The Best Language Institution?

By Guest Contributor

Middlebury College prides itself as a well-established language institution that offers students with a wide array of high quality language courses. We have languages such as Arabic, Russian, and Hebrew. But can we really call ourselves a high quality language institution when we don’t offer classes for the fourth most studied foreign language in the U.S.? What is stopping us from having American Sign Language (ASL) classes?

The University of Vermont has an ASL department and offers several levels of ASL, including both grammar and culture classes. Brown, Wesleyan, Tufts, Community College of Vermont (CCV) — they all have ASL classes and we don’t. Middlebury also prides itself with having a great rapport with our local communities. What about the deaf communities in Middlebury, Burlington, and the rest of Vermont? It seems like an obvious choice to have classes here.

The ASL Course Committee, comprised of Middlebury students and faculty who are eager to get ASL to our campus, have begun a petition in order to show student interest in having an ASL course track at Middlebury. You might come across a student, perhaps in your class or in your student organization, asking for signatures. Feel free to sign the petition or to ask any questions to the people passing them around.

As someone who took the ASL J-term class, it was probably the best class I have taken at Middlebury thus far. I will be honest, the first couple of classes were a little awkward because it was a silent class; however, our professor, Alex Lynch, an ASL professor at University of Vermont who is deaf, wanted us to have our own type of “language immersion.” We quickly learned enough ASL to have great silent classes.

Learning ASL is just like the acquisition of any other language; knowing ASL is equally as valuable a skill as knowing any other language, both personally and professionally. ASL classes will also provide job openings for new professors. We already have a Language Table in Proctor, so why not classes?

Submitted by RICARDO MARTINEZ ’16 and the ASL Course Committee.

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