Sign language is used by deaf and hard-of-hearing people to communicate. Instead of sound, it uses hand motions, facial expressions, and body movements for communication. Different regions of the world have different forms. In America, we use the ASL, the American Sign Language.
American Sign Language (ASL) is commonly used in the US and English-speaking parts of other countries in North America. In regards to the most used languages in the US, you may be surprised to discover American Sign Language ranks fourth. Many universities accept ASL as a foreign language and you can study for a bachelor’s or master’s degree in ASL.
It is estimated between 500,000 and 2 million Americans can communicate using ASL.
As one would expect, the origins are based on necessity. Early use can be found in Martha’s Vineyard way back in the late 17th century. There was a very high rate of deafness amongst the community at Martha’s Vineyard.
As a result, a natural way to communicate developed in the region. This primitive communication forms the basis of the modern American Sign Language and also baby sign language is based on these ideas.
A Protestant minister, Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet and a student of the director of the Royal Institution for the Deaf in Paris, Laurent Clerc, established the “Connecticut Asylum for the Instruction and Education of Dumb and Deaf People” in April 1817.
In the following video, you can learn the easiest way to learn the ABCs of ASL slowly:
The school is now named “The American School for the Deaf”. The expertise brought by them intermingled with the primitive forms of sign which existed in the US and together formed what is today called American Sign Language.
Although based on the English-speaking world, American Sign Language is separate from English and is now treated in the same way and recognized as a foreign language by many colleges and universities. It has its own set of grammar rules, punctuation styles, and sentence structures. In fact, everybody should, at some point, learn sign language. Then everyone will benefit!
Its movements, gestures, and actions are not direct translations of the corresponding words in English. It has its own vocabulary. To an onlooker, the meaning of a movement may seem obvious, but to the people holding the conversation, that motion may be a part of a whole phrase that signifies something entirely different from what the onlooker expects.
Also, sign languages from different parts of the world vary substantially. Since the origins of American Sign Language lay in the French version, the two are fairly similar. However, knowing one does not imply you will understand the other, and improvement is always needed.
On the other hand, while the English version is the basis for both the U.S. and the UK, the American Sign Language and the British Sign Language are completely separate from one another.
There have been so many technical improvements over the past decades, and people who are hearing impaired may hugely benefit from new, revolutionary hearing aids. In earlier days, hearing aids merely amplified sound, but digital hearing aids are so much more helpful.
Just like other languages, American Sign Language has a variety of dialects too. For instance, the way people from northern parts of the US speak is very different compared to those folks from the southern parts. Individuals from the North tend to speak much faster than people from the Southern States.
Sometimes, this distinction is even more obvious. For instance, there is a significant difference in the way people from Northern Illinois use American Sign Language compared to those from the southern part of the state.
Sign Language is not only for the deaf or the hearing impaired who, by the way, may benefit immensely from new digital hearing aids, what a difference! It is considered a foreign language and learning a foreign language will broaden your horizon at all times.