On December 6, 2010, the New York Times ran the following article — Colleges See 16% Increase in Study of Sign Language — this excellent graphic from the story demonstrates how American Sign Language is now the #4 “Most-Studied” Foreign Language on campus with a 16.4% increase over the last three years, and that translates into a very real nationwide increase of 91,763 students.

Here’s a fraction of the NYTimes’ take on the significant increase in ASL students:

More than 90,000 students enrolled in sign-language classes last year, compared with only 4,304 in 1995.

Many colleges have long waiting lists of students trying to get into introductory A.S.L. classes, a substantial share of them turning to sign language because of their previous difficulties learning European languages.

“Some students take it because when they took Spanish or French in high school, it was horrific and they think this will be better,” said Amy Ruth McGraw, who teaches at the University of Iowa, where about 200 students study sign language. “And if their problem was auditory, or the accent, this might be better. But if it was memorizing vocabulary and grammar, this isn’t going to be any better.”

Janna and I teach American Sign Language online at HardcoreASL.com and, we too, have seen a similar, spiked, rise in the interest to learn the language.  Requests for workshops, tutoring and other ASL-specific projects are all up and booming — and it is all happening in a bad economy.  Be sure to check out our “Free Look” at some of our online ASL teaching to watch what’s happening.

The online emergency communication portal for First Responders and the Deaf we created — sosASL.com — has seen a rapid increase in traffic across the arc of the last year.

Our first, incredibly successful, ASL book — Hand Jive — sold out, and it is now available for you as a “free read” online:

Our other book — Picture Yourself Learning American Sign Language, Level 1 — is an ongoing hit with lots of fans and wonderful feedback:

Our take on the active demand for ASL is that people are much more interested in visual learning instead of auditory learning.  ASL is a whole-body language where FacialExpression and HandShapes and even Arm Angles determine emotion and specificity and location.

How your body moves in time and space creates syntax, grammar and gloss — all which you learn through repetition of the body in situ and not just the repetitive, plain-text memory of the mind.

We look forward to helping advance American Sign Language to the top of the Foreign Languages heap, and we’re certain we’ll get there because the ability to communicate universally with your body, and specifically in ASL, is a great gift that, once mastered, is something you will never forget or forgo.


  1. One of my colleagues at the office said he thought ASL was easy because it was just spelling out words. I told him that he was thinking of a pidgin ASL that was not the real deal. Love that ASL is so popular now!

    1. Just spelling out words is — The Rochester Method — PSE is using English word forms and syntax and grammar in a signed form. Pure ASL is a totally different beast from English sentence structure and FingerSpelling.

      Yes, ASL is on the rise, even as some of the naturally born American Deaf population is dwindling because of inappropriate early medical intervention.

  2. I’m glad the ASL is taking off for you, David. Keep us updated on what’s happening so we can follow along and help the cause!

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