Why is American Sign Language Becoming So Popular?
Historically, American Sign Language (ASL) is a powerful way for people in the deaf community to communicate. And now, more people who hear are learning ASL, too.
At Uncle Goose, we’ve seen a huge uptick in sales of our American Sign Language Alphabet blocks. Move over Spanish: ASL is now our second most popular alphabet block set.
ASL is its own language. It’s difficult to say how many people in the US speak it. It wasn’t included in the 2020 census, nor was ASL mentioned in any census previously. Hopefully, that will change.
For a long time, the US considered ASL a form of silent English. It’s not, though. ASL has its own grammar, syntax, and meanings. It’s not merely English expressed with hand gestures.
That’s why many colleges in the US are now accepting ASL to fulfill foreign language requirements. ASL is the third most popular foreign language class taught at American universities.
ASL is also among the top 10 languages taught in K-12 schools. And it remains one of the top languages to require a court interpreter in the US. The demand for ASL interpreters is projected to rise in coming years, as well.
Over the next four decades, the number of people with hearing loss in the US is expected to almost double. By 2060, more people will experience moderate or greater hearing loss than the number with mild hearing loss today.
That could be one reason for the increased interest in ASL. But why else might ASL popularity be increasing?
One guess is that more people saw ASL interpreters during COVID press briefings. They saw how beautiful this language is, and wanted to learn.
Also, more young parents are learning the benefits of teaching ASL to babies who can hear. As early as 8 months, babies can imitate gestures and sign simple words.
This means a child can speak ASL before they are physically capable of verbalizing words. Babies can communicate if they’re hungry, if they’re hurt, or how they feel.
This reduces a child’s frustration and increases their confidence as communicators. It can also help them bond better with their parents.
Other studies show that children who learn ASL develop higher reading levels than those who don’t. They also show gains in vocabulary, IQ, and spatial reasoning scores.
Learning another language can be challenging and fun. Beyond the communication benefits, there also appear to be strong cognitive, social, emotional, and career benefits.
Are you one of the millions of people who are learning ASL? If so, what’s spurring your interest?