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ASL American Sign Language (42 bytes)
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Teaching ASL:  Proficiency Testing
ASL American Sign Language (42 bytes) ASL American Sign Language (42 bytes) ASL American Sign Language (42 bytes) ASL American Sign Language (42 bytes)

Once upon a time.  Professor Soandso received an email:

Dear Professor Soandso,
 [name changed to protect his identity]

One of my Reentry Services clients, Martha Stewart [name has been changed to protect the student's identity], newly admitted for Spring 2004 is seeking your help in working with her toward verification of her Foreign Language proficiency in sign language. Ms. Stewart, a returning adult student is under considerable time constraints to complete her degree in Anthropology [name of major has been changed to protect the student's identity] expediently so she may go on toward graduate school and her pursuit of a PhD. in this profession. Toward that end, I called your Foreign Language department which recommended consulting with you toward verification of her sign language proficiency. Ms. Stewart has also suffered some diminishment of her manual dexterity from severe tendonitis and is unable to physically demonstrate her sign language proficiency. However, she remains proficient in this language in both the spoken and written form of sign and wishes to demonstrate these skills without the actual physical signing process, perhaps through interpreting your signing to her. Are you amenable to helping her prove her sign language proficiency in this fashion. Thank you. I will relay your response to Ms. Stewart.

-- Steve White
[name has been changed]

Professor Soandso asked my opinion regarding the above request for alternative proficiency testing.  Professor Soandso indicated that he wasn't sure he liked the idea of demonstrating proficiency through translation alone--without the expressive aspect.

This is my response:

Dear Soandso,

Policies for satisfying foreign language requirements need to be rigorous enough to insure that the integrity of the academic system is protected. Additionally requirements should be flexible enough to accommodate a diverse student body.

According to the campus policy regarding language proficiency, students may demonstrate proficiency through passing an intermediate-level test in two of four skills: reading, writing, listening, and speaking. One of the tests must be in reading or writing. This means a student can fulfill the college’s foreign language proficiency requirement via reading and listening. Other combinations include reading/speaking, writing/listening, and writing/speaking.

This policy indicates that it is a currently accepted practice for students to satisfy foreign language requirements by demonstrating one aspect of oral proficiency (expressive or receptive) and also one aspect of orthographic proficiency (reading or writing).

The American Sign Language equivalent of oral proficiency is the ability to sign and to understand what is being signed. The closest ASL equivalent to orthographic proficiency is the ability to fingerspell and to read fingerspelling.

Thus the satisfaction of foreign language requirements via demonstration of “receptive ASL ability” and “receptive fingerspelling ability” is in line with existing policy.



William Vicars, EdD, ASLTA
Asst. Professor
ASL Program
California State University, Sacramento

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