Should Hearing People Teach ASL?

Neve O'Brien, MVC writer

American Sign Language (often abbreviated as ASL) is a visual, non-spoken language used to communicate without the need to hear or speak. It is used by the hearing community and the deaf community alike. Like any other language, ASL has grammar, structure and correct “pronunciation” for the signs, even varying slightly from person to person, resembling accents. However, most of the deaf community has a strong opinion on who should teach ASL and who should not, specifically that the teaching should be left to deaf people (which also includes hard-of-hearing) alone.

A huge part of this controversy includes the fact that recently there have been numerous people on TikTok and other social media platforms teaching ASL, even when they are not qualified. Usually, these users will look up a sign online or use a sign they learned from someone else, fluent or otherwise. Because of this increase, it encourages other unqualified and inexperienced people to show others these signs, forming a worldwide game of visual telephone. Because the signs are fairly easy to grasp due to their visualization, it seems as though people take this for granted, seeing ASL as more of a hobby than a language.

However, a writer from Life Print, a website for ASL news and education, explains that as long as someone is officially qualified and/or has near-native experience, they wouldn’t harm the deaf community in any way. Even Jon, a CODA (child of deaf adults), said he believes only in a perfect world would deaf people be the only ASL teachers. Mt. Vernon’s ASL teacher, Mrs. Peterson, says she believes that a perfect world would have both deaf and hearing ASL teachers, as it would bridge the two communities and bring them closer together. 

Mrs. Peterson and student Mikayla Ogre, a freshman, also mention that this controversy is very rarely seen with any other language. For example, one of Mt. Vernon’s Spanish teachers, Srta. Lemmons, is from America, with no Spanish ties in her family.

In short, a perfect world would probably include both hearing and deaf ASL teachers, but because the world will never be perfect, we can only assume. Like all languages, ASL can bring communities together and communicate ideas in new ways. Maybe in a perfect world, we’d all know ASL.