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April 20, 2006

Sign language should qualify as foreign language

From: UNLV The Rebel Yell, NV - Apr 20, 2006

By: Ryan Donohue

The third most common language used in the United States today is one that we at UNLV do not teach or even accept as a transfer credit for foreign languages. Hundreds of schools across the country accept and teach it. We are being done a disservice by the administration of this university in that we have been shoved to the side and not allowed to learn a language with a rich history and culture all its own. This must be stopped. I am calling on CSUN President-Elect Jeff Panchavinin, UNLV President Carol Harter-as well as her unnamed successor-and the Board of Regents to make a change. Accept American Sign Language as a foreign language credit.

A number of years ago, our esteemed Nevada State Senate considered a bill that would have made American Sign Language a foreign language. It was heavily pushed by members of the deaf community. The thought that their language, with its own sentence structure, syntax and culture, was not considered by our state legislature to be a language, on its own, was ludicrous. At the time, the state considered American Sign Language a derivative of English. In the context of the "Deaf President Now" rallies at Gallaudet University in Washington, D.C., the decision was an easy one. The Nevada Legislature passed the bill and it was signed into law by Gov. Bob Miller.

Why then does UNLV turn up its nose at the idea of accepting American Sign Language as a foreign language? The University of Nevada, Reno has accepted it for years, and even teaches it. The Community College of Southern Nevada has an extensive Deaf Studies Program, one that has training programs for American Sign Language interpreters, and has been operating this program for a long time. Western Nevada Community College and Truckee Meadows Community College, in the Reno/Sparks area, all accept and teach this fantastic language.

Why then does UNLV continue to demand that American Sign Language is not a foreign language? The idea that it is simply a part of English is very wrong. It has its own syntax and sentence structure. It has its own base of native speakers and is widely known. As a matter of fact, it is among the top five languages used in the United States. It does not have a written form, but it is simply continuing the oral tradition (or sign tradition) that we have all studied in English classes for years.

This is an issue that has been raised time and time again. The administration of this university knows that the students want this. The administration knows that there is the talent pool of instructors available to teach the classes. And the administration knows that they can make some money by offering these classes to students. So what is stopping American Sign Language from being at least accepted as a foreign language credit by this university? It is simple laziness. I call on President Harter, the incoming president (whoever that may be) and the entire administration to please consider this and allow the deaf community to have the same rights as those who speak French, Italian, German, Arabic, Spanish or any other language accepted by this university. It is time to make a change.

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