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Home > Campuses & Centers > Annandale > Academic Divisions > Languages and Literature > American Sign Language and English Interpretation > General FAQ

Frequently Asked Questions: General Questions

1. Besides NOVA, which colleges or universities in the United States have ASL programs, or offer ASL courses?

ASL is becoming increasingly popular in the United States. More and more colleges are offering ASL, so the answer to this is always changing. It would be impossible for us to maintain a comprehensive database of every school that offers ASL.

2. What kind of jobs/careers are there for people fluent in sign language, other than teacher or interpreter?

Some examples of employment opportunities may include social work, counseling, and various kinds of employment at schools and universities that have deaf programs, as well as jobs with government agencies that come in regular contact with deaf people.

3. How challenging is ASL?

ASL can be extremely challenging. As with all languages, the answer to this depends heavily on the person doing the learning. Like learning another spoken language, you will not only learn a new language, but also learn about a large community of people with a strong, independent culture. In addition, because ASL is a visual language, you will need to adjust to using a visual medium to receive and express language, and you will have to disconnect from your dependence on sound. This can be quite difficult for some people. However, it is also fun and some students have found themselves totally immersed in the culture.

4. Will ASL count as a language for my degree?

Yes, here at NOVA. If you transfer to another school, the answer to this question will depend upon that school’s requirements.

5. How many classes do I have to take to become fluent in ASL/Will I ever develop good ASL skills?

As with any language, fluency takes time, practice, and exposure to native users. You should expect fluency to come at about the same rate that it would when learning another spoken language, and that is highly individual. If you keep at it, you will develop good skills, but the rate at which you achieve that is unique to you. Obviously, the more you interact with native users and the more you practice, the faster your skills will develop, so it depends in large part on how much effort you put into learning as well as your natural aptitude for acquiring a second language. You should be a strong user in ASL by the time you finish ASL VI, but true native-like fluency can take many years, and is not always achieved. So, the answer really depends on you and on what you mean by “fluent.”

6. How do you study for an ASL class?

There are a variety of ways to prepare for class. Your professors should guide you in this, but there are some common general recommendations. You will want to use your textbook and the accompanying video. Oftentimes professors will not have time to utilize all of the video materials for a course – that does not mean they are not beneficial to you. Use them. You will need to memorize vocabulary and demonstrate an understanding of the grammar rules taught. The best way to do this is to practice. You might want to form a study group, but if you don’t, you can practice on your own. The ideal would be to videotape yourself so that you can watch and analyze how accurate your signing was, but if you aren’t able to do this, just practicing on your own can be very beneficial.

7. What do you get out of ASL (education-wise)?

ASL is a language, so you get all of the benefits of learning another language. Depending upon your college/university, you may be able to use it to fulfill your foreign language requirement. It will also teach you a skill that only a small group of people have – and an even smaller group of hearing people. In addition to the obvious use it has for careers such as interpreting, it can be useful in any profession where you might need or want to communicate with deaf people, directly. Not to mention, it can be just plain fun to learn.

8. Are jobs readily available in this field?

There are many job opportunities for people who know ASL, and ASL/English interpreting is a very high-demand field.

9. What’s the Deaf community like in Northern Virginia??

There is a vibrant Deaf community in Northern Virginia, in part due to our proximity to Washington, D.C., and Gallaudet. The Deaf community, like any other cultural group, represents a wide variety of people and personalities from many walks of life. In addition, it is a group that represents all different States and, especially here in Washington, D.C., even people from all over the world. Northern Virginia is also home to Fairfax County Public Schools, which houses one of the largest Deaf and Hard of Hearing education programs in the country.