken languages, it seemed possible to learn quickly. My high school did not have a program, but my university did. Therefore, before I even got to college, I had a plan as to how I would incorporate ASL 1 through ASL 5 within my 4 years of undergrad.
I adored the subject, and would often practice my signing with a Deaf friend of mine. However, by the time I got to ASL 3, things changed. I had picked up research and was enrolled in one of the most challenging CSD courses. My ASL professor was very strict, and he assigned us hours of homework for every night. I knew I would not be able to hold an A if I stayed in the class.
At that point, ASL was no longer fun for me. It was loads of work and I kept wondering if I was going to destroy my GPA to keep the class. I thought about the 3 questions that I had posed to you above.
I realized that my “why?” for ASL was out of enjoyment, not for my future career. I knew that I wanted to work at a middle school or rehabilitation center after graduation, and it was unlikely that I would have many Deaf or Hard of Hearing patients. The program at my university was strong, which made me want to continue. However, the ASL department’s out-of-class requirements (Deaf events, video submissions, and group projects) were intense. After all, they were aimed at individuals who wanted to become interpreters, not SLP’s.
With these intentions in mind, I decided to forego my dream of learning ASL in college. It was sad at the time, but I am positive that the reduced stress was worth it. Plus, I still practice using ASL signs in my free time, and I feel confident in the basic foundation that I do have. I know that I can teach basic signs if it is needed within my career.
Personally, I think CSD majors who are in a similar position as I am would benefit from making the same call. If ASL is not going to be useful to you in your career, make sure it is worth it to you personally. Unfortunately, SLP grad school is tough to get into, so always keep an eye out for your GPA. If you think your grades will be fine and you have a good reason for following through with ASL, then do it! You can always change your mind later if need be.