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Between-Learners’ Outside-of-Classroom Uses of American Sign Language as a Foreign Language

From: Sign Language Studies
Volume 14, Number 3, Spring 2014
pp. 360-381 | 10.1353/sls.2014.0011



The ability of learners of American Sign Language (ASL) as a foreign language (FL) to extend their education outside of classrooms is one of the chief goals of ASL-as-FL education. As part of course requirements, ASL and spoken FL teachers often send their learners to interact with native users to help the former develop their communication skills. Learners, however, also use ASL with each other outside of classrooms. To date, no empirical study has looked at these spaces. This study found that certain interpersonal situations and social contexts fostered the development of between-learners’ extra-classroom ASL spaces. The interpersonal situations arose when the ASL learners practiced and taught signs, bonded, and shared secrets with each other and used ASL as a form of expression, particularly when signing songs. The social contexts arose, for example, when the learners needed to be quiet or when there were greater-than-usual distances between them. A few learners did not use ASL with each other outside the classroom. Teachers can use the study’s findings to create lessons, develop opportunities, and construct the conditions for their learners to use ASL with each other when away from ASL-as-FL classrooms.

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