July 10 – July 28, 2023
Applications for summer 2023 are now closed.
The American Sign Language (ASL) and Deaf Culture Academy introduces ASL and an overview of topics integral to experiences of American Deaf community members. The academy features ASL instruction in an immersive environment where students learn basic conversation and narrative skills. The course also features a weekly seminar to discuss experiences and perspectives of Deaf community members as demonstrated through online publications (vlogs), lectures, and a panel of Deaf community professionals in related fields.
ASL instruction is conducted entirely in ASL, with no spoken English. We use written English sparingly to facilitate instruction. We find this the best way to get students using and comfortable with ASL quickly. In fact, students really end up loving and valuing this approach!
Upon completion of the academy, students come away with the following ASL skills:
- Sharing personal information including hometown, language background(s), and interests or hobbies
- Discussing and describing locations within a building, giving directions within a building using perspective shift and directional vocabulary, and explaining how one gets from location to location via transportation
- Expressing wants and needs and the ability to ask and tell where to obtain those wants and needs
- Asking and telling about marital status, whether they have children or siblings, and the chronological ranking of children and siblings
- Using number skills, including how to express collective group numbers, age, and time
Students also gain awareness of cultural values and topics important to the Deaf community in order to better understand and connect with the Deaf community members in future interactions.
If you attend a School District of Philadelphia public or charter high school, you may be eligible to attend a Penn Summer Academy free of charge with a Penn Summer Scholarship.
As ASL and Deaf culture has been highly visible in the media and popular culture, it is no surprise that the popularity of ASL has been on the rise. In fact, American Sign Language is the third most commonly taught language in the United States. Some recent popular culture examples of where you might have seen ASL include:
- Films - The Eternals; CODA; Sound of Metal
- Television - Switched at Birth; El Deafo; Deaf U; interpreters in local, state, and national news briefings and conferences
You have probably also seen Deaf people and ASL featured in new products using technology, like the Apple commercial and the Apple TV+ video.
You might not realize that ASL and Deaf culture can be useful to you in a number of careers. Here are some examples of applications of ASL in various fields: neuroscience, psychology, engineering, medicine, and linguistics research.
- Intensive ASL instruction by a native ASL user
- Lectures and discussions about current events and important topics in American Deaf communities
- Interactive panel discussion with Philadelphia Deaf community professionals
See the 2022 course schedule (PDF)
Online system requirements
We recommend that all operating systems, browsers, Flash, and other software be up to date before the start of each online class. Most courses use Canvas for assignments, discussion, and watching video, and synchronous sessions can happen on a variety of platforms. Students will receive all important information before the beginning of class.
Program Director: Jami Fisher
Jami Fisher is the American Sign Language Program Director and a senior lecturer in foreign languages in the Department of Linguistics at the University of Pennsylvania, a position she has held since 2005. She is a native ASL user and CODA (child of Deaf adults), born and raised in Philadelphia. She has a BA in English and education from Colby College, an MSEd in education, culture, and society and an EdD in higher education from the University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate School of Education. Jami’s current academic interests include finding ways to integrate meaningful, collaborative, community-based activities into ASL and Deaf studies coursework as well as documenting and analyzing the Philadelphia variety of American Sign Language.