California Baptist University recently announced a new minor in American Sign Language.
This new minor will focus on teaching not only the words and grammar of ASL, but fluency in deaf culture.
Dr. Daniel Blair, director of the Center of Deaf Studies, said the ASL minor offers many benefits, including enhancements to career fields, including education, speech-language pathology and medical practice.
“Experience, competence or fluency in a second language is an advantage in most fields of service, both for gaining employment and in actual practice,” Blair said. “ASL is considered the third most widely used language in Southern California behind English and Spanish, so it is imminently practical in this region of the country and other areas with large deaf populations.”
Matthew Rankin, senior pre-nursing major, took some of the courses that will be required for the minor and said he hopes to work the new minor into his schedule once it becomes official. Knowing ASL and being fluent in deaf culture is an important factor of Rankin’s final career goals as a nursing major, he said.
“I know that if I work in a hospital I can shout up the hallway and someone will probably know Spanish,” Rankin said. “I can’t just shout up the hallway for an ASL interpreter.”
Rankin said many CBU students may not even recognize the deaf community sitting right under their nose.
“The culture is integrated within our culture but it’s totally separate as well,” Rankin said. “Now that I’ve been educated in some sense of the deaf community, I notice it more.”
The new minor will include courses that teach the culture of the deaf community as well as the language.
Ben Higgins, sophomore criminal justice major, has taken some ASL classes, because similar to Rankin he wanted to learn ASL because it is not well-known.
“I had a friend who was deaf and I didn’t want that to limit me with our communication,” Higgins said. “The value is being able to communicate.”
Rankin said the deaf community is one of the largest unreached people groups around the world. The new minor will also focus significantly on how to minister to the deaf.
“We’ve got a huge section of unreached people in Riverside who’ve never heard of the gospel, never heard of Jesus, and that’s only because they’re deaf,” Rankin said.