Quick Answer 🔍How many people use ASL in 2023?
Approximately 1-2 million people use ASL.
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Spoken language is not the only way to communicate with others.
In fact, non-verbal gestures take a significant role in the overall communication process.
Non-verbal language, like the use of sign language, is playing an important role in bridging the gap between those who could articulate through a spoken language and those who can’t, and those who can’t among themselves.
American Sign Language or ASL is among the most widely used sign languages around the world. Let’s discover some interesting facts about ASL in this article.
How Many People Use ASL in 2023?
The American Sign Language or ASL is one of the 300 different sign languages used globally.
Today, there are half a million people of all ages using ASL, concentrated in the United States and some parts of Canada.
Accounting for the total number of users around the world, about 1 million to 2 million people are using this visual-gestural language today.
There are approximately 70 million people with Hard of Hearing (HOH) globally who are using sign language to communicate with others.
For countries that are non-native English speakers, ASL is among the top three sign languages adopted in these locations.
Today, ASL is considered among the top five most-spoken foreign languages in the United States. It ranks only behind Spanish, French, German, and Italian.
Other Sign Languages
With an estimated 300 sign languages used around the world, the Chinese Sign Language has the highest number of users.
CSL is used by approximately 20 million users, concentrated in its home country, China, which has a 1.4 billion population.
Meanwhile, the British Sign Language is another popular type, featuring 150,000 users in the United Kingdom alone.
Other big countries like Brazil and in some parts of South Asia also have their own, with the former having 3 million users.
Meanwhile, the Indo-Pakistani Sign Language, considered the dominant sign language in the South Asia Region, has 15 million deaf users today.
How do Children learn ASL and Other Sign Languages?
If a language cannot be spoken, how can it be learned? This is among the frequently asked questions on sign language learning.
According to the research from aussiedeafkids.org, children pick up sign language the same way others learn about spoken languages.
This means they learn through observing their surroundings—the people and their parents—using sign language around them.
Using “iconic signs” or gestures that are directly correlated to the object they are describing makes sign language easier for children to internalize.
Many signs that are part of a sign language use iconic signs, such as a “house” which is described by hands tracing a roof and walls in the Australian Sign Language.
The study also claims that children using sign language begin to use gestures in a manner that is similar to gibberish in spoken language, as early as six months.
American Sign Language Day is celebrated every 15th of April annually.
This date marked the opening of the American School for the Deaf which played a huge role in the development and adoption of ASL.
The International Day of Sign Languages is celebrated every 23rd of September, as declared by the United Nations General Assembly.
ASL as a Foreign Language
Today, ASL is accepted in almost all flagship state universities in the United States for foreign language credits.
This led to an unprecedented interest in the language and made it among the foreign languages with the highest number of foreign language enrollments.
Take a look at the data below detailing the number of foreign language enrollments among college students in the United States way back in 2009.
- Spanish – clinched the highest number of foreign language enrollees at 865,000 during the year
- French – had 216,000 enrollees for foreign language credits during the year
- German – had 96,000 enrollees for foreign language credits during the year
- ASL – had 92,000 enrollees for foreign language credits during the year
- Italian – had 81,000 enrollees for foreign language credits during the year
- Japanese – had 73,000 enrollees for foreign language credits during the year
- Chinese – had 61,000 enrollees for foreign language credits during the year
- Arabic – had 35,000 enrollees for foreign language credits during the year
- Latin – had 33,000 enrollees for foreign language credits during the year
- Russian – had 27,000 enrollees for foreign language credits during the year
In 2009, ASL had a higher number of college enrollees for foreign language credits than Chinese. The sign language generated 92,000 enrollees versus 61,000 enrollees for Chinese.
Is There a Universal Sign Language?
Unlike the spoken language which recognizes English as the “lingua franca” or the universal language, there is no sign language that is universally understood and spoken.
There are significant differences in gestures, which makes sign language used in one location difficult to discern in another.
Studies show that there are different “dialects” in sign language.
A study posted by SignSolutions UK says that the sign solution for “green” and “America” varies between the United Kingdom and the United States.
This means British Sign Language users will not understand if ASL users make an act to articulate these in front of them.
Importance of Learning ASL
In terms of economic benefits, it is easy to point out ASL’s benefits, especially for those planning to score a position in a non-governmental organization.
For brain health reasons, learning ASL is similar to learning a second language which is beneficial for brain development.
But overall, it is rewarding to learn American Sign Language or any type of sign language available in your country.
This will help you communicate better, especially for the members of the non-hearing population.
Even sign languages have their own “dialects” that differentiate them from one location to another.
Among the commonly “gestured” sign languages worldwide are the Chinese Sign Language, British Sign Language, and the American Sign Language.
There are an estimated one to two million people proficient with ASL today. But compared to the overall American population of 300 million, this figure is still small.
98% of people with Hard of Hearing do not receive sign language education, and this includes ASL.
This means that ASL and other sign language adaptation in both hearing and non-hearing communities need to step up.
Thanks for reading our article about how many people use ASL in 2023.