For the deaf and hard of hearing, your facial expressions convey so much meaning. “Language is grammar — it’s sentence structure,” said Sharron Hill, the director of the American Sign Language Interpreting (ASLI) Program at the University of Houston, “And so, the way that individuals who communicate with a visual mode of communication convey grammar is on the face.”
ASL uses hand movements, body language, facial expressions, and lip-reading to convey the nuances of a transmitted message. For example, it matters whether your eyebrows are up or if they’re down. This small detail decides how you answer a question. If eyebrows are up, this means a yes or no question, and if they are down, it is an open-ended question. Your mouth wide open or closed tightly conveys how large or small an object is, whether it’s thin, smooth, or thick.
The movement of the tongue can tell you how far something is. It also explains whether it’s right next to you or if it is thousands of miles away. The nod of the head determines whether you understand something or you do not. The way you turn your shoulders shows who is talking in a story or taking the lead in a race. It has been said that 50% of ASL consists of facial expressions or body movements.
These intricacies of the language are endless. The best way to learn these is through those who are native to the language. If you’re learning ASL, find those in the deaf community, and don’t be afraid to ask questions! You will find that most community members are eager to help those who sincerely want to learn. Learning ASL has personally brought me many joys. I have developed lifelong friendships with those who first taught me the language. The language and the culture have made me more in touch with the unspoken communication we all use. They have given me many opportunities to help others. I would, without doubt, suggest it to anyone who has the time to learn.
My suggestion to you, if you are currently learning, is to seek out native users. Spend time with them, get to know their history, the challenges they face. You will surely come out with a new perspective and increased incentive to learn their language.
From an early age, I was in love with American Sign Language. It truly is visually beautiful. And the more you learn about it, the more you love it. Part of the beauty and interest of ASL is that you never finish learning. There are always more opportunities to further your education. In my experience, the more you understand it, the more you realize how much you have yet to learn about it. ASL goes beyond the hand shapes in motion. ASL requires your eyes, your mouth, your eyebrows, and even your tongue at a fluent level. It includes how you turn your body, the way you lean in or out, your eye gaze, and your head tilt (not to mention the deep-seated cultural aspects of the language)! Learning ASL opens doors of opportunity, and at its core, offers the possibility to help others.
Learning ASL The best way to learn is from those who are native to the language, such as the Deaf. Though this is not necessarily an option for all people who wish to learn the language, it is undoubtedly the best way to learn! If you do not have the opportunity to learn from the Deaf, there are thousands of existing resources at your disposal. There’s a Chinese proverb that says: “The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second-best time is now”. So why not start learning right now!
How to start Start small. One great educational resource is YouTube. This tool is especially great for learning ASL since the language does not translate well into pictures in a book. Instead, a video captures the motion and the direction of the sign. You can quickly type “learn ASL” into the search bar, and there are endless resources. Start by learning the essential signs. Such as: How are you? My name is… Good morning! Can you help me? Where is the restroom? In time, your fluency will grow.
Are you looking for a place to start? Check out this video, and let me know how you did in the comments below!
Deaf Culture is the collection of cultural beliefs, practices, language, history, literature, and shared institutions of deaf communities that use sign language as a primary means of communication. These complex factors greatly impact how people experience the world. In the United States, more than 19 million deaf individuals use American Sign Language (ASL) to communicate. Many experts argue that the lack of awareness of deafness in American society contributes largely to the misunderstanding of the deaf and their experiences.
By the early twentieth century, American Sign Language became a popular language. ASL appears in all walks of life including teachers, doctors, lawyers, and government workers. Though efforts are made in incorporating individuals of varying capabilities into all areas of American society, it is crucial for hearing individuals to familiarize themselves with Deaf Culture to better understand their community.
Gallaudet, founded over 100 years ago, was the first institution to offer special courses for deaf students. The Gallaudet curriculum is steeped in the history and culture of Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing individuals. Many deaf students attend Gallaudet to get a fulfilling and extensive education. Gallaudet also teaches hearing individuals in courses for learning, translating, and interpreting ASL.
For students who learn ASL from a young age, their experiences in American Sign Language extend beyond the classroom. Beginners start to understand the significance of facial expressions, hand movements, and body movements that signify different spoken and written words. ASL literature and signed dialogues expand the life experiences of deaf people, teaching them how to communicate with others.
In recent years, many developments in science and technology have helped to further develop the understanding deafness. Neurological and neurobiological research suggests that there are differences between the brains of deaf people and those of hearing people. This has led to the development of new methods of diagnosing neurological conditions in the deaf. The advent of the Americans with Disabilities Act in 1990 has added another layer of legal protection for the deaf. Work in education and advocacy resulted in programs and policies that promote equal treatment of the deaf in employment settings. However, there are still many gaps in the field of medical services and compensation for the deaf. The lack of accessible health care and services for the deaf remains a pressing issue.
The use of sign language as a secondary language to communicate with the deaf is not widespread in the United States. The few universities that offer courses on this subject do not require students to learn or use sign language. Efforts are underway to provide access to the Internet and make sign language available in schools. The challenge will persist as hearing individuals continue to educate themselves on the lives, culture, and hardships of the Deaf community.
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.