Comparative Sign Language

This four-and-a-half week, six credit program, based in the heart of London, will give you the opportunity to examine the differences in British and American Sign Languages as well as British and American Deaf Culture.  Designed for students who have completed at least ASL 0002 (by the start of the program), you'll have the opportunity to practice your ASL skills both in and out of the classroom - the program is "voice off." Deb Hast will teach a course comparing the structures of of ASL and BSL, the literature of both languages, and the cultural similarities and differences within Deaf cultures on both sides of the ocean.  The second course, taught by faculty at the Deafness Cognition and Language Research Centre at University College London, will give you the opportunity to learn basic BSL and practice with members of the local Deaf community.

Outside of the classroom, you'll have the opportunity to experience London through a signed lens.  Tours of various museums, the Tower of London, and more, will all be conducted or interpreted in both ASL and BSL.  

What You'll Accomplish

As an engaged and active participant in this program, you will have the opportunity:

  • to study differences in deaf culture in the United States and United Kingdom
  • to experience London through through sign with common tours and events interpreted in ASL
  • to build confidence in your signing abilities

If your first thoughts of London are the Royal Family and Downton Abbey, prepare to be blown away.  English history and culture are juxtaposed against streets filled with black cabs and lined with ethnic restaurants from Algerian to Indian to Vietnamese.  The birthplace of the English language is now home to speakers of more than 30 other languages – including British Sign Language.  Skyscrapers tower over 17th-century buildings while Big Ben overlooks the River Thames. 

Study abroad with Comparative Sign Language in London and explore Deaf culture in one of the most diverse cities in the world.

Where You'll Live

Part of the experience is to live like a Londoner. The overwhelming majority of students choose to live in shared apartments – the English call them flats – spread across the city. While apartments are as varied as the city itself and no two flats are alike, all of them are located in safe neighborhoods and secure buildings. Regardless of where you live, you can expect a 45- to 60-minute commute to DCAL where your classes will take place.  We’ve got your commute covered with an unlimited pass for Zones 1 and 2 on the London Underground.

You can expect the following:

  • Shared bedrooms (2 or 3 students/bedroom, single bed or bunk bed)
  • Bedding, but need to bring your own towels
  • Shared bathroom
  • Shared kitchen 
  • Internet access (for general browsing, but not meant for heavy downloading or streaming)
  • Coin operated laundry 
  • It is not typical for UK residences to have air conditioning or dryers

Please note that meals are not included in the program fee.

You will receive your address, roommate information, and neighborhood description about 2 weeks before your departure for London.

We do our best to provide the most accurate information about housing and amenities but due to the nature of the locations in which we offer programs and limited availability, these items are subject to change.  Contact your program manager with any questions.

If apartment living does not appeal to you, homestays are also an option.  Email your Pitt program manager for more information. 

What You'll Study

The courses on this program can be used to fulfill requirements for the American Sign Language certificate at the University of Pittsburgh.

Information about how the courses on this program count towards general education requirements for different schools and campuses can be found at

ASL-BSL Comparative Analysis (ASL1700)

This course examines American Sign Language (ASL) and British Sign Language (BSL); and American Deaf culture and British Deaf Culture through first-hand experience. This course will encompass everything learned from ASL courses at University of Pittsburgh and apply it to real world experiences that will be available during the ASL International Field Project. This will be accomplished through signing skill assignments, Deaf interaction/participation, and observation.

Introduction to British Sign Language (ASL0111)

You will work with professors from University College London's Deafness Cognition and Langauge Research Centre to learn basic British Sign Language skills!

Your Pitt Study Abroad Contacts

Dr. Shawn Alfonso Wells

Dr. Shawn Alfonso Wells is a Professor of Anthropology at Carnegie Mellon University and the University of Pittsburgh where she teaches in both the History and Anthropology and Africana Studies Departments.  Dr. Alfonso Wells has published articles and conducted workshops on Cuba and Cuban Identity.  She specializes in the Caribbean and Latin America.  She is also the director of Abc Spanish Playtime and Adventures in Spanish, two language learning programs for children in the Greater Pittsburgh Area.

Tiffany Martin

Hello Panthers!  I am the Assistant Director in the Study Abroad Office.  I have a permanent case of wanderlust and recently reached my goal of 30 countries by 30. I attended both undergrad and graduate school here at Pitt with degrees in Marketing and International Affairs.  During my time at Pitt, I participated on two study abroad programs and later backpacked Europe.  Traveling internationally has taught me valuable skills such as how to build a yurt, use chopsticks, cross a street in Ho Chi Minh City, run from hippos, navigate public transportation, and brush my teeth with a chewing stick. While I embrace my inner yinzer, I wish that every student would leave Pittsburgh to study abroad. When not planning my next adventure, you can find me exploring various Pittsburgh neighborhoods and restaurants, playing kickball, watching the Food Network, or biking along the rivers. You can reach me at


Your In-Country Contacts

Deb Hast

I’m Deb Hast and the coordinator and instructor for the American Sign Language (ASL) program.  I have a Master’s in Deaf Education from University of Pittsburgh’s Deaf Education program.  Unfortunately, the program closed a few years ago. I have taught at Pitt for close to 17 years and love it!  I love when I see students’ light bulbs turned on in class and watching them learn how to tell stories in ASL.  What do I do when I am not teaching?  I love to walk and walk everywhere. I also like to go to flea markets looking for things to recycle into something useful in the house or make things into jewelry. I can be reached at

Items Billed by Pitt

  In-State Out-of-State
Tuition $4,656 $4,856
Program Fee $2,143 $2,143
Study Abroad Fee $300 $300
Total Billed by Pitt $7,099 $7,299

Estimated Additional Out-of-Pocket Costs

Airfare $1,000 - $1,200
Personal Expenses and Meals $1,000
Local Cell phone $100
Visa (non-US citizens) $500


Remember that your lifestyle and spending choices can greatly affect the amount of money you'll need while abroad.  Visit our Budgeting page for more information.

The amounts above are for the 2019-2020 academic year and should be used as estimates only. Pricing for 2020-2021 will be posted and announced in the fall term.

What's Included

As a part of your program fee, the following are included:

  • Tuition for 6 University of Pittsburgh credits
  • Shared accommodations in apartments around London
  • International travel health insurance for the duration of the program
  • Class related activities such as visits to local museums
  • Opportunities to connect with members of the local Deaf community including professors specializing in BSL
  • Interpreted theater performance
  • Interpreted tours at local museums
  • Additional class and cultural activities
  • Zone 1-2 tube pass
When You'll Go

Dates for the 2020-2021 academic year will be posted in the fall!