It's a unique language that has its own grammar and uses hand shapes, body movement and facial expressions.

American Sign Language is one way people who are deaf communicate. But people who can hear often learn ASL as a second language.

In fact, students at a middle school right here in East Tennessee are learning to sign.

It is an optional nine-week class for students at Whittle Springs Middle School in North Knoxville.

Aaron Black has enjoyed the class.

"I was interested in a new language because I speak English and I always wanted to explore the deaf culture," he said.

His teacher, Florence Ndiaye, said, "I think because you get to use your hands, your body, your facial expressions, I think it comes really easy to most of my students and they really love it."

Ndiaye has a real passion for American Sign Language. She has a master's degree in deaf education and models her class after ASL classes at the University of Tennessee.

"We start with really basic signs and really build on that," she said. "They know simple greetings: hello, how are you, nice to meet you. They can say their favorite colors. So it's just really basic signs but it's enough where they can actually get started with a conversation with a deaf or a hard of hearing person if they wanted."

They recently had an opportunity to practice their language skills with people who are fluent in ASL.

"They got to ask questions so that they feel more comfortable and not afraid of deaf and hard of hearing people because they are the same as us. They are awesome," she said.

Ndiaye already teaches an ASL club before school and she hopes to expand her reach to more people eager to learn ASL.

"I would like to maybe have a camp and teach sign language to hearing students which would be very cool," she said.

Her goal is to not only teach ASL but also lessons in life.

"Knowledge is power," she said. "If they believe in themselves and they work hard that they can be successful in life."