Sign language is finding popularity among hearing students as a new way of communicating with each other and with their deaf friends. In some schools where it is offered as a foreign language, the demand is so heavy that they often have to turn down prospective students. According to a Modern Language Association Survey, American Sign Language ranks as the fourth most popular language almost displacing German from third place. In the past 10 years, students taking ASL has risen by more than 50 percent.
The popularity and increasing interest in sign language can be gauged from the fact that Silent Games, involving 200 colleges was held at Federal Way High School. It also involved school students and their parents, some hearing, some deaf. The participants who could not speak all evening except using sign language participated in many games and competitions.
In one school, for one day each semester, a teacher gives all her students including those who can hear a pair of earplugs to wear all day.
“The deaf have been learning the language of the hearing for the past 150 years,” says a teacher. “Now it’s time for the hearing to learn the language of the deaf.”
Ninety-one thousand students opted for an ASL class at 730 U.S. institutions during the Fall of 2009, according to the language association. This figure is expected to rise dramatically in the next survey in early 2014.
Some of the reasons for this popularity are mentioned here
- Students see a practical use for ASL and as an education for getting jobs of interpreting, teaching and counseling
- Students have a difficult time sitting through entire classes all day without much movement. Sign language gives them an active and visual relief. Students are seen signing to one another outside the classroom and, in it, making sign conversations about weekends and boyfriends.