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World Languages and Cultures

The World Languages Department offers majors in French, Japanese, Russian, and Spanish and minors in American Sign Language, Chinese, French, German, Japanese, Russian, and Spanish. Occasionally they offer classes in additional study such as Latin.


American Sign Language (ASL) is a visual-gestural language that is used as a primary means of communication by many deaf people in the United States and Canada. For a long time, it was thought to be either a crude collection of gestures, or to be an "inferior" form of English. However, linguistic research beginning in the 1960s has shown that ASL is a true, complete and rich language in its own right, unrelated to English. ASL is a major part of American Deaf culture, and is transmitted from one generation of signers to the next. In addition to Deaf native users and deaf people who learn it later in life, many hearing children whose deaf parents use ASL learn it as a first language; other children learn ASL in schools or from friends and deaf adults; and it is increasingly popular as a "foreign language" in hearing schools and colleges. ASL should not be confused with signed English or with signed pidgins, which use signs from ASL but put them in English-language order, often with additional invented signs to show English grammar and syntax.

Remember, this guide will not tell you about all the materials the Library has about American Sign Language. You must do the research yourself. This guide will give you some starting points to begin your search for information. If you need further assistance, please ask at the Reference Desk or chat with Ask A Librarian.