Princeton has taken significant efforts to expand its American Sign Language (ASL) offerings in recent years. ASL was first offered for credit in 2018 through the Program in Linguistics. Beginning in spring 2021, ASL counts towards the fulfillment of the language requirement. I hope the expansion of the ASL program shows the importance of ASL and encourages more students to take the language.
I first learned ASL when I took LIN 205: A Survey of American Sign Language in the fall. This class is for students who do not know ASL and serves as an introduction to the language. It was really wonderful to learn ASL from faculty member Noah Buchholz, who is Deaf and a native speaker of ASL. Now, I can have basic conversations in ASL. Many students in the class had never been exposed to ASL before, but now we all can recognize introductory vocabulary and we understand more about grammar and syntax. I’m also pretty positive that LIN205 was one of the first classes for most students that directly discussed Deafness and disability, and I think students really benefited from learning about these topics.
Now, I am in LIN215: American Deaf Culture, which is being taught for the first time this semester. While Professor Buchholz teaches this class in ASL, students do not need to have any knowledge of the language. Instead, this class is about Deaf culture, as the name suggests, which encompasses history, civil rights, literature and more. It’s so exciting to have a class dedicated to Deaf studies in a way that contextualizes the Deaf experience. I’m looking forward to learning more about Deafness in the past and present.
For years, ASL has been one of the fastest-growing languages taught on college campus today. Additionally, people with disabilities are the largest minority group in the world, which makes it even more essential that Princeton students with and without disabilities learn more how disability impacts the world around them. In the future, I hope that Princeton offers even more classes about ASL, Deaf studies, and disability studies.