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ERIC/CLLERIC/CLL Resource Guides Online


    American Sign Language (ASL) is a distinct, fully-developed language that has its own unique grammar and is distinct from English as well as from English-based sign systems. In recent years, ASL classes have experienced increased enrollment as more people become interested in studying the language. In fact, a growing number of colleges and universities accept ASL classes in fulfillment of foreign language requirements (Wilcox & Peyton, 1999).

    The purpose of this Resource Guide is to provide resources and information on ASL to those who are interested in learning it, would like to learn more about the language, or are already involved in ASL education either as a teacher or a student. While the topic of ASL is inherently related to the broader subjects of deafness and Deaf culture, this Resource Guide provides information related primarily to the language itself, with only limited information on the issues that surround it.


    Wilcox, S., & Peyton, J. (1999). American Sign Language as a Foreign Language (ERIC Digest). Washington, DC: ERIC Clearinghouse on Languages and Linguistics.


    ERIC/CLL is grateful to Sherman Wilcox, University of New Mexico; Gerald Berent, National Technical Institute for the Deaf; and Joan Naturale, Rochester Institute of Technology Wallace Memorial Library, for their valuable assistance in compiling this Resource Guide Online.


    American Sign Language as a Foreign Language

    ESL Literacy for a Linguistic Minority: The Deaf Experience

    Teaching ASL as a Second Language


    American Sign Language Dictionary and Inflection Guide links thousands of ASL signs to actual sentences and shows how signs are inflected from sentence to sentence to express different meanings.  This CD-ROM is available through the Rochester Institute of Technology bookstore.  Click "Merchandise" then "Deafness Videos and CDs".

    The American Sign Language Browser provides a searchable database of ASL signs. All signs are demonstrated via video clips.

    The ASL Fingerspelling Dictionary includes demonstrations of fingerspelling in ASL. It also has a dictionary and fingerspelling converter (type a word and it will be shown in fingerspelling), as well as a quiz to practice reading fingerspelled words.

    The Handspeak Web site offers a wide range of video clips and images of words and phrases in ASL and other signed languages. Full access to this service requires a paid subscription. Visitors to the site can view samples from the dictionary and access brief articles.

    Web Sites

    Boston University's American Sign Language Linguistic Research Project includes investigation of the syntactic structure of ASL and development of multimedia tools to facilitate access to and analysis of primary data for sign language research. This site provides many resources for researchers involved in ASL studies, including links to relevant publications, doctoral dissertations, project reports, and presentations.

    Deaflinx has many different resources on ASL and Deaf culture, including a list of research materials, discussion boards, a book list, and helpful links to other resources. This Web site also includes information about finding ASL classes, as well as links to various videos, books, and other materials for teaching or learning ASL.

    The Interpreter's Friend offers many different resources for those involved in ASL interpreting, including full-text articles on interpreting in different situations, links to helpful resources for interpreters, and information from professional development workshops for interpreters.

    The National Technical Institute for the Deaf provides a bibliographic index to journal literature, newsletters, and other publications related to ASL, interpreting, Deaf Studies, and Deaf History. This Web site includes a search engine that allows visitors to locate research and resources by author, title, subject, or periodical.

    Sherman Wilcox, Associate Professor and Chair of the Department of Linguistics at the University of New Mexico, hosts an ASL as a foreign language Web page that includes resources on the issue of ASL being considered a foreign language for the purposes of university requirements. The site also includes a list of colleges and universities that accept ASL in fulfillment of foreign language requirements and links to helpful articles on this topic.

    SignWritingSite provides a wealth of information about SignWriting, a writing system that uses visual symbols to represent the handshapes, movements, and facial expressions of signed languages. Resources on this site include a Textbook-on-the Web with lessons in SignWriting, a dictionary, software, research, an online library, and several SignWriting forums.

    SEA: Supporting English Acquistion provides a series of modules that address aspects of English structure and usage for use by educators of deaf and hard-of hearing students and other students of English as a second language.

    The Yamada Language Center at the University of Oregon has an ASL page that includes links to downloads for several finger-spelling fonts for PC and Mac and an extensive list of links to ASL resources including dictionaries and ASL software.


    The American Sign Language Teachers' Association is the national professional organization for those involved in ASL and Deaf studies education. Their Web site includes association news, information about ASL teaching certification and ASL-related legislation, and a list of helpful links.

    The Conference of Interpreter Trainers (CIT) aims to support quality education for interpreters working with ASL and English. CIT has developed national standards for sign language interpreters and provides professional development opportunities for interpreter educators. CIT also advocates for research related to the practice and instruction of sign language interpretation.

    Gallaudet University's Laurent Clerc National Deaf Education Center was founded to develop and evaluate curricula, instructional techniques, strategies, and materials for teaching deaf children from birth to age 21. The Communication and Sign Language section of this Web site provides links to a number of resources related to ASL.

    The National Association of the Deaf is a private, nonprofit organization that provides a variety of services, including certification of interpreters and other ASL professionals, and advocacy for the rights of deaf and hard of hearing Americans. The NAD Web site provides responses to frequently asked questions, and NAD staff members sponsor a question-answering service for questions related to deafness and ASL.


    Videos and Software

    American Sign Language Dictionary and Inflection Guide links thousands of ASL signs to actual sentences and shows how signs are inflected from sentence to sentence to express different meanings.  This CD-ROM is available through the Rochester Institute of Technology bookstore.  Click "Merchandise" then "Deafness Videos and CDs".

    ASLAccess is a nonprofit organization of volunteers that provides ASL video resources to libraries across the United States. Their Web site includes responses to frequently asked questions, information on how to obtain ASL videos for libraries, links to articles on ASL, lists of libraries that have over 200 ASL videos, and an extensive bibliographic list of ASL videos.

    ASL Videos offers 147 videos for teaching and learning ASL, as well as videos in ASL (including some with voice-overs or captioning in English) for both deaf and hearing children and adults.

    Dawn Sign Press publishes a wide variety of books, videos, and instructional materials for teaching and learning ASL, as well as materials in ASL for deaf children and adults. They publish a popular three-level series of materials for learning ASL, Signing Naturally, which includes student videotexts and workbooks.

    Palatine is a Seattle-based publisher that produces a number of software programs for learning ASL.

    Sign Enhancers produce and sell a wide range of videos, books, and software on ASL, including resources for learning ASL, interpreting, and Deaf culture/Deaf education.

    Sign Media produces and distributes videos and books about ASL, interpreting, and Deaf culture, including videos and books for children. Their Web site provides a wealth of information about Deaf culture and ASL, including information about ASL linguistics.


    American Annals of the Deaf is a scholarly journal devoted to issues dealing with deafness and the education of deaf persons.

    CAEDHH Journal/La Revue ACESM, the official journal of the Canadian Association of Educators of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, offers a variety of articles related to ASL and the education of deaf and hard of hearing individuals.

    Journal of Deaf Studies and Deaf Education, published by Oxford University Press, includes a wide variety of articles on deafness and ASL. Issues from 1999 through the present are available full-text online; abstracts of earlier issues are also available online.

    Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, published by the American Speech-Hearing Association, frequently includes articles on ASL and other signed languages.

    Sign Language & Linguistics, which is available via a print or electronic subscription, includes articles on sign languages-including ASL-within the larger context of linguistics.

    Sign Language Studies, founded by William C. Stokoe-considered by many to be the father of the linguistic study of sign language-includes articles on ASL linguistics, interpreting, deafness, and the Deaf community.


    SLLING-L (Sign Language Linguistics List) , part of the Linguistlist network, provides an email discussion forum for ASL educators and others involved in sign language studies.

    TeachASL was created to facilitate ongoing dialogue among those who teach ASL in a variety of settings.


    Bahan, B., & Dannis, J. (1990). Signs for Me: Basic Sign Vocabulary for Children, Parents & Teachers. San Diego: Dawn Sign Press.

    Baker-Shenk, C., Cokely, D., & Baker-Shenk, D. (1991). American Sign Language: A Teacher's Resource Text on Grammar and Culture (American Sign Language Series).Washington, DC: Clerc Books, Gallaudet University Press.

    Cokely, D., & Baker-Shenk, C. (1991). American Sign Language: A Teacher's Resource Text on Curriculum, Methods, and Evaluation (American Sign Language Series). Washington, DC: Gallaudet University Press.

    Emmory, K., & Lane, H. (Eds.). (2000). The signs of language revisited: An anthology to honor Ursula Bellugi and Edward Klima. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

    Klima, E., & Bellugi, U. (1988). The signs of language. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

    Liddell, S. K. (2003). Grammar, gesture, and meaning in American sign language. New York: Cambridge University Press.

    Neidle, C., Kegl, J., MacLaughlin, D., Bahan, B., & Lee, R. (1999). The Syntax of American Sign Language: Functional Categories and Hierarchical Structure. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

    Schein, J., & Stewart, D. (1995). Language in Motion: Exploring the Nature of Sign. Washington, DC: Gallaudet University Press.

    Valli, C., & Lucas, C. (2001). Linguistics of American Sign Language: An Introduction. Washington, DC: Gallaudet University Press.

    ERIC Documents

    The documents listed below were identified by searching the ERIC database using the following combination of ERIC descriptors and keywords:

    American Sign Language (as a major descriptor)
    PY>1998 (published 1998 or later)

    You may wish to conduct your own search of the ERIC database on the World Wide Web. If you need help with your search, call 1-800-276-9834 or email our User Services staff. Information on obtaining the documents listed below can be found at the end of this section or by clicking here.


    Using Sign Language in Your Classroom.
    Lawrence, Constance D.
    April 19, 2001

    This paper reviews the research on use of American Sign Language in elementary classes that do not include children with hearing impairment and also reports on the use of the manual sign language alphabet in a primary class learning the phonetic sounds of the alphabet. The research reported is overwhelmingly positive in support of using sign language, especially in preschool and kindergarten, to enhance reading and communication skills. It notes that sign language appears to enhance brain activity on both sides of the brain and has been proven successful in a total communication reading program for students with learning disabilities and mental retardation. Its successful use to maintain behavior control and foster self-esteem, attention, on-task behavior, communication skills, and academics is also noted. A high level of student interest and improved motivation was noted in the class studied.

    Critical Pedagogy in Deaf Education: Teachers' Reflections on Creating a Bilingual Classroom for Deaf Learners. Year 3 Report (1999-2000). USDLC Star Schools Project Report No. 3.
    Nover, Stephen M.; Andrews, Jean F.
    September 30, 2000

    This report covers year 3 of a 5-year longitudinal study that is applying a bilingual language approach to development of American Sign Language (ASL) and English language and literacy skills in deaf learners. Specifically, the report describes how 45 teachers and mentors in five residential schools participated in inservice training on the use of bilingual and English as a Second Language (ESL) methodologies and practices with deaf children. Teachers kept written reflective logs as they participated in weekly seminars for 24 weeks. Conclusions of the project to date support a dual language developmental bilingual approach in ASL and English but do not support the mixing of languages as in a sign-supported speech environment. Implications of the project include increased use of bilingual and ESL methodologies in inservice teacher training and a closer attention to background variables of deaf students as they affect language learning. Conclusions also suggest that many public school programs are failing deaf students and exacerbating their language delays, that schools for the deaf need to reform their language teaching and learning environments, and that widespread mainstreaming of young deaf children without ASL and Deaf culture support is not working. Six appendices provide teaching training syllabi, questionnaires, and other project related materials. (Contains 52 references.)

    Is American Sign Language a "Foreign" Language?
    Belka, Robert W.

    This article explores some of the complexities of the question as to whether or not American Sign Language (ASL) is a foreign language. It reviews the historical oppression of the Deaf, the development of ASL and its defining value to proponents of Deaf culture, mentions other language systems (including foreign sign systems) used by the deaf--specifically comparing ASL and English, posits arguments for considering ASL a foreign language, and examines what having a hearing student learning ASL as a second language might gain and lose by selecting ASL over a traditional language like German. It is concluded that for native American English speakers, ASL is not a foreign language. However, it is argued that it should be able to be counted as one for the purposes of educational requirements, even if it is likewise concluded that the learner of a traditional language like German or Italian gets a far higher payback.

    But Does It "Count"? Reflections on "Signing" as a Foreign Language.
    Reagan, Timothy

    This article addresses a number of common confusions that characterize much of the debate about the status of American Sign Language (ASL) as a foreign language option. The article begins with a broad overview of the nature and characteristics of different kinds of signing as they are used in the Deaf culture and between the Deaf and hearing worlds. Next it moves to a discussion of some of the concerns and issues that have been raised in recent years with respect to the question of whether learning to sign ought to count as a foreign language in various American educational institutions and settings. It then focuses on the issue of selecting and evaluating both instructors and curricular materials for ASL classes. It concludes with an explanation of some of the political and ideological issues that the inclusion of ASL as a foreign language appears to have raised. Deaf culture and its relationship with the wider society is discussed at length in postmodern, critical terms.

    American Sign Language Instruction: Moving from Protest to Practice.
    Wallinger, Linda M.

    Many educational institutions have already determined that American Sign Language (ASL) is indeed a language, that it has a culture, and it is sufficiently foreign to fulfill a foreign language requirement. Consequently, schools and universities struggle to place ASL in the context of academic foreign language programs. The challenge is to develop state curriculum frameworks, local curricula, and teacher licensure requirements that establish ASL as a viable contender among its academic counterparts. This article describes the steps that have been taken in Virginia to allow ASL to fulfill the foreign language requirement for an advanced studies diploma, including the development of state curriculum framework and teacher licensure requirements. The article provides a historical background of ASL in America ASL and the national standards for foreign language learning, applying national standards to ASL instruction, the Virginia framework for instruction of ASL, and teacher licensure requirements in Virginia. Twelve references are included, as are two appendices, Framework for Instruction of American Sign Language in Virginia Public Schools, March 1998 and Proposed Amendment to Licensure Regulations for School Personnel.

    Improving the Delivery of the Sign-Language Instruction Program for Parents of Children Who Are Deaf and Receiving Services from a School for the Deaf.
    Toth, Anne E.

    This report discusses the outcomes of a practicum designed to address the lack of parent participation in American Sign Language (ASL) training by parents of children with hearing impairments. Using a pretest-posttest design, 46 parents of children who are deaf and receive services from a school for the deaf were surveyed. Based on the needs assessed in the pre-implementation survey, an implementation plan was developed using the resources of the school, parents, and community. Concerns of the parents were identified and four outcomes were specified and achieved. The program aimed at increasing awareness, attendance, use, and active involvement of parents in deciding the kind of sign-language instruction they want for themselves. The post- implementation survey data gave evidence of a 10 percent increase in all four targeted areas. As a result of the program there was an increase from 21 to 39 parents of the 184 eligible parents using the sign-language instruction programs that were offered. Appendices include the Sign-Language Instruction Program Survey for Parents, letters to parents, a synthesis of data compiled from the pre- and post-
    implementation surveys, and the summary report to parents on practicum completion.

    In a Different Voice: Sign Language Preservation and America's Deaf Community.
    Burch, Susan
    Bilingual Research Journal, v24 n4 p443-64 Fall 2000

    Oralism, which teaches lip reading and speech instead of American Sign Language (ASL), was hostile to Deaf culture in the early 1900s. Deaf resistance to oralism solidified the Deaf community through support of Deaf teachers; establishment of Deaf newspapers, clubs, and churches; and production of sign-language films and dictionaries.

    Sign Language versus Spoken Language.
    Stokoe, William C.
    Sign Language Studies, v1 n4 p407-25 Sum 2001

    Suggests that various parts of the grammar of American Sign Language--particularly its verb and pronoun system--give convincing evidence that such grammar cannot have derived from the grammars of spoken languages; rather the continuity is from cognitive activity expressed in Signs toward linguistic organization both of the expressive material and the semantic, and thence to spoken language.

    Pearls of Wisdom: What Stokoe Told Us about Teaching.
    Stewart, David A.
    Sign Language Studies, v1 n4 p344-61 Sum 2001

    Looks at what William Stokoe taught educators about teaching deaf children. Among his ideas were that signing is more than just a away to communicate, deaf children should begin to acquire sign language during their infant years, teaching begins with a commitment to one's beliefs, good teachers are innovative thinkers, and it is important to look at the whole child.

    Deaf Children Creating Written Texts: Contributions of American Sign Language and Signed Forms of English.
    Mayer, Connie; Akamatsu, C. Tane
    American Annals of the Deaf, v145 n5 p394-403 Dec 2000

    A study involving three children who are deaf (grades 7-8) investigated the ways in which American Sign Language (ASL) and English-based sign allow for comprehension of text content. Retelling, proposition, and feature analysis scores indicate students understood the fable texts whether they were presented in ASL or English-based sign.

    Say It with Sign Language.
    Crawford, Wendy
    Principal, v80 n5 p30-32 May 2001

    Impressed by Marilyn Daniels' research on the educational benefits of signing for hearing children, a New Jersey early childhood education center trained its staff in sign language as a teaching tool. Students enthusiastically incorporated sign language into their activities as they increased word recognition and vocabulary growth.

    Integrative ASL-English Language Arts: Bridging Paths to Literacy.
    Bailes, Cynthia Neese
    Sign Language Studies, v1 n2 p147-74 Win 2001

    A study of a bilingual program in a Deaf school in Minnesota examines the following: the principles primary grade teachers articulate and demonstrate as important for the use of American Sign Language (ASL) to teach English literacy; the strategies primary grade teachers use to teach English literacy through ASL; and how primary grade teachers use ASL in the listening and speaking components of the language arts program.

    Effects of Rate of Presentation on the Reception of American Sign Language.
    Fischer, Susan D.; Delhorne, Lorraine A.; Reed, Charlotte M.
    Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, v42 n3 p568-82 Jun 1999

    Videotaped productions of isolated American Sign Language signs or sentences were presented at speeds of two to six times normal. Results indicated a breakdown in intelligibility at around 2.5 to 3 times the normal rate. Results are similar to those found for auditory reception of time-compressed speech suggesting a modality- independent limit to language processing.


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