The American Sign Language Program curriculum is an intensive program of study designed to assist students in acquiring competence in American Sign Language, developing an understanding of the American Deaf Community and its culture and applying their linguistic and cultural skills and knowledge to a particular academic area of study. Students pursuing a combined major in Psychology, Theater or Human Services integrate their foundation in ASL and the Deaf Community with these academic disciplines. Students wishing to pursue a degree in ASL/English Interpretation apply their linguistic skills and cultural knowledge to learning about the process of interpretation and acquiring the skills necessary to become professional interpreters.
Each of the instructors for students’ ASL Language classes is Deaf. This means that students are constantly interacting with members of the Deaf Community. Not only does this provide students with an entrée into the local Deaf Community, but it also provides students with invaluable opportunities for incidental learning. Because class sizes are relatively small instructors truly get to know students on an individual basis and are able to provide individual help and guidance when needed. Northeastern’s ASL instructors are all members of the American Sign Language Teachers Association (ASLTA) and include the current President of the Massachusetts Chapter of ASLTA. Thus the ASL curriculum as well as classroom instructional methods reflect the most current and innovative pedagogical practices.
Northeastern University’s American Sign Language Program employs an immersion philosophy in their language instruction, per the widely-accepted standard of accelerating one’s language acquisition.
All instructors abide by this philosophy in order for all students to maximize their educational experience. This means that the moment students step into their ASL classes, they “turn their voices off,” and use visual communication and ASL exclusively, up through the time you leave.
Each of the instructors for students’ Interpreting classes is a nationally certified interpreter who, in addition to working actively as an interpreter, has also been very active in local and national organizations of interpreters. Northeastern’s Instructors have served on the national Board of Directors of the Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf (RID) and on the national Board of Directors of the Conference of Interpreter Trainers (CIT). Each of the instructors has also published in the field and is nationally known as an interpreter, interpreter educator and workshop leader. This enables instructors to bring into the classroom not only a solid theoretical foundation to the profession of interpretation but also a practical understanding of those skills necessary to be successful. Not only does the interpreting curriculum and in-class instructional methodology reflect the most innovative, cutting-edge thinking, but many of those innovative practices are or have been developed by Northeastern’s interpreting faculty. The curriculum provides such a solid foundation that students take the written portion of the national certification examination before they graduate and are also offered the opportunity to take a special administration of the interview portion of the Massachusetts State Screening Assessment.
The curriculum that has been designed for ASL/English Interpreting majors at Northeastern is quite possibly one of the most course-intensive curricula at the University. However the curriculum must be quite rigorous if, in a four or five year period of time, students are to learn a second language successfully and then learn how to interpret using that language while at the same time they are taking courses designed to provide them with a broad-based liberal arts education. That the curriculum is rigorous is undeniable; that it is effective is determined by the overall competence and reactions of our current students and the reactions and successes of our alumni.