School of Education (SED) ASL by Louis Vitti (SMG)

Depending on what your course of study at Boston University is, you may have a foreign language to fulfill. Or maybe you just want to take a foreign language because you’re passionate about the course! Either way, you have so many different options to choose from at BU. With over 25 languages offered, you are certainly never scratching to find a language that may interest you.

The first semester of my freshman year I decided to take a foreign language, but I wanted it to be a different language that is not widely studied. I wanted the language to be part of a culture I was unfamiliar with, so I could learn not only a new language but a new culture, a new part of the world, and the people. As I started to look around at the different languages BU offered, I came across ones that are very familiar to me: German, Italian, Spanish,   and French. Other languages I have never even heard of before like Hindi-Urdu, Igbo, Xhosa, Wolof and so many others. But then, one caught my eye! – American Sign Language.

American Sign Language was something I never thought about learning before because I had never had a large exposure to it. As I started to research it more, I found that Boston University was one of very few universities to offer American Sign Language as a foreign language. As I started to read more and more, I became fascinated with the Deaf culture, so I decided to take the course.

On the first day of class, I walked in expecting that the first class would be spoken so we could go over the syllabus. Wrong. Professor Scott Shupert walked in and began to sign to us. It was only because of the interpreters present for the first day that I understood what was happening. I quickly learned that all of the professors of ASL (American Sign Language), are members of the Deaf community themselves so from day one, I had no other option but to communicate in ASL or written word. The first day was spent teaching us how to finger spell so that from now on we would either have to sign everything or finger spell everything. I was very taken back by the immediate immersion but that immersion contributed to how fast I picked up ASL.

Throughout the course of the semester, I had the opportunity to go to many Deaf events around the city of Boston (for example, a simulation called, “A Deaf Deaf World” at Northeastern University). At the simulation, we had to achieve everyday tasks like withdrawing money from the bank or buying groceries using only ASL to communicate. One of the most impactful parts of that event was when all of the sudden, the lights started flashing and the coordinators of the event all started to run out of the room. Everything was silent but we had no idea what was happening so all of the students began to panic and run out of the room as well. It was then that they told us that we had just experienced what a crisis is like for a member of the Deaf community.

It was then that I realized how rewarding this class had been and how much I had really learned not only about the language, but the culture and the people – exactly what I wanted from my foreign language experience.

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