Saturday, June 1, 2013

How To Know If Your ASL Teacher Is Qualified

When a person decides that they want to learn a new skill or language, very often tutoring or a community class comes to mind—Classes of short duration where you can get a lot of information in a short amount of time. In general, people don’t want to take the time to enroll in a college program and very rarely does teaching yourself give you the skills that only another person can. Though it does happen.

In fact, finding someone willing to help you might actually seem easy. Craigslist, Facebook, Google, Twitter, and other social medias can put you in touch with people advertising their availability. And that might seem great. But how much do you know about them> you may even meet with then in person (be careful) and they may seem capable, but based on what? If you know nothing about the skill, wouldn’t most anyone seem knowledgeable? There are things you could look for and if the skill you’re wanting to learn is ASL, there are definitely things you’re going to want to ask and observe of this possible future teacher. Here’s a basic list to get you started.


  1. Are you deaf/HOH or is anyone in your family deaf?  It’s not a requirement, but if the teacher/tutor is deaf or HOH or if they’re a CODA (Child of Deaf Parents) or grew up in the Deaf Community, chances are good that they have a good basic knowledge (at least) of ASL.

  1. How did you learn ASL?  Again, ask them how they learned. Where and who taught them, etc. The longer they’ve known it, the more they’ve used it, the better experienced they will be.

  1. Do you teach ASL, CSL, or SE?  All three of these are different. First off, SE (Signed English) is a definite NO. It’s not based on the Deaf Culture and it’s one you should avoid. CSL is Contact Sign Language, which used to be called PSE or Pidgin Sign English. Contact sign is good for a start. You can get the basic and even intermediate vocabulary learned and then start to slowly slide over into ASL.

  1. Are you willing to teach straight ASL when we think I’m ready or do your skills not allow that?  If they’re going to use CSL, just make sure that, when the time hits to learn strong and serious ASL, the teacher has the ability to do that or refer you to someone who can.

  1. How long have you been teaching ASL?  Again, the longer the teaching, the more experience (at least that’s how it should be).

  1. Do you have references?  Get as many as possible and contact them all! Find out if this is the teacher for you!

  1. Are you involved in the Deaf community?  You want to make sure that this person actually socializes with the deaf and HOH who use this language.

  1. If you didn’t learn ASL before the age of 3 or earlier, where did you learn and for how long?  Pretty self-explanatory

  1. Are you able to keep me informed about upcoming deaf community events so I can socialize with other deaf and HOH people?  As you start to learn, you’re going to want to start meeting and chatting with deaf and HOH people who sign. Make sure this teacher knows about such events.

  1. Which curriculum do you use?   Find out and then research it. Even ask them to show it to you and let you flip around in the book. Curriculum is important. If they say they’ve self-designed one, make sure to see it!

These are just a few questions to get you started. I’m sure you can think of others. You should observe if they talk when they sign. Just to make sure they can sign, but also, sometimes talking relieves the need to worry about you not understanding. This isn’t necessary though as there’s always a pencil and paper.

So those questions should get you started. If you can think of more, please leave them as a comment. Always remember, any old goat can say they’re qualified, but don’t just jump on the bandwagon and start throwing money at them until you’re sure in your own mind that they truly are qualified.

Good luck with your search and be careful!

1 comment:

  1. Thanks Michele. I'm glad to say I think my teacher passes all/or most of your checklist.