As an Honors student at DePaul, I am required to take a sequence of language courses that end in me reaching intermediate proficiency. For this requirement, I chose to focus on American Sign Language even though I had no prior knowledge of the language. As I finish my second quarter of ASL, I can honestly say it is nothing like I thought it would be. When I used to think about sign language, I thought of charades, miming, and trying to convey English words through body movements and hand signals. This is a huge misconception, and ASL is actually a complex, beautiful language of its own. It does not exactly mirror English as I had initially thought, but uses its own syntax and contains unique differences from English.
Another aspect of ASL at DePaul that was surprising for me is the idea of ‘deaf events.’ As a requirement for ASL classes, students must attend three of these events in which deaf people along with ASL students from all over Chicago interact and communicate with each other. We typically meet at either Starbucks or Blaze Pizza and spend a couple hours mingling and meeting new people. In most language classes, this would be completely unheard of. The opportunity to use what you are learning in class to communicate with others is incredibly helpful and I am glad that this is such an integral part of the classes I have taken. The ASL program at DePaul is truly a great program, and I would recommend taking an introductory class if you are at all interested!