ASL University | Bookstore | Catalog | Dictionary | Lessons | Resources | Syllabi | Library

Are you Qualified to Teach ASL?


Also see: "Am I qualified to teach? (2)"

In a message dated 5/31/2005 6:35:43 PM Pacific Daylight Time, Sharon writes:

I have been studying ASL for several years, but am still very basic in my skills.  I completed two-years of "formal" classes and as many informal classes as I could find.  I have not progressed beyond second-year level because I  cannot find advanced night classes.  I plan to continue studying your on-line classes especially as summer gives me more opportunity to be online.

I have received conflicting advice about teaching basic ASL to others.  The teacher I worked with in formal classes believes you should not put yourself into any situation where you are not fully qualified.  A Deaf friend encourages me to teach the basics to church friends so they can communicate with a Deaf visitor who often attends our church.  I would like to share what I've learned and hope others would catch my passion and have the opportunity to follow up with formal classes.  What is your opinion on teaching basics when I am rather basic myself?

Thanks again for your classes and tips.


I do not see a conflict in what you stated.
Your Deaf ASL instructor tells you that you should not put yourself into any situation where you are not fully qualified.
Your Deaf friend encourages you to teach the basics to church friends so they can communicate with a Deaf visitor who often attends our church.
Where's the conflict?
You've been studying ASL for several years. You are continuing to study ASL in whatever form you can.  You are seeking advice from professionals. You are aware of your own limitations. You are humble, open, and passionate.  You have deaf friends and acquaintances.

I think it would be a disservice to the Deaf if you didn't begin teaching your church friends.
I suggest though that you grab your Deaf friend and have him/her team-teach with you.
And remember, there is a difference between teaching your friends at church and "going into business."

Here are two issues of which you should be aware:

1.  Some Deaf feel that it is "not right" for Hearing people to take "paid ASL teaching jobs" that could be performed by a Deaf person.  The line of reasoning behind this is that Hearing people can go get any number of other jobs that require the ability to speak and hear.  Jobs involving ASL that don't require the ability to speak and hear are ideal for Deaf people and should thus be filled by Deaf and not Hearing. Some Deaf have the point of view that ASL belongs "solely" to the Deaf and that it should be only Deaf people who get to reap any financial rewards from the teaching of ASL.

2.  Regional and local differences in signs abound.  Many people feel that "their way" of signing is right.  I suggest you pick a good ASL textbook or curriculum and stick with it. Also, get to know as many local variations as you can. Then if and when students tell you their Deaf friend signs it in such and such a way you can compliment them for knowing a variation. Then show the student a few more variations, and suggest that "for this class" he or she stick with the one that you recommend based on what you've seen your local Deaf friends doing. Whenever you notice that a significant number of your Deaf friends do a sign differently than how it is done in your chosen curriculum, you should go with what the local Deaf are using. (Note: If you are using my curriculum then contact me so I can add the other sign as a local variation to my sign pages.)


Dr. Bill's new iPhone "Fingerspelling Practice" app is now available!   GET IT HERE!  

NEW!  Online "ASL Training Center!"  (Premium Subscription Version of ASLU)  ** CHECK IT OUT **

Also available: "" (a mirror of less traffic, fast access)  ** VISIT NOW **

Want to help support Lifeprint / ASLU?  It's easy!     

You can learn sign language online at American Sign Language University
hosted by Dr. William Vicars