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Se habla sign? Students take ASL to fulfill foreign language requirements.

It has been compared to Chinese because of its multiple meaning units and has been said to resemble the word order of Spanish or French. But is American Sign Language a foreign language? White this is up for debate in the higher ed community, one thing is certain: Students are showing a greater interest in ASL programs than in years prior. Enrollment in ASL college classes was up more than 400 percent from 1998 to 2002, according to the Modern Language Association. As of 2002, 60,000 students were enrolled in ASL classes. Currently, about 150 IHEs have accepted ASL as a foreign language, estimates Sherman Wilcox, chairman of University of New Mexico's linguistics department.

Gardner-Webb University (N.C.) was one of the first to offer an ASL program. It began a four-year bachelor's program for ASL in 1995 after years of offering only an associate's degree in the subject. "Two years just wasn't enough to master a language," says Mary High, the university's assistant professor of ASL.

Opponents says sign language doesn't provide access to the culture of another society, but High disagrees. "While many think it might be similar to spoken English, it's not. It has its own grammar with a different conceptual base and symbol system," she says. "There is a distinct deaf culture in the U.S." High says that strides in the deaf community, such as Galludet University's (D.C.) election of its first deaf president in 1998, and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 have helped bring awareness to ASL.
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Title Annotation:In The News
Publication:University Business
Date:Feb 1, 2005
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