Bluefield College will offer instruction in Beginning American Sign Language this fall — a unique series of courses gaining significant popularity on campus and in the community and believed to be the only two-year curriculum of college ASL classes being offered in the area.
Open not only to Bluefield College students, but also members of the community at-large, BC’s American Sign Language (ASL) courses for the fall 2018 semester will take place Wednesdays from 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., beginning August 22. For college students, the classes fulfill a language requirement toward graduation. For the community, they offer professional development and the opportunity to learn a new language at an affordable cost.
“Many people may not realize that ASL has its own distinct syntax and is the third most widely used language in the United States behind English and Spanish,” said Dr. Cindy Bascom, chair of the Department of Communication. “Bluefield College students who are pursuing a bachelor of arts degree can take ASL to fulfill their foreign language requirement. In fact, ASL is recognized in Virginia and 39 other states as a foreign language.”
Dr. Bascom added that after studying ASL for one year at Bluefield College, students not only gain an appreciation for the deaf culture, but also develop a vocabulary of about 1,000 words.
“I have had students tell me stories about how they surprised their bosses by using ASL at their jobs when a deaf client came in,” she said. “I’ve also witnessed students silently communicating with each other in the cafeteria and library, and they love signing songs during our chapel services. Learning ASL has certainly enriched our students’ lives in multiple ways.”
In addition to being able to communicate with the deaf and hard of hearing, Dr. Bascom noted that ASL is also valuable for parents of normal hearing children. Due to the visual nature of ASL, she said, babies can sometimes learn to use signs even before they speak.
“They can use signs to communicate needs such as hunger or thirst,” she said. “In fact, some studies have shown that young children who learn a second language develop stronger communication skills, including early reading and enhanced spelling skills.”
Dr. Bascom added that ASL is a distinct, fully developed, and rich language with its own culture and literature. Through linguistic analysis and the comparison of diverse cultures in the BC classes, she said students are given a fresh perspective and appreciation of their own language and culture, as well as a better understanding of other languages and customs.
“The main reason to have ASL at Bluefield College is to give students an additional choice in fulfilling their foreign language requirement,” said Dr. Bascom. “Two years (four semesters) of college credit in American Sign Language we believe is not being offered by anyone else in the area.”
Bluefield College students interested in taking the ASL classes this fall are encouraged to contact Dr. Bascom by phone at 276-326-4225 or by email at [email protected]. Community members interested in taking the courses should first complete a non-degree seeking application for admission on the BC website at bluefield.edu/applynow. The Admissions Office will process those applications and notify students who may then call BC Central to register and pay for the course at 276-326-4215.