Written by Joanna Hughes

Earlier this fall, Starbucks opened its first “signing store.” Located in Washington, DC, near Gallaudet University, the world’s only liberal arts university for the deaf and hard of hearing, the cafe is staffed entirely by employees who are partially or fully deaf and fluent in American Sign Language (ASL). Thinking of learning ASL yourself? Read on for a roundup of six reasons to do so.

1. It’s growing in popularity.

Sure, it’d be great to walk into a Starbucks and order your chai latte or gingerbread frappuccino in ASL, but that’s far from the only reason to learn this increasingly prevalent language. Hundreds of millions of people all over the world are deaf, many of whom became so later in life. In fact, according to Start ASL, ASL is the third most commonly used language in the US!

2. It will look great on your resume.

Regardless of the field you’re in, learning sign language can give you the inside edge on the job market -- or at least make you better at your job.

One example? Healthcare. Career Trend argues, “In the field of nursing, you may come in contact with patients that are non-native English speakers, so learning a language like Spanish is also helpful. Those who are fluent in American Sign Language (ASL) and English are considered bilingual and while understanding ASL might not get you hired over another candidate, it will improve your flexibility on the job and demonstrate a capacity for advanced learning.”

For all professionals who routinely interact with the public, from flight attendants, to police officers, to businesspeople, sign language has the potential to improve communication -- and outcomes.

3. You’ll help others.

National Association of the Deaf CEO Howard Rosenblum said of the Starbucks store opening, "Starbucks has taken an innovative approach to incorporating deaf culture that will increase employment opportunities as well as accessibility for deaf and hard of hearing people, while at the same time educating and enlightening society.” You too can be a part of this movement by learning ASL.

You can also help others by volunteering your skills in the community. For example, you can volunteer to sign a story to students at a local preschool or to help a deaf friend or family member enjoy a concert.

4. You’ll discover a new culture.

The National Association of the Deaf (NAD), calls ASL the “backbone of the American Deaf Culture.” And it’s a rich culture, indeed. Deaf advocate Eileen O’Banion told Healthy Hearing, “It’s about perspective. When you are Deaf, you see the world in a different way. You communicate differently. You seek out others who are Deaf because they understand you. You don’t believe you have a disability -- and you don’t want to be fixed.” Learning ASL gives you amazing access to this new perspective.

"We think this store celebrates the culture of human connection on a deep level,” said senior manager for accessibility at Starbucks Marthalee Galeota in a statement. You’ll do the same by learning ASL.

5. It can help you if you’re an athlete.

If you’re a baseball fan, you’re probably already aware players, coaches, managers and umpires use signals to communicate. Healthy Hearing explains, “Today, most every major sport uses some type of sign language between coach and player. Not only does it keep the other team guessing, it also provides a great way to communicate strategy when fans are making it difficult to hear.”

6. You’ll give your brain and body boost.

We often talk about the benefits of multilingualism. Well, ASL qualifies -- in multiple ways. A Healthier Michigan says, “Besides expanding your world, sign language can help improve your motor skills and senses. Research also shows that learning a new language is great for your mind.”

Perhaps the best part? There is an abundance of online resources aimed at helping people like you learn ASL, and the online learning platform is particularly amenable to teaching ASL thanks to its unique characteristics, including its interactivity, flexibility, and video delivery options.

The takeaway? Not only are there many reasons to learn ASL, but there are a variety of ways to do so -- many of them just a click or two away!

ArticleEducationStudent TipsInternational News
Joanna worked in higher education administration for many years at a leading research institution before becoming a full-time freelance writer. She lives in the beautiful White Mountains region of New Hampshire with her family.
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