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American Sign Language (ASL):
student resources

Get the resources and information you need as an American Sign Language (ASL) student, and learn about opportunities available to you as your complete your ASL studies at the University of Minnesota.

Click on a link below to jump down to more information.

Waiting list

Our program is extremely popular, so we recommend that you enroll as soon as possible to find a class that fits your schedule. If you need to drop a course to switch to another class, your spot in the new class will not be guaranteed. If a class fis at its maximum enrollment number, please enroll yourself onto the waiting list. Prior to the semester starting, the waitlist will automatically enroll students to fit the course enrollment limit.

Note: We set the enrollment limit for all of our ASL courses, regardless of the classroom's capacity per ASL language learning standard guidelines for optimal instruction for our ASL instructors. This ensures the configuration of seating is optimal for visual and spatial language learning of a visual signed language in ASL and for students to be able to see other students and the instructor at ease. If you are on the waiting list, you are not guaranteed a spot in the class. Additionally, teachers may not be able to override and exceed enrollment limits for the same reasons established above.

ASL tutoring services

The SMART Learning Commons center at the University of Minnesota provides basic ASL tutoring services at the Magrath Library (St. Paul Campus) and Walter Library (East Bank Campus). You may sign up to meet with ASL tutors in person or online for a face-to-face or video session.

Becoming an ASL tutor

Qualified students can become ASL tutors at the SMART Learning Commons Center upon completing ASL 1- 4 courses and earning an endorsement by our ASL instructors.

As needed, the University of Minnesota’s ASL Program will have its own ASL tutor. Any person(s) with native or near-native fluency is encouraged to apply. As an ASL program tutor, you must be available on a consistent basis for our students and be a skilled communicator with students and instructors.

Contact the ASL Program Coordinator (asl@umn.edu) for further information.

ASL Deaf function/event requirements

All ASL courses require students to attend a minimum of one ASL/Deaf community event. Students experience immersion in the language surrounded by native users while building connections with community members. This experience cannot be replicated in the classroom.

There are a few general requirements when considering a Deaf event. ASL needs to be the “primary” language at the event. The majority of attendees must be native speakers of ASL and/or Deaf. For example, a social potluck for a Deaf organization is more favorable than watching a play intended for hearing audiences with interpreters to the side or attending a social gathering at a local bookstore. The event must also be age appropriate. An event for young Deaf children is generally not encouraged.

If there is any doubt whether an event meets the requirements, contact your ASL instructor before you go. Your instructor may have more specific procedures you need to follow.

To build your language and community skills, attending or volunteering at a number of events is strongly encouraged. This will lead to better language fluency.

ASL 3001: Cultural and Socio-Lingual Views Within the Deaf Community

You’re highly encouraged to take ASL 3001 (informally known as Deaf Culture) in addition to our other ASL courses. This course is available to all undergraduate and graduate students at the University.

Fluency or basic knowledge of ASL is not required for the course, nor are there any prerequisites. You may use ASL 3001 as an elective to satisfy your existing major/minor.

This 3-credit course discusses the Deaf community and how it relates to the world at large. Discussions may include: historical impact, technological advances and implications, creation and alterations of identity, and intersectionality. Students can expect to learn real-world daily implications that impact the Deaf community in their personal and professional lives. This course is heavily based on discussion and written work.

What you can do with your ASL coursework

Once you complete all ASL courses, you’ll become an ambassador for the language and community. You’ll be equipped with the knowledge you need to use the language on a personal basis to communicate with native speakers including, but not limited to: deaf and hard of hearing people. Students who complete all language levels, plus ASL 3001, will have a comprehensive understanding of the deaf community both culturally and linguistically. You’ll be able to explain and clarify potential cultural misunderstandings in future encounters, strengthening cultural and linguistic relationships between spoken and signed language users in both formal and informal settings. Additionally, students may become an ASL tutor, serve as an advisor for the ASL dorm floor and/or as a member of ASL Club here at the University.

Once you complete all language levels, you should take the American Sign Language Proficiency Interview (ASLPI) examination to determine your qualifications in ASL and receive feedback on language fluency. ASLPI results documenting your ASL fluency can be used in your resume/CV.

Please view the ASLPI section for more details.

Like other languages, your fluency skills will atrophy from lack of use. Therefore only signers who use ASL on a regular, near daily basis in formal and informal settings with native speakers are encouraged to add this information on their resume/CV.

What is the American Sign Language Proficiency Interview (ASLPI)?

The American Sign Language Proficiency Interview, or ASLPI, is an exam that can be taken in person or via Video Phone (VP) through Gallaudet University. ASLPI is a recorded interview that discusses a broad number of topics and is meant to capture your highest ASL proficiency. After the exam, reviewers will assign a score ranging from zero to five. Obtaining a four, four plus, or five are considered to be near-native or native signers.

Once your ASLPI is obtained, it can then be used to substantiate your fluency in resumes and CVs given you still use the language on a daily basis with native speakers. ASLPI is an accurate and research-based tool of evaluating your ASL proficiency instead of transcript grades and will help future employers understand the scope of your skill. Please visit Gallaudet University’s website for more details on ASLPI about the exam itself, exam preparation, and how each score is measured. There are proctor sites set up around Minnesota to complete a videophone examination.

Becoming an ASL teacher

Like other teachers, there are fields of concentration that a person will study, train, and master before being able to teach others in that field. An ASL teacher becomes licensed in teaching ASL as a second language, working with a group of linguistists in the field, developing curriculum, assessing and assisting first and second language learners in a variety of settings, and teaching classes in community programs, schools and universities.

An ASL teacher is different than a Deaf/Hard of Hearing teacher. A Deaf/Hard of Hearing teacher is specifically trained under special education guidelines and works with students who are Deaf and/or hard of hearing in a number of schools.

To become a highly qualified ASL teacher, you’ll need to have the following: an ASLPI score of four, four plus, or five. (See the ASLPI section for details.) You should take courses to best exemplify ASL pedagogy and foreign language pedagogy, such as: curriculum instruction, literature, linguistics, etc. ASL teachers should also have a degree in one of the following: ASL education, deaf studies, deaf education with specialization in ASL or foreign language education. In addition to a teaching background in ASL, you should be a leader in professional development in the community and field, including but not limited to: mentoring, publications, workshops, and conference presentations. Visit the ASL Teacher Association (ASLTA) website for more information.

Becoming a Deaf education (DHH) teacher

The University of Minnesota’s M.Ed. and teacher licensure program in special education for Deaf/Hard of Hearing (DHH) teaches best practices on how to instruct and improve Deaf/hard of hearing students in the state of Minnesota, using a bilingual approach of teaching ASL and English. Graduates of the program are equipped to teach students and support their families in a number of educational settings to help promote respect and equity within the field.

Learn more about the DHH M.Ed. and licensure program.

Necessary credentials for a Deaf Education (DHH) teacher with ASL specialization

The Minnesota Department of Education has strict requirements to obtain a licensure for Deaf Education. Such requirements include obtaining an Intermediate Plus or above on the Sign Language Proficiency Interview (SLPI). ASLPI is also accepted, and in many cases, preferred.

Visit the Minnesota Department of Education website for more information.

Becoming an ASL interpreter

If you’re looking to pursue a career in ASL interpreting, we encourage you to complete all ASL courses, and then enroll in an Interpreter Training Program (ITP). Students who complete all ASL courses begin to complete the qualifications needed to become an ASL interpreter; however more training is needed in order to become one. Please see “Necessary Credentials For a Qualified ASL Interpreter” for more details.

Interpreter training programs near the Twin Cities

ASL Interpreter Training Programs (ITPs) are provided all around the United States. There are three colleges in the Twin Cities: St. Catherine University, North Central University, and Saint Paul College that provide these programs. University of Minnesota students may start their education here, then complete their education with one of these programs. Details for each ITP will vary; please view each college’s website accordingly.

If you would like to consider a field that encompasses the Deaf community and ASL, but not become an interpreter, consider a career in ASL Education, Deaf Studies, ASL linguistics, Deaf Education, or using your ASL fluency in addition to your degree of choice. Gallaudet University hosts a number of programs, as well as other universities in the United States, such as Boston University, Utah Valley University, Towson University in Maryland, and University of Wisconsin - Milwaukee. Please visit each university’s website for precise, updated information.

Necessary credentials for a qualified ASL interpreter

In order to become a qualified ASL interpreter, you must complete an Interpreter Training Program (ITP). Then, national certification is awarded through National Associate for the Deaf (NAD) or Registry for Interpreters of the Deaf (RID). There are different levels of certification provided, depending on the field of study and employment. For instance, RID provides testing for Certified Deaf Interpreters (CDI) and National Interpreter Certification (NIC).

Another necessary qualification in addition to your NIC/CDI is to have a documentation substantiating your ASL fluency by achieving a minimum of a four, four plus, or five on the ASLPI (ASL Proficiency Interview) examination at Gallaudet University.

For more information stop by or send inquiries to:

University of Minnesota
Learning and Environmental Sciences (LES) 240
1954 Buford Ave
Saint Paul, MN 55108
Tel: 612-624-1274
Fax: 612-624-1275
612-626-9392 V/TTY or 612-624-8870 FAX
asl@umn.edu