Why Study Sign Language?
Individuals enroll in online ASL (American Sign Language) courses for a variety of reasons, including to communicate with friends and family that are deaf or hard of hearing, to increase their skill set for career advancement, or to earn the experience necessary to enter into an interpreter program, eventually leading to national certification.
Sign language courses have traditionally been taught in a classroom so that people can learn to communicate face-to-face. However, in recent years, a number of institutions have responded to the need for interpreters by adding online sign language courses and certification for those who are interested in the field but unable to attend on-campus classes. Distance-learning courses provide the opportunity to self-pace and are often taught through webcam meetings and online learning systems.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, there is not an industry standard certification for sign language interpreters. Individuals can find certification through organizations like the American Translators Association (ATA), which requires experience and education in sign language as a requirement.
Sign Language Courses
Online courses can be taken individually, but they can also be taken as part of a certificate or an associate's, bachelor's or master's degree program that consists of on-site courses as well. Individuals interested in learning the basics may be content with distance learning options, but those looking to complete a degree or obtain national certification will generally have to dedicate some of their time to on-site schooling and enroll in an on-campus or hybrid program.
Similar to on-campus programs, many of the courses offered online are beginner courses in signing or courses focused on the background of the profession. Whether pursuing courses through a certificate or degree program, online course options include the following:
- Intermediate sign language
- Introduction to interpreting
- Deaf history and culture
- Working with the deaf and hard of hearing
- Careers in ASL
- Interpreting in a variety of settings
The Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf (RID) offers national certification and maintenance programs to help insure quality and professionalism for interpreters. Many certification and degree programs offered through colleges and universities are structured to prepare graduates to take the RID National Interpreter Certification exams.
RID also offers a continuing education program for those who become certified. Every ten hours of participation in organized activities that encourage growth and advancement in the field count for one Continuing Education Unit (CEU). Some schools offer distance-learning programs for RID certificate holders that count for both course and CEU credit.
For those wanting to learn the basics of American Sign Language, online classes are available; however, those wanting to take advanced classes and earn a degree must be willing to take some in-person or on-site classes as well.