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American Sign Language Level 1

Course Code: MODL 1161
Faculty: Language, Literature & Performing Arts
Department: Modern Languages
Credits: 3.0
Semester: 15 weeks
Learning Format: Seminar
Typically Offered: TBD. Contact Department Chair for more info.
course overview

This course provides an introduction to American Sign Language (ASL) for individuals who have little or no prior knowledge of it. Students gain a fundamental appreciation for how signed languages differ from spoken languages, with emphasis on ASL's essential 3-dimensionality, i.e., their visual-gestural nature, requiring students to use their eyes to take in linguistic information, and their hands, face and body to convey linguistic information. This course provides an immersive classroom experience: in it, students learn, through demonstration and extensive practice, to recognize various visual grammatical features and develop beginning-level vocabulary.

Course Content

Course Content
The content includes:

  • Basic introductions including fingerspelling names
  • Basic vocabulary to exchange personal information in brief dialogue, including identity(ies) and well-being
  • Talking about immediate surroundings including giving directions from A to B
  • Forming basic questions about family and background
  • Basic ASL numbering system
  • Understanding the Deaf community as a linguistic and cultural minority, not as disabled
  • Culturally appropriate norms of social interaction – behaviors such as how to get a Deaf person’s visual attention

The following global ideas guide the design and delivery of this course:
1. The Deaf community comprises a vibrant linguistic and cultural minority whose members are connected to each other through shared values, norms, art, traditions and especially the primacy of using a signed language.
2. The creativity and strength of the Deaf community contribute positively to the larger human society; Deaf lives exemplify unique and enriching ways of seeing and being in the world.
3. ASL (American Sign Language), LSQ (la Langue des Signes Québécoises) and ISL (Indigenous Sign Languages) are rich, visual-gestural languages used by Deaf people in Canada. Signed languages are distinctly different from spoken languages; they have their own syntax, vocabulary, grammatical structures, pragmatic norms and literary forms.
4. Studying ASL can be an exciting challenge for the majority of people who have only used language(s) that are spoken and auditory. Because ASL is a visual-gestural language, it requires the learner to use their eyes to take in linguistic information and to use their hands, face and body to convey linguistic information. Even though spoken languages incorporate some form of gestural communication, the use of 3-dimensional space is an integral feature of the structure of ASL.

Methods of Instruction

Class activities may include: Lecture and language lab, demonstration/modelling, dialogue and small group conversational practice, course readings/videos, among others.

Means of Assessment

This course will conform to Douglas College Evaluation policy regarding the number and weighting of evaluations. Typical means of evaluation would include a combination of:
•    Quizzes to evaluate factual knowledge of ASL & Deaf culture
•    Quizzes to evaluate receptive ASL skills
•    Demonstration of expressive ASL skills
•    Assigned dialogues and interaction
•    Attendance and participation

No single assignment will be worth more than 20%.
A sample grade breakdown for this course might be as follows:

Video assignment 1: 20%
Video assignment 2: 20%
Mid-term exam 1: 20%
Mid-term exam 2: 20%
Final exam: 20%

Total: 100%

Learning Outcomes

Learning Outcomes

Upon successful completion of this course, the student will be able to demonstrate basic conversational ASL skill to do the following:

  • Ask for the names of others and give own name when asked
  • Comprehend short or familiar finger spelled names
  • Use simple techniques to confirm and/or correct information given in a dialogue
  • Ask and/or respond to questions regarding whether one is Deaf/hearing, where one is learning ASL, where things are in the    immediate environment
  • Respond to information using appropriate visual interactive behaviours (e.g. head nod)
  • Express simple personal needs related to immediate time and environment
  • Exchange basic personal and family information
  • Use number(s) for simple counting of objects/people
  • Recognize the significance of the use in ASL of non-manual signals, depictive action and facial grammar
  • Summarize the key values of Deaf culture and community
  • Demonstrate a basic understanding of some key Deaf norms of social interaction

course prerequisites




curriculum guidelines

Course Guidelines for previous years are viewable by selecting the version desired. If you took this course and do not see a listing for the starting semester/year of the course, consider the previous version as the applicable version.

course schedule and availability
course transferability

Below shows how this course and its credits transfer within the BC transfer system. 

A course is considered university-transferable (UT) if it transfers to at least one of the five research universities in British Columbia: University of British Columbia; University of British Columbia-Okanagan; Simon Fraser University; University of Victoria; and the University of Northern British Columbia.

For more information on transfer visit the BC Transfer Guide and BCCAT websites.


If your course prerequisites indicate that you need an assessment, please see our Assessment page for more information.