On top of their duties teaching American Sign Language, the preferred language of Deaf people in the United States and Canada, the ASL faculty also draw attention to Deaf people and their languages in other countries. On December 10, 2020, the ASL program and Asian Languages and Literatures co-hosted a colloquium by Dr. Chang Hwang (formerly of Central Washington University) on ‘History and Development of Korean Sign Language (KSL) in South Korea’, signed in ASL. Associate Teaching Professor Lance Forshay introduced Dr. Hwang and moderated the question and answer period. Colloquium attendees learned that Like ASL in North America, KSL has had to struggle against oralism, suppression, and misunderstanding, but in 2015 the Fundamental Law of Korean Sign Language was passed in the South Korea National Assembly, making KSL an official language. Also, the sign languages of South Korea and North Korea have greatly diverged since the Korean War, and are now estimated to be 70% different from each other, far more different than the spoken languages of the two countries. The biggest historical influences on KSL have been from contact with Japanese Sign Language, ASL and Chinese Sign Language.
The ASL faculty have embarked on a project to develop a Video Resources Center for ASL program use and beyond. Working with Russell Hugo of the Language Learning Center (a 2016 Linguistics PhD), they are seeking permission from publishers to preserve old VCR sign videos which were acquired from Seattle Central College’s ASL and Interpreter Training Program, which closed down in 2017. Updates on this long-term project will be provided in future newsletters.