Sign Language - Why Learn Sign

The Many Varied Reasons

Sign language is now one of the most popular languages to learn. People's reasons for learning are widely varied. A forum member asked:


  • I'm just curious to know why you decided to start learning ASL. People usually have interesting reasons for wanting to learn the language. I'd love to hear yours.

Forum members and visitors responded with multiple interesting reasons:

"My fiancée is hard of hearing and I would like to find out ways that I can encourage him to learn sign language with me so we can have conversations with each other no matter how high the level of background noise."
"I am in college (working towards a degree in special ed/counseling) with the idea of becomeing a special ed advocate.

I need a foreign language, and thought that one that is used by those I could end up serving was the right one...."
"I am taking ASL because since I was a child I have wanted to learn. I finally decided I am tired of working in jobs I hate and want to do something I really love. I plan to get my degree as a Sign Language Interpreter and work as an interpreter until I get my teaching credentials."
"I am taking asl because: 1. It's required for my major. 2. I'm Deaf/hoh. 3. I'm going to be an audiologist. 4. My last audiogram wasn't promising. 5. To teach my hearing dog more signs. I guess you know what my reasons are, but I don't see any GOOD reasons why people are learning it. I believe it should be required for a high school diploma; no asl on your transcript, no I'm coming into contact with way too many people still hostile towards those with, gasp, disabilities.

But, being deaf isn't a disability...being ignorant and violating my rights under the ADA is just plain stupid and a lawsuit waiting to happen."
"I am taking ASL because I am 1. hard of hearing and it is deteriorating 2. I am studying to become a sign language interpreter 3. I was already interpreting and felt I needed the education to get certification 4.

I have many Deaf friends 5. because I interpret at church 6. because it is a beautiful language 7. because I teach it to children. I already signed before I took ASL formally but taking classes has increased my knowledge and ability"
"I'm taking ASL because I'm going into full-time church work. However, in our area, there is only one church that has a signed service. I have always been interested in signing, I have attended the Good Friday service for 13 years that is signed, just so I could learn some of the signs. When I returned to college this year, I decided it was time that I learned to do something that really interested me and I could use at church, school, and in my community."
"I'm hearing, but all through out school k-12 my bestfriend was Deaf. He always tryed really hard to understand what I was trying to say to him and i tryed my hardest to learn enough to get by. As we got older it was easyer to comunicate with one anther but still not as good as it could have been.

My freshman year I foud out there was ASL offered at my high school, I took the class, loved every moment in it. Scott has a Chocular implant, and its workng. I've learned enough right now to talk to him in ASL and him understand it for th most part. He refuses to sign to me. as well as his parents. though we all sign to him. I'm a senior in high schoo rightnow and my school doen't have ASL(I've moved.) I'm teaching a few people how to sign at this school I'm at now and working on getting an ASL class here. In the fall I'm going to go to Columbus State to get my interprating Degree, Its something I've not been able to think of changing sence my first day in an ASL class. So Keep up with it Its a good thing to know... I love the Calture as much as the language. and I'm trying to stay in the loop with it. so have fun!"
"I have been taking ASL through my school for a year. I love the language-- the beauty of communication in such a unique form. I am very much a visually-oriented person and I enjoy being able to communicate in a way that is very comfortable for me. I also find that the immediate benefits of being able to communicate, sort of, with my Deaf classmates is something irreplaceable; the joy on a person's face when they know that I will not ignore them just because it takes a little more effort to talk to them. ASL is something I truly love."
"I have been taking ASL classes for about a year and a half. 4 semesters. It began for me after taking a class at a conference called, Worshipping Hands. That is the use of sign language to chriistian music. I loved it. It got in my soul, and I have been taking classed ever since. I started a Worshipping Hands ministry at my church, but my dream(and hopefully God's desire) is to get certified and begin a deaf ministry at my church.I need to immerse myself in the deaf community, but am yet to get in."

"I also wanted to take Sign Language for years, and finally took classes back about five or six years ago. I went up to advanced ASL, but had to quit due to the problems with my special needs dh could not handle me being gone so much. Now we are all these years later, and he decided that I should go back to school and promised to support me this time around. So far, so good ! I am excited to be back involved with the Deaf Community and using ASL again.

Feels great!"
"Hey, I'm in my second year of ASL and I think its a great class. Why did I take it? Well because most of my school would take the other foreign languages like Spanish or French. I don't want to be in the majority vote. Also when I was a little kid I learned how to do the alphabet and I really thought i was neat. So I figured since my school was offering it I would use it as a second language and I think its great! "
MAGICLIZZY"Years ago, I lost my hearing in an accident. For 18 months, I was deaf in both ears due to the trauma. I learned to fingerspell because I was the sighted deaf student in a Deaf and Blind class. I learned to lipread and read and write Braille to do my class work. The teacher offered to teach me sign but my Dad was empathtic that I was going to be in the hearing world and not in a deaf community because the longterm diagnosis was that I would gain back most of the hearing in my "good" ear.

And I did so now I'm deaf in one ear only. I wish I had learned sign as well.

I'm homeschooling my son. I gave him the choice of learning French or German as his language. Because, believe it or not, I learned to lipread in German and French as well. The only thing that stymied me was going to the labs and using earphones.

So the teachers and I would work one on one in the labs. My German is good and my French is fair and I got along perfectly well in both countries when I was there.

Anyway, he chose ASL instead. So now, I can make up the gap of not being able to sign. And he learns a new language too. And my sister is a teacher for the Deaf so when she comes to visit, we have someone to talk to and correct our mistakes."
"Hello, I am a 17 1/2 year old Senior in high school. I started taking an ASL course at school as it was offered through the local community college to my high school. I have always been interested in ASL, mainly because my aunt knew some signs and she would teach me when I was little.

I have always been fascinated by the beauty and grace of sign language. The class is two years worth in one year, we have ASL 101-104 in 9 months. It is a fast paced class, and I love every minute of it. We have two teachers, one hearing and one deaf. Our hearing teacher teaches ASL 101 and 103, our deaf teacher teaches 102 and 104.

Having been taught by both, I can say that I like the deaf teacher better! He has a better sense of humor! I am eager to learn more, and am highly considering a job in interpretting. I've always wanted to be a teacher, and now I'm thinking about maybe teaching sign language as I love it so much."
"I met girl in high school that is deaf... we soon became good friends but communicated through writing on paper... She taught me some basic words (most important 'bathroom')... And that is how we communicated with each other for about a year in a half.... She wouldn't read lips and I didn't want her to read mine... It made me and her feel uncomfortable...

One day I went to my first death social with her and I felt so out of place in the deaf community... So many people signing going on and on about how life is... I told my friend that I was going to join a sign language class at the local community college... Where I am in now my 4th year... I was able to skip 2 years because of the intense tutoring my friend gave me... But it wasn't only about learning ASL but it was also about learning about the deaf community and realizing that they are a community... I've also learned a little bit more about prejudice in the deaf community but that is another story...

I love now being able to sign along with my friend... Of course there are still times where I don't understand what she is saying and she has to fingerspell, but hey that is how we learn..."
"I have always had an interest in Sign Language. When I was 12 I learned my alphabet. That's all I knew for the longest time. I never had met any deaf at that time. One day when I was 19 I met a deaf girl that became my friend from that day forward. And I wanted to be able to talk to her. I bought a book and taught myself some. As we hung out together she would teach me more signs. Then I signed up for a Sign Language class at a deaf school. I took classes for about 2 years. I really had fun with it. Then I got married and my deaf friend got married and moved away. I now have 3 kids of my own and are teaching them as well. It has been a wonderful part of my life and I love to sign."

"I decided to learn sign language after I worked as a relay operator in Arizona. I loved being able to facilitate a conversation between people who would not otherwise get to communicate with each other. I signed up for the Interpreter Training Program at my local community college. However, I was so beat down by the instructor, and told over and over again that, as a hearing person, I could never even hope to sign as well as a deaf person, and no matter what I did or was, the Deaf would always consider me inferior to them.

I don't know if this is true or not for all Deaf people, because after one year of stomachache after stomachache and being told I looked "ugly and sloppy" on camera, I decided there was no way I was going to live my life trying to help those who didn't want my help in my community. I'm going to be a philosophy professor instead. Too bad."
"When I started college I was in the Deaf/HOH program. I was the only one in it who could not sing. I was always a lip reader because I started losing my hearing when I was 12. My teachers inn high school always treated me like I was stupid because I was HOH. I finally enrolled in MENSA to shut them up. I learned ASL because in college all the people I took classes with used it. I picked most of it up by reading lips and watching signing at the same time. I still need to take a class but I really like sign language. The biggest fight is getting my husband to learn it.

I keep warning him my hearing loss is progressive. One day when he can't get me to understand what he is saying he may just give in and learn! Ha! Anyway sign is great and it helps a lot getting around. I have a lot of deaf patients nowadays and that helps me as a nurse to be able to understand them.

I guess the reasons are endless."
"I decided to learn sign language because I want to be a Sign Language Interpreter. When I was in 5th grade they offered a sign language class after school and ever since then I've loved it and wanted to be an Interpreter."
"Why I learned sign language. When I was lose hearing age 2. The Air Force Doctor told my parents that not to teach me how to sign language. My father was rejected my brothers/sisters and mother sign language, wanted me to talk like hearing world. When I came to Junior High School; find that some of deaf and hard of hearing students were sign language that I have never knew what it is about. My former teacher Mr. M took me to his class and let me learn his sign language. I was 13 years old. I would Thanks to Mr. M for letting me learn sign language. My mother allowed me sign language. My parents were divorced that time I was 7 years old. I taught my two grown sons with sign language. Also I taught some of friends. It is better communication for deaf/hard of hearing, which you make mistaken words of oral like fifteen/fifty.

You can look at your mirror and see how confuse deaf/hard of hearing misunderstanding words of mouth. I have new doctor who know sign language that I have never had doctor who not sign language. I was very glad to have doctor sign language instead of interpreter."
"I have always wanted to learn sign language. I used to watch Sesame Street, when I was a kid. And, There is a deaf woman, named Linda, on the show. I used to tell my mom that I wanted to learn "Linda's language". Years later, the community college was offering non-credit classes in sign language. That was 3 years ago, and I've been signing ever since. Now, I want to interpret for the deaf, and deaf children in my school district."
"I learned to sign because my daughter is deaf. It's amazing how many parents do not feel this is a valid reason. I now am an interpreter in the educational setting and love the fact that I can make the world a better place for another person."
"I decided to learn sign language because I was interested from a very young age. In girl scouts, we were taught to sign a song. I still remembered it in high school, and decided to learn. I found it hard to teach myself, so in college I took classes, and LOVED it. Now I interpret in church every Sunday night. It's a joy to serve God with the talents He's given me. I hope that many more people will teach ASL and learn ASL so that our deaf friends can better know God."
"I was taught sign language from the day I was born.My parents are both deaf and signlanguage was our home based language.I am hearing and now have my own family. My first child has a severe hearing loss. I knew when she was two days old and so we signed to her from the beginning.Sign language should be something that every one is taught because it is a way of communication without having to speak and in lots of situations my partner and I use sign because it is convenient. Like for example when we are at a night club and it is hard to hear over the loud music, or instead of yelling across the road we can

sign what we want to say. Even when you go out and you want to talk about some one and you don't want them to hear we then finger spell what we what to say about them. Naughty isn't it but it is just another way of communicating to us and it is beautiful.We have a lot of deaf friends. One thing I think is important is that as soon as a parents finds out their child has a hearing loss of any type that is permanent they should learn sign language, to save the poor child of the frustration of misunderstanding what is being said.(still teach them to listen and speak) but give them a visual language and the reason I say with any type of hearing loss is because most deaf people have a mild loss when they are younger but as they get older most of the time their hearing loss gets worse."
"I have just begun learning ASL at a community college near my home.

I am learning for selfish reasons ( well, not really selfish) in that I am losing my hearing. Many of my new friends in the deaf community although comfortable with reading lips have expressed to me it would be easier for me to learn to sign than it will be for me to read lips if I am completely deaf in a few years. Now, that I am becoming more familiar with it. I love it. I just wish I could have started sooner. It is a beautiful language. And so expressive. I love it.
PS Added bonus. The state of California College systems have just added it as an acceptable foreign language for transfer to four year colleges"
"I started volunteering with Children with disabilities when i was 15 some of them signed - it intrigued me! As the years went by...I decided 8 years ago to do something about it and i passed my level 1 BSL in 1996 7 years on and i am finally in the 2nd yr of my BSL level 2 certifiate.

I think it is a fabulous language, so visual and so moving. I have since found out i have minor hearing loss and have been fitted with a hearing aid. I think it should be a language that is offered at school like French and German - after all so many people sign now a days. "
"I am a grandmother of an eight year old deaf child, and decided if others could learn I could and would so I could help my grandaughter at school and enjoy her more.

It is great to be able to know her friends in her classroom and be recognized as grandma to them all. Some are such hungry little kids to be hugged and listened to. Even though I am not much beyond and eight year old in language I continue to take classes from a private teacher and keep a little bit ahead of the eight year olds. I am amazed at the answers I receive at church and school even from people who should know better. For the love of a child this grandma will try to do most anything. Thanks for listening."
"I am relearning to sign. You know- the didn't use it enough and lost it syndrome. Now I have two profoundly deaf children in my class, who have no language or signing skills so I am busy trying to get up to scratch again. I so firmly agree with one of the early contributers who said that signing should be mandatory in schools. I think that goes for world wide as well.It is such a marvelous form of communication. It breaks down barriers between people and speaking as a Mum it is a marvelous way to tell off your children in social situations without hugely embarrassing either yourself or them!!

If any of you out there have a way of convincing parents that their deaf children DO need to learn to sign I would love to hear from you.Where I live in the middle east there is no school for deaf children who are not Arabs and I am the best hope these kids have of getting any education but it is an uphill battle."
"I am a hearing person who is studying to become a certified sign language interpretor. I first learned English Sign Language from a deaf woman who had previsously lived up the street from my mom. I was 12 yrs old when she taught me, as well as my mom and my older sister English sign language. Since that time, I have taken several ASL classes. I have become quite proficient at using this gift that God has given me. In fact, for the past several years ans well as even now,God keeps bringing Deaf people across my path and they normally don't have interpreters with them. (Library, grocery stores, resturant, department stores, on the city bus, at church, etc.)I am very honored to help with the communication needs of the Deaf where ever and whenever I possisibly can."
"the reason is cuz i have a family friendwho is d/hh and my family didnt know sign but me and sometimes communication was hard plus i have 3 former school mates who were deaf and i became friends with them and i learned the lang. cuz it was easier to lean rather then carry paper and pen around all the time and ever since i learned sign i have become more interested in the deaf culture etc. and now i will be going into college and becoming a

interpreter for the deaf!"
"As a little girl I was very fortunate to have two friendships with Deaf children. When I was two years old I was in a progressive nursery school for high IQ kids with special learning challenges. I have severe dyslexia. There was a Deaf girl there and others with various circumstances. Since I was still in primary language acquisition, my mom says I signed as well as I spoke.

Later in kindergarten I went to a school that had a Deaf student and we signed together. I don't remember any of this, but I guess the interest in sign was planted.

When I was in college I worked at a discount store. When Deaf signers would come through my checkout line and I was unable to communicate with them, I always felt like I was the one with the "handicap". They had a perfectly good language and I didn't know how to use it. But I was studying something completely different so I didn't do anything about learning sign.

Years later a series of events got me moving again. I found a way to start learning ASL. I even enrolled in an interpreter program at a junior college for a while.

I love my career as an artist, and I decided that I did not want to give it up. However, I continue to look for opportunities to use my ASL skills whenever I can.

One day my husband and I were driving next to the ocean and we saw a young sea bird (an osprey) injured in the middle of the road.

We stopped the car; I lifted the bird to a grassy area and started calling places to find where I could get the bird some help. Two young men walked up and they were signing to each other. I signed, "Hi. I sign a little." One of the guys told me in ASL that he was driving along and the bird had swooped down to grab some food.

He swerved his car but was unable to miss the bird. He was very very sorry. I told him that I was calling for help. Later I was able to tell the worried young men that I had found a special hospital for injured sea birds and I was taking the it there for help. They were very relieved.

Yesterday I was in the same discount store I mentioned above. In a crowded isle, I asked a women "excuse me" three times and she didn't move. Eventually she saw me and said she was sorry, she didn't know I was there. I could tell by her speech that she was Deaf. I was SO happy to be able to sign, "Oh, are you Deaf? I sign a little! Nice to meet you!" When she apologized again, (now in ASL) I was able to grin and sign, "Fine! Don't worry. Fine!! Excuse me. Have a nice day!"

These little interactions and others like it are why I learned to sign. Not a big deal I guess, but I'm really happy about it."
"I am learning to sign because my hearing is on the decline. I am taking classes in speech-reading and ASL, simultaneously.

The speech- reading helps me dealing with the hearing world. As my hearing gets worse, I am drawn closer to the Deaf culture, the world of signing. I see a day coming where I will depend on sign to make myself understood and to understand others. It won’t help for the hearing world, but in the Washington DC area, there is a large population of Deaf. "
"I have also always had a fascination for sign language as many people have mentioned. I learned the alphabet when I was in third grade, but that is all I knew but always wanted to learn more. My husband, of 8 months, also has an interest in it, due mostly to the fact that his younger brother uses sign to communicate even though he can hear, but he cannot speak hardly at all. So, my husband and I decided to take ASL 101 together this past semester at school. We both loved it and are taking ASL 102 currently. I am a senior this year so it is a little late to have a minor in ASL which I would have loved. But I am hoping to somehow continue learning how to sign, and more about the deaf culture. It is really an amazing way to communicate, because it more of a feeling. And, I love being able to communicate with my husband in such a beautiful way. It is also very convenient that we can talk even when we are not within hearing distance of each other."
"I took two sign English classes at a church in my city. The classes were so interesting to me that I decided to enroll at the college in the next city. I am now in my third year of ASL, and I love it, I am attending school part time because I work during the day, so it will take me longer to get my degree, but that's ok. I am working toward my goal of becoming a certified interpreter. I love associating with the Deaf. I feel very comfortable around them. They are very patient with me because they know that I am a student and they can see the love that I have of learning their language. I have found out what my true passion is, and I pray that I will never, ever lose my love for signing."

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