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American Sign Language 1a

American Sign Language 1a: Introduction

Did you know that American Sign Language (ASL) is the third most commonly used language in North America? Learn introductory vocabulary and simple sentences so that you can start communicating right away. Importantly, explore Deaf culture – social beliefs, traditions, history, values, and communities influenced by deafness.

Review Course Outline

Units at a Glance

Unit 1: The Basics

Have you ever watched a sign language interpreter at a public event and thought— “Wow, what a beautiful and expressive language!”? Yes, sign language is an amazing visual language that is almost like a dance, with fine finger shapes, facial expressions, and expressive body movements. But American Sign Language is the language of communication for many, with rules and grammar just like any other official language. Each of those movements has a specific meaning and is part of a unique and fascinating language. Get ready to embark on an exciting new journey into the world of American Sign Language so you, too, can communicate in this exquisite way!

What will you learn in this unit?

  • Define American Sign Language
  • Correctly perform the 26 signs of the American Manual Alphabet
  • Count to 10 and greet someone in ASL
  • Politely get a Deaf person’s attention
  • Trace the origins of sign language in the United States

Unit 2: Let's Introduce Ourselves!

Well, hi there! Nice to meet you. Being able to introduce yourself and communicate with others upon meeting is a necessary, everyday skill. Of course, when unable to do this in your native language, it can present quite a challenge, and you may possibly even run the risk of appearing rude. Needless to say, learning how to introduce yourself and mind your manners in an ASL setting is definitely an important skill to have. But don’t worry—soon you’ll be able to graciously introduce and tell a little bit about yourself so you can feel confident and comfortable if ever at a Deaf event.

What will you learn in this unit?

  • Understand why many Deaf people prefer to be called Deaf or Hard of Hearing
  • Count to 20
  • Introduce your family members
  • Sign “please” and “thank you”
  • Recognize how to appropriately interact at a Deaf event

Unit 3: Express Yourself: Feelings, Colors and Questions

What is in a sign? Well, there are five things that make up a sign in ASL, and you can break those down to better understand how to sign words and sentences. Some very useful sentences include those that are questions or answers; consider, for example, when you want to get to know a new person. What do they like? Dislike? Want? Don’t want? All of this, as well as the elements that make up signs, are very important to basic conversation, so let’s get started!

What will you learn in this unit?

  • Name the five elements of a sign in ASL
  • Identify marked and unmarked (natural) handshapes
  • Tell someone whether you are Deaf or hearing in ASL
  • Sign your emotions
  • Ask and answer yes/no and ‘wh-’ questions

Unit 4: School's in Session

Did you know that the football huddle originated when players on a Deaf college team crowded together to hide their sign language from the opposition? Or, did you have any idea that Benedictine monks had an interesting place in Deaf history? Knowing such background information can help us put American Sign Language into context, allowing us to better understand more about Deaf culture. Schools are an important part of Deaf history, so let’s learn to sign about everything that happens there! Plus, what does it take to be a member of the Deaf community? Together, we’ll explore more about how people identify with the community and all about the wide range of people you might meet there.

What will you learn in this unit?

  • Identify the two sides of the “methods debate” in Deaf education
  • Describe how Alexander Graham Bell, inventor of the telephone, played a very negative role in Deaf history
  • Turn just about any sentence into a question
  • Sign basic sentences about school
  • Appreciate the wide variety of people who are part of the Deaf community

Required Materials

  • Computer with:
    • Internet access
    • Word processing program
    • Slideshow creation program
  • Cell phone, tablet, or computer camera with sound and video recording abilities
  • A person, large stuffed animal, or chair
  • 2 people (family, friend, classmate) to use in videos and lead a discussion with
  • A photo (or even a drawing) of your family
  • A hat—silly, crazy, or ordinary is fine
  • Blank Paper
  • Drawing tools (pencils, markers, etc.)
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