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American Sign Language Academy: Go from Beginner to Fully Fluent

By Elizabeth R. Elstien

Did you know that American Sign Language is the fourth most used language in the United States? The American Sign Language (ASL) Academy in Pawtucket offers classes, a language lab, and a lending library available to its students. Affordable and complete, the classes - ranging from beginner to full fluency - allow students to progress at their own pace.

Instruction is mainly given to hearing adults and teens who may have non-hearing family or friends. "Most just have an interest for their own reasons," explains founder and teacher Manuel Martin. "Our pledge is that you can become fluent if you continue with our program."

Study programs include accelerated learning, complete immersions, in-home classes for families, and workshops for businesses, organizations or schools. There is also an online course. Institutes are intense training sessions that comprise two levels of the ASL Academy's standard class curriculum in one week. "In the summer," Martin explains, "we have had students from 13 different states travel here for Summer Institutes." Intensives are done out and about in the community, giving students hands-on experience with ASL, with the next one held November 14 at Old Sturbridge Village.

Signed languages are organized into language groups, just like spoken language. Almost every country has its own signed language. ASL was developed by Deaf Americans and is in the same language group as French Sign Language and the three Vietnamese signed languages. The ASL Academy's interesting Deaf studies program teaches the cultural and historical influences on the language.

Martin has been teaching ASL for over 20 years starting with elementary school in Worcester. It wasn't long before he was teaching up to 20 kindergarten through adult classes a week. In 2001, he started teaching college courses. Teaching materials were sparse in the early days, so Martin created his own course materials that pulled from his knowledge of brain function and language acquisition for different ages.

Six years in Pawtucket saw rapid growth for the ASL Academy. Martin chronicles their growth: "We started with a small office/classroom in the summer of 2009. By the fall, we added a classroom on the third floor of our building. In January 2010, we rented two more classrooms in an adjacent building. In 2013, we moved to our present location on Main Street, where we have all our classrooms and offices in one building. This fall, we established our first satellite program in Providence at Rhode Island School for the Deaf."

Based on Martin's expertise and track record, the ASL Academy will continue to provide much-needed ASL language instruction in Pawtucket for years to come.

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About The Author

Elizabeth R. Elstien has worked in real estate for over 15 years as a real estate...

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