Janna and I teach American Sign Language online and in books through our Hardcore ASL program. We are often asked by students and schools how one can find the right ASL teacher.
Here are some things you should ask to know:
How to find the right ASL teacher — or how to buy the right ASL book — can be a tough task to fairly answer because some assumptions and questions need to be proactively made on your part when you consider an ASL education.
First, ASL and PSE (Pidgin Signed English) and SEE (Signing Exact English) are, unfortunately, becoming more and more interchangeable in today’s ASL education expectation even though all three are extremely different languages.
ASL uses HandShapes, FacialExpression, Torso Location, and grammar based on French sentence structure.
PSE and SEE use English language structure, a lot of Fingerspelling and little emphasis is placed on using the face to set tone and conditional responses.
Proper ASL educational materials and ASL teachers are tough to find. That’s why we call our program “Hardcore ASL” instead of just “ASL” because we want people to know we teach in the true ASL style and that we don’t abide PSE or SEE as a substitute for ASL.
Background and Cultural Identification are important indicators as you weigh your educational options. Deaf authors and teachers from Deaf parents and educated in a Deaf institution are good signs that pure ASL is being shared, as is having a Hearing child of a Deaf parent (CODA) as an instructor or an author — but the overall caveat, in my experience, is one of age.
If your author or teacher is 40 or older, you should get a prime ASL Experience. If they are 30 or younger, then they are likely of the “broken generation” of the Deaf Community that the medical community chose to “fix” via mainstream schooling and cochlear implantation.
Many of the younger Deaf today think they’re signing ASL, but they’re not — they’re using PSE or SEE or Home Signs — and they don’t know the difference between any of them because they were never immersed in the Deaf Community and they did not attend a Deaf school.
Having a Masters degree in a Deaf or Rehabilitation field is another sign of a dedication to the Deaf Community.
With this information, you should be able to begin to know the right questions to ask when purchasing an ASL book, hiring a private tutor, or taking an ASL class online or in person.