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We are proud to offer instruction in American Sign Language (ASL) at Penn State. Our expanding program allows students to gain confidence in communicating using ASL.

Why learn American Sign Language?

American Sign Language (ASL) is a language that will allow you to better communicate with individuals who are deaf or hard-of-hearing. 

More than 5% of the world's population has profound hearing loss, many of whom use ASL to communicate. ASL is valuable in any environment, including education, healthcare, hospitality, and business.

According to the Modern Language Association, ASL is the third most studied language at U.S. colleges and universities, following Spanish and French.

American Sign Language Courses at Penn State

ASL is a language, so you’re not going to learn the whole thing in one semester—any more than you would expect to learn French or Swahili in one semester! Throughout your coursework, attention will also be given to the role of ASL in the lives of Deaf people and to other cultural aspects of deafness.

ASL Courses

Full course descriptions are available in the Undergraduate Bulletin. More detailed syllabi are available to those with a Penn State access account. 

CSD 218: American Sign Language I (3 credits)

Introduction to sign language; provides basic receptive and expressive skills.

CSD 318: American Sign Language II (3 credits)

Review of basic signing, plus continued development of signing skills, with an emphasis on the continued development of conversational skills for interaction with members of the Deaf community. Most of the time speech will not be permitted in the classroom, and communication will be in ASL.

CSD 418: American Sign Language III (3 credits)

Further development of comprehension and production abilities in ASL. Emphasis will be on recognition and demonstration of more sophisticated grammatical features of ASL with focus on increasing fluency and accuracy. Speech will not be permitted in the classroom; all communication will be in ASL. 

CSD 428: American Sign Language IV (3 credits)

Further development of comprehension and production abilities in ASL. Emphasis will be on complex grammar, short stories, narratives, and interactive use of ASL. Speech will not be permitted in the classroom; all communication will be in ASL.

In which course should I enroll?

Typically, the ASL courses are taken in succession and are prerequisites to each other: CSD 218, then CSD 318, then CSD 418, then CSD 428.

Years of study prior to college Enroll in
Fewer than 2 years CSD 218
2-3 years CSD 318*
4 or more years CSD 418*

*Students may need to request a prerequisite override in LionPATH in order to gain admission to the course.

Students who use ASL as their primary language or those who have advanced proficiency can contact the ASL Program Coordinator to discuss proper placement for success in ASL at the college level.

Supporting Coursework

This course is not part of the language sequence for learning ASL but is highly recommended for additional knowledge of Deaf culture.

CSD 269: Deaf Culture (3 credits; GS)

This course uses a cultural model to define deafness and explores the development of Deaf communities, focusing mainly on the American Deaf community.  American Deaf culture is a distinct culture with its own rules of social interaction, values, group norms, and identity, with ASL as its primary means of transmittal. 

Common Questions About ASL Coursework

Why are the ASL courses only 3 credits? icon-olus-circle

Our current ASL sequence is a series of four 3-credit courses to reach the 12th-credit level. This is in alignment with other institutions’ curriculum allowing more flexibility for students who may be bringing in credits from other institutions.

How do these courses fit into my degree requirements? icon-olus-circle

Penn State offers more than 250 unique majors, each with their own degree requirements. Students should consult with the academic adviser for their major to determine how the credits may fulfill requirements within their degree.

Can I use ASL to fulfill my World Language requirement? icon-olus-circle

See the information on fulfillment of the World Language requirement below.

Can I minor or earn a certificate in ASL? icon-olus-circle

There is currently no minor or certificate offered in ASL at Penn State.

I don't have room to take ASL courses. How can I maintain my skills in ASL? icon-olus-circle

Students who have studied ASL, or would like to, are encouraged to join the Penn State Sign Language Organization.  For more information, please email or follow the Instagram account.

World Language Requirement at Penn State

ASL coursework can be used to satisfy the World Language Admission Requirement for students who did not complete two units of a single world language other than English prior to admission to the University.

Effective Spring 2024, CSD 428: American Sign Language IV is approved to meet the Bachelor of Arts Degree Requirement in World Language at the 12th-credit level proficiency in a world language.

Students who previously completed ASL IV as CSD 497 are encouraged to talk with their academic adviser about requesting an exception to use ASL to fulfill the world language requirement if it is part of their degree requirements.



If you have a question not addressed on this page, please email the ASL Program Coordinator.