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

Teaching and Learning ASL: No Voice Environment

If you wanted to become a professional swimmer, it would make sense to spend as much time as possible in the water.
If you were only around a swimming pool a few hours per week, it would be smart to make the best use of your time at the swimming pool by diving in and swimming as much as possible while you have the chance.

If you want to learn ASL and interact with Deaf people and are only in an ASL classroom a few hours per week it also makes sense to dive in and "swim around" as much as possible.  By that I mean, turn off your voice and lift up your hands and get signing -- before, during, and after class.

There is another aspect to turning off your voice in the ASL classroom and that is:  "respect."
When around Deaf people it is proper for sign language students to turn off their voices and sign.
ASL majors especially need to get in the habit of choosing to sign rather than voice.

Getting students to turn off their voices seems to be a constant challenge for ASL instructors.
I myself have tried all the normal coercion methods: threats, throwing objects, etc.
Of all the various methods, I've been getting good results with humor and propaganda.

prop·a·gan·da  (prŏp'ə-gān'də)

  1. The systematic propagation of a doctrine or cause or of information reflecting the views and interests of those advocating such a doctrine or cause.

I find that small, quick, daily reminders do wonders for getting students to turn off their voices. I tend to post propaganda in my classes and or on my overheads.

"Signing is to a rainbow
Voicing is to black and white."

You have to be VERY careful in high school and youth classes regarding "what" you put in your propaganda.

In my college classes, I have gotten away with such posts as:

"Murderers, rapists, child molesters, people who voice in class, wife beaters…"

I don't recommend you use such strong propaganda unless you have a VERY good relationship with your students and they will understand from such a post that you are not trying to offend them, but rather to help them understand that this is an important topic.
   Instead you can use simple, subtle propaganda such as:

Voicing :(
Signing :)

Or try playing superstition combined with innuendo:

Delight went to ASL class and turned off her voice and was blessed with good luck.  She won the lottery, met the man of her dreams, and found the perfect job!

Dick used his voice in his ASL class and was cursed with bad luck.  His girlfriend left him, he lost his job, and his dog died.

Be a Delight.
Don't be a Dick.

Or go for the "health angle"

Signing burns extra calories and helps you get an "A" in class.

Voicing (in class) bother's your neighbors and shows a lack of intellect.

Or play on the desire to be liked by one's peers:

Signing is cool.

Voicing is not cool.


*  Want to help support ASL University?  It's easy DONATE  (Thanks!)

Another way to help is to buy something from Dr. Bill's "Bookstore."

Want even more ASL resources?  Visit the "ASL Training Center!"  (Subscription Extension of ASLU)  

*  Also check out Dr. Bill's channel:

You can learn American Sign Language (ASL) online at American Sign Language University ™ 
ASL resources by  ©  Dr. William Vicars