A common misconception is that the only people who should learn American Sign Language (ASL) are those who are Deaf. However, this misconception is not just false, but also quite problematic. While ASL was designed for the hearing-impaired, there is no reason why others shouldn’t learn the ASL language. In fact, there are a long list of benefits to learning ASL as a hearing person. Here are the top 4 benefits:
Communicate with those who are Deaf
The most obvious benefit of knowing ASL as a hearing person is that you can communicate with those who are Deaf or hard of hearing. Millions of people living in the United States alone rely on ASL. These people could be customers at your place of work, students in your college class, parents of your children in your own child’s class, and so much more! There are so many people in this country who use ASL that you would not be able to have a conversation with if you don’t know the language, as well.
Improves small motor skills
Did you know that learning American Sign Language can help improve your small motor skills? When communicating with your hands instead of your mouth, you require more dexterity. Learning American Sign Language can help improve both your coordination and your small muscle strength.
When you learn any new language, you automatically expand and enhance your vocabulary. However, ASL is made by taking simple ways we use our bodies to communicate- such as scrunching the nose or shrugging- and not only enhancing them, but turning them into words and phrases. If you want to learn ASL language, you can expect that your vocabulary will be more solidified in your brain because it will associate both words and movements.
A common issue that the Deaf community faces is being “othered.” English is the national language in the United States- but many Americans are born Deaf or hearing-impaired and can only communicate in ASL. When someone who only speaks ASL enters a room, they oftentimes get ignored by hearing people because they are “different” and the hearing people don’t know how to react. Instead of ostracizing those in the Deaf community, you should instead make a more inclusive space by learning ASL yourself!
At the end of the day, hearing people who take the time to learn about ASL and the Deaf community are actively breaking down boundaries. Whether you know someone who is hearing-impaired or not, stepping outside of your comfort zone to learn about Deaf culture is an important step. If you think about it, those who are hearing-impaired have to live outside of their comfort zones every single day. While our society is becoming more inclusive and understanding, there aren’t many accommodations being made for those who are hearing-impaired in their daily lives- they still have to shop, travel, and communicate based on hearing people’s terms. So why not change the stigma and learn the ASL language?