Should Hearing People Teach Sign Language?

There are many reasons people become interested in learning American Sign Language (ASL). Some people learn because they know someone who is deaf, while others learn because they think it is a beautiful language. It is amazing to learn all of the stories behind why someone is interested in learning ASL.

There is much debate over who should teach sign language. The most important thing to remember is that American Sign Language was created by and for deaf people. ASL is a full language, just like any spoken language, and is not intended to be a hobby or a talent that hearing people play with. In addition, when a hearing person teaches sign language they are, in a sense, taking that job opportunity away from a deaf person.

When you are learning sign language from someone, deaf or hearing, you need to first make sure they are qualified. Just because someone is deaf does not mean they are qualified as a teacher. Just like when someone is hearing it does not automatically mean they are qualified to teach English. You also need to find out why they are teaching. If a hearing person is teaching, do they have deaf family members? Are they actually fluent in the language? Did they do their due diligence to make sure deaf people had the opportunity to apply for the same job? Are they actively involved with the Deaf community?

When you see a hearing person teaching sign language, don't jump to negative conclusions. You may not know the reason behind what they are doing. There are many instances when a Deaf person has asked a hearing student to tutor another hearing student to help them understand. There are also situations where Deaf people have asked hearing people to help someone learn certain concepts or explain things in a hearing person's native language to allow them to get to the next level of understanding. There are also some schools that have hearing ASL teachers who have actually been recruited by their deaf colleagues.

When you judge a situation, you have lost your ability to be curious. Not everything is black and white. There are situations where a hearing person may be tutoring or teaching ASL and it may be because a Deaf person asked them to.

For example, a Deaf ASL teacher may have a TA (teaching assistant) in their class who is hearing and can provide tutoring services to other students. There are Deaf people who recognize that hearing people have different learning styles and/or life experiences that may make it more beneficial to learn from or seek clarification from a hearing person. This can be part of the ASL learner’s journey. If a hearing person only wants to learn ASL from another hearing person with no intention to ever learn from or interact with Deaf people, why are they learning the language?

Learning sign language is a wonderful way to be able to communicate with people who are deaf and to help create a world that is more inclusive.

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