More Students Taking American Sign Language to Fulfill Foreign Language Requirements

News Release

DATE: April 18, 2006
CONTACT: John Davis,

LUBBOCK – Texas Tech University students are expected to line up in the wee hours of the morning Wednesday hoping to get a spot in American Sign Language classes.

That’s because demand for the class has shot up more than 700 percent in the last five years, according to Melissa Hays, a faculty member in the Department of Classical and Modern Languages and Literatures. Last year, more than 300 students waited for hours to enroll for the 140 available seats. She expects the same amount this year.

At TTU and around the country, more students are signing up for the classes. The Modern Language Association found nationwide enrollment in ASL classes increased by 432 percent between 1998 and 2002.

“There is an increasing awareness of ASL and the deaf community,” Hays said. “According to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, American Sign Language is the fourth most used language in the United States. We often have students remark about meeting a deaf person at work or while out shopping. Many students are motivated to learn a language that they will be able to use. There are other students who assume ASL will be easier for them than a spoken language. Unfortunately for them, that is not always the case.”

When the program started five years ago, only two classes taught by one instructor were offered at TTU per semester. The department now has 14 classes and five instructors/faculty members teaching ASL to meet demand. Of those instructors, three are deaf.

“Most people are taking it for a foreign language credit,” Hays said. “This is the second year we’ve offered a minor. What we’d like to do is offer an actual bachelor’s degree. As part of that degree we would like to add the option for students to obtain ASL teacher certification. More and more high schools are offering ASL, but qualified teachers are extremely difficult to find.”


CONTACT: Melissa Hays, faculty member in the Department of Classical and Modern Languages and Literatures, (806) 742-3145 ext. 253, or