We make many little gestures in everyday life, whether it be putting our index finger to our lips to indicate “shhh” when someone speaks too loudly or makes noise in the library, pointing to a mouth-watering meal on a menu, or even raising a hand to hail a taxi. These universal gestures are among the most widespread, and yet are examples of sign language in its most basic form.
The influences of sign language are everywhere, but because we’re so used to them, we don’t notice them anymore! One example is the football huddle, which was invented by Deaf football athletes at Gallaudet University in 1892 when they played against another team of Deaf players. The quarterback, Paul Hubbard, didn’t want his opponents to see what they were signing in American Sign Language (ASL) as they discussed different game strategies. To stop them from seeing their conversation, he asked his team to form a tight circle, now known as a “huddle”. This “huddle”, which is part of deaf heritage and history, is now a staple in professional football leagues such as the NFL and CFL, as well as in other sports around the world.
In short, sign language can be as practical for professional athletes as it can for the average person, such as professionals from different fields, parents of Deaf and hard of hearing children, or even those who may want to become an ASL-English interpreter.
But let’s get back to the topic at hand! Why should we all learn American Sign Language (ASL)? There are many good reasons to learn it:
1. It’s more and more popular
With COVID and live broadcasts, we see sign language interpreters on air everywhere. Moreover, the new 2019 Accessible Canada Act recognizes ASL, Quebec Sign Language (Langue des signes québécoise, LSQ) and Indigenous sign languages as the languages most used by Deaf and hard of hearing people in Canada! New parents are increasingly interested in sign languages as ways of communicating with their toddlers, and quickly notice how easily they are able to express their needs, well before learning to speak.
2. Learning a second language stimulates the brain
Without going into too much scientific detail, many linguists and psychologists agree that bilingualism—and multilingualism—come with their fair share of cognitive benefits. Learning a language boosts our concentration, listening and thinking skills! In addition, research shows that it’s then easier to learn a third (and fourth) language!
3. Communicate underwater
Whether you’re scuba diving or just swimming, communicating underwater has never been easier. It’s just a matter of making a few signs!
4. Chat at a movie or the library without making any noise
If you’re one of those people who likes to chat from time to time while watching a film but often find yourself reluctant to make noise at the movies, or if you like taking advantage of the peace and quiet of the library to work on team projects, ASL could be the ideal solution to your woes!
5. Communicate through a window
Are you outside with boots and pants covered in snow and want to talk to someone inside without making a mess of the hall? Sign language is your solution!
6. Enhance your CV with a second or third language
What better way to enhance your CV than with a second language, one very often used in Quebec and Canada? Capture the interest of potential employers with your sign language skills. By being able to directly converse with your Deaf colleagues and clients, you will create a special connection.
7. Communicate easily in noisy places
Whether you’re at a Habs game at the Bell Centre, in a crowded bar or in the middle of a concert, no worries! You can communicate easily with the person next to you without shouting or making them repeat themselves.
8. Talk to someone at the other end of the room WITHOUT SHOUTING
Are you in a crowded market and want to tell your roommate to grab the last basket of strawberries that are next to them, without having to cut through the crowd or shout? ASL is there to save you a few steps. If you see a friend on the metro platform going in the other direction, take the opportunity to catch up with them without alerting the whole station. Don’t think you can tell secrets in public, though—you never know if the person over your shoulder knows ASL too!
9. Benefit from a unique visual-spatial language
Sign languages are known for their three-dimensional character. They are unique visual-spatial languages. As well as developing your ability to communicate with your facial, body and hand movements, your listening skills and visual attention will be called upon to levels you never suspected.
10. It’s the most accessible language for Deaf and hard of hearing people
Of course, we couldn’t discuss the main reasons to learn sign language without addressing accessibility. Sign languages are one of the most important, natural and accessible means of communication for the vast majority of Deaf and hard of hearing people. It allows them to participate in conversations on an equal footing with others. Learning sign language means accommodating diversity and contributing to universal inclusion.
11. Communicate with people with one or more disabilities, degenerative diseases, autism, speech impairment, etc.
There are a number of people with one or more disabilities, such as degenerative diseases, autism or even a speech disorder, who need sign language to be able to speak or listen. It is an inclusive communication tool that doesn’t rely on technology, and is free and practical for those who need it.
12. Have the opportunity to get to know the Deaf community
Learning a foreign language immerses you in a new community and a different culture. The same is true for sign language, which opens us up to the Deaf community and its culture, at the very heart of the identity and life of Deaf and hard of hearing people.
You surely have your own good reasons for learning about ASL, whether it be to satisfy your curiosity, explore a unique language, meet new people or even fulfill an old dream. There may be many reasons to get started, but you’ll find that there are even more reasons to stick with it.
There are over 200 different sign languages in the world, including French Sign Language (LSF), Quebec Sign Language (LSQ), British Sign Language (BSL), South African Sign Language (SASL) and even more… why not learn one from home? Register for one of our LSQ or ASL courses!
To register, click here!