The American Sign Language program offers a variety of language courses and deaf studies courses taught in ASL every semester. Coursework completed in the ASL program upholds a stringent ASL Zone policy. From the moment a student enters the classroom, all conversation is conducted in ASL. This allows for students to be fully immersed in the language and guarantees full linguistic access to deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals. Our program encourages students to sign in and outside the classroom. Students can complement their studies by participating in weekly conversation hours, attending weekly meetings and events hosted by the University of Iowa’s student org ASL Club, getting help from dedicated peer tutors, and attending local Cedar Rapids Association of the Deaf (CRAD) events. Students’ ability to sign in and outside the classroom allows their language skills to flourish.

What is American Sign Language?

American Sign Language is a distinct, natural language with rules of grammar and usage as different from English as any foreign language. Consequently, a course in ASL is comparable to, and no less difficult or rigorous than, other language courses. Many students assume that taking ASL will be an easy way to fulfill the CLAS Core GE: World Languages requirement, but learning a new language is always a challenge. In addition, American Sign Language is a visual-gestural language, not a spoken language. Some students find that it increases the challenge to be learning a language in a new mode.

American Sign Language is a visual-gestural language created by Deaf people and used by approximately 250,000 – 500,000 Americans (and some Canadians) of all ages.

What is meant by "visual?"  Since American Sign Language uses body movements instead of sound, “listeners” (or “receivers”) use their eyes instead of their ears to understand what is being said. And because all linguistic information must be received through the eyes, the language is carefully structured to fit the needs and capabilities of the eyes.

What is meant by "gestural?"  “Gestures” can be defined as any movements of the body that occur for the purpose of communication. The gestures found in ASL are a special set of rule-governed behaviors, which are called signs.*

*Adapted from American Sign Language: A Teacher’s Resource Text on Grammar and Culture, by Charlotte Baker-Shenk and Dennis Cokely.