Is ASL a Foreign Language?

Many people have questioned if ASL is truly a foreign language. There has been many debate about this subject. But it seems that as far as America is concerned, ASL is considered a foreign language in some states.

It seems that a number of states have passed a number of states have passed legislation recognizing ASL) as a foreign language and permitting high schools and universities to accept it in fulfillment of foreign language requirements for hearing as well as deaf students. (, para. 1) As of 2004, only 40 out of 50 states have passed such legislation (States that recognize ASL as a foreign language)

According to students of Northern Illinois University-

“American Sign Language is distinct from spoken English and that its coursework provides a new perspective akin to the cultural immersion they’d experience in French, Spanish or other traditional language classes.” (, para. 3)

Like any other language, ASL ‘s grammer and punctuation is very different than spoken English. For example, “APPEAR tooth = PAIN ++BAD DENTIST GO NEED” is wrriten in gloss, which is a transcription of ASL. The meaning of the phrase is “It seems I have a toothache; I need to go to a dentist.” Only a person very fluent in ASL would recognize that sentence format.

So, it is safe to say that ASL is quite a foreign language, but not because of its origin, but of it’s culture.

Information from Is American Sign Language a ‘foreign’ language? by Angie Leventis Lourgos (link)

American Sign Language as a Foreign Language  by Sherman Wilcox (link)

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