As you can imagine American Sign Language (ASL) requires coordination. The ability to do two different hand shapes and two different motions at the same time. Not to mention adding body movement, eye gaze, and facial expressions all at once. Fluency in the language requires fluid movements of the wrists and elbows. One thing that gives a new learner away, is the lack of movement in their joints while signing. Often, new learners will put their elbows out which can make the sign even more difficult to do.
Did you know that if a sign hurts it means you are doing it wrong? ASL is not supposed to hurt when done right. Sometimes all that is needed is a tucking of the elbow or a rotation of the wrist. Although straining can occur when you are signing for many hours there is much you can do to minimize the strain starting with making sure you are signing the signs correctly and doing some stretches of the hands. Another way is finding more ways to say more with your face and less with your hands, using less signs to communicate the same meaning. With ASL being a visual language, you can incorporate so much meaning into the face and placement of your hands without losing content, tone, or intent.
For some ideas on stretches to save your hands check out this video on YouTube:
If you know you will be signing for a long period, perhaps interpreting, make sure you stretch beforehand. If you are sitting, maintain good posture. Keep your hands soft and avoid hash movements. If you are doing a lot of fingerspelling, keep your wrist at a slight angle instead of straight ahead of you. Avoid signing too far out of your personal space. Keeping your elbows close to your body can also prevent fatigue or injury from signing.
American Sign Language (ASL) is the primary non-written language of Deaf people in the U.S. and many of Western Canada. ASL is an expressive and non-syntactic verbal language conveyed by facial movement and gestures with the hands and face. Data shows that over 33 million Americans use ASL to communicate with each other and a wide range of friends, family, and professionals. Many colleges and universities offer ASL courses and programs. They are provided primarily to individuals who wish to learn or improve their communication skills to serve their communities better and be of greater value in their personal, professional, and social lives.
There are many reasons that one would want to learn ASL. Some individuals have learned the language by observing spoken speech in Sign Language, while others have learned it from receiving hand signals from a caregiver or a book of signs. Many people take American Sign Language classes to become certified CNAs (Certified Nursing Assistant). Others sign up for audiotapes and videos of ASL expressions and gestures to memorize. Several people learn American Sign Language simply because they love the language and wish to improve their communication skills.
The National Association of Special Education Programs (NASEP) estimates that approximately 1.6 million Americans communicate in ASL. Of those individuals, about half are certified to administer American Sign Language at home or in a school/community setting. Sign language is becoming more popular throughout the United States as people learn the language or take ASL classes for personal or community benefit. There are many benefits to learning ASL:
One of the most obvious benefits of learning American Sign Language is that it is a hands-on skill that anyone can perform with any level of fluency. Compared to other common languages such as English and Spanish, learning American Sign Language has a higher retention rate because almost anyone can perform it. Individuals of all ages and from all walks of life can learn how to sign. Sign language users do not necessarily speak but rather make facial expressions, emotions, and body motions that look like words or sentences. Sign language users can communicate verbally with each other using only hand motions.
In addition to ASL visual elements, learners also benefit from speaking the language. Many studies show that reading books containing written speech improves reading comprehension skills, similarly, achieved by reading audiobooks. However, in today’s world, more individuals are reading text on the Internet. Because of this, many individuals are now able to perform “word by word” communication via the computer. Learning American Sign Language provides individuals the ability to read and understand spoken languages and allows them to communicate on a deeper level that only the spoken language can provide.
One of the main reasons people begin learning ASL is that they plan to take an American Sign Language exam, such as training from the American deaf exposure program. The information courses in ASL include a fundamental understanding of the language, posture statements, and vocabulary exercises. The position statement is essential in spoken languages, and it instructs individuals on how to position themselves physically to hold a conversation in an everyday setting. A posture statement is also helpful because it demonstrates how people who speak ASL stand in relation to one another, which is vital for an American Sign Language test.