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American Sign Language


American Sign Language is a viable form of communication.

Language is communication.  According to Sherman Wilcox, Ph.D. in linguistics at the University of New Mexico, since American Sign Language has its own phonology, morphology, syntax and semantics, it meets all the criteria of a foreign language.  In an effort to become sensitive and aware of the others around us, CT students should have the opportunity whenever possible to learn ASL.

Students should have the opportunity to learn American Sign Language. 

Language research has proven that ASL is a natural language that is linguistically and culturally equivalent to other languages spoken in the world.  According to Goals 2000:  The Educate America Act, each student should be able to understand and communicate in a language other than English.  For some students, ASL may be a logical and meaningful choice. 

Bill Stokoe, former professor of Engish at Gallaudet University, Washington, D.C., states that "Language is not mouth stuff, it is brain stuff." Sign language is unique; a speech of the hand produced and controlled by the brain.  The part of the brain that deals with the organization of language works independently of the channel through which the language is either produced or perceived.  Whether a language comes through the ears and out th mouth or in through the eyes and out through the hands, the basic structural properties of the language remain the same.  ASL shares core universal structural properties with other entities we call language. 

Signing was first mentioned by Plato in ancient Greece and by Leonardo da Vinci.  It probably began with simple gestures and then evolved into a true language with structured grammar.  Today at least 50 native sign languages are "spoken" worldwide.  In the 1970's, a new federal law gave deaf children the right to learn ASL and to live in an ASL community.  Some states officially recognize ASL as a foreign language. 

The Board of Directors of CT COLT recommends to the CT State Department of Education, the CT Commissioner of Education, and leaders at the district level that all students should be made aware of the importance of American Sign Language as a viable form of communication and be encouraged to learn ASL. 

The general wording of the recommendation allows individual districts to design and implement a program that reflects local needs and constraints. 


Elizabeth K. Lapman
President, CT COLT
Lewis S. Mills High School
26 Lyon Road
Burlington, CT 06013



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The Connecticut Council of Language Teachers (CT COLT) promotes, advocates for and fosters the teaching and learning of World Languages and Cultures. We support, guide and connect educators, students, policy makers and the public through professional development, scholarship and collaborative initiatives.

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