American Sign Language – An Overview and History

People who are fundamentally deaf can communicate by talking with their hands. You only need your eyesight to know what is being "said". American Sign Language (ASL) is the language of the Deaf in America. Just like in the spoken word, different countries and regions of the world has a different sign language.

American Sign Language (ASL) is a language that utilizes the hands to make signs that result in a language all it's own. It is a way of communicating that people with severe hearing loss use to interact with others. It the fourth most used language in the US.

How ASL got started is not known, but what we do know is that it was brought to America by a French man named Laurent Clerc who set up the first school for the Deaf here in the US. Clerc taught French Sign Language (FSL) to Americans, and as a result, ASL and FSL are similar, but knowing one does not mean you can understand the other.

Sign languages ​​is based on sight. A person who is deaf uses the most important tool he has to communicate, which is his sight. Through sight, the deaf person can receive information and connect with others by use of the hands, Using hand shapes and other visual cues, such as facial expression and body movements to communicate. To be fluent in sign language takes quite a bit of time and study.

ASL is a language that is different from English. It has grammar, punctuation, and sentence structure, as well as how it is used in a particular region as well as common colloquialisms. Each language of sign uses different expressions. In speech, different sounds of tone are used to get a message across. In sign language, body language and facial expressions are used instead of the tones used in speech.

Why does ASL become a first language for many deaf people?

Parents or caretakers are always a child's first introduction to language. A deaf child who born to parents who are deaf use sign language early because that is the language spoken in the home, but language is learned differently by the deaf child who parents are not hearing impaired. Hearing parents who learn sign language often learn it along with their child who is deaf.

The first six months of life are the most important to a child's development of language skills. All newborns should be screened for hearing loss before they go home. Early diagnosis of hearing loss gives parents a chance to research communication options. Parents are able to start the language development process during this time.

Age is an important issue in learning ASL. The earlier sign language is taught, particularly before starting school, the better the outcome for communicating competently with others.

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Barb Hicks

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