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5 Parameters of ASL
- 1. Handshape
- 2. Location
- 3. Movement
- 4. Palm Orientation
- 5. Non Manual Markers (Facial Expression)
T/F When referring to the general population of people with hearing loss, the most politically correct term is "hearing-impaired".
Preferred terms are either "hard of hearing" or "Deaf"
T/F There is one sign language that is universally used around the world.
There are many regional sign languages around the world.
T/F One can become an interpreter after taking a full semester of ASL.
It can take 5-10 years to become fluent in ASL.
T/F One can become fluent in AL just by participating in classroom instruction.
T/F American Sign Language is the third most used language in the United States.
T/F Less than 40 years ago it was illegal for deaf children to use sign language in Ohio's public schools.
Sadly, the Oralism movement had a stranglehold on education in this country.
T/F American Sign Language is a signed version of English.
ASL is a distinct and separate language.
T/F 90% of deaf people are born to deaf parents.
Only 10% of deaf people are born to deaf parents.
T/F Alexander Graham Bell sought to make marriages between deaf people illegal.
True (what a jerk)
T/F Most Deaf people can read lips.
Reading lips is incredibly difficult and unreliable.
T/F The football huddle was invented by a deaf football team.
One thing that may surprise people who are not
exposed to Deaf people is that many deaf do not really consider themselves to
be disabled and are actually proud to be deaf. Some say they would not want
to be able to hear if they had their choice.
Just imagine if aliens landed from outer space and were shocked to discover
we couldn't see through walls with x-ray vision. Although the aliens might
feel sorry for us, since we're so used to life without x-ray vision, most
people would probably not think they're missing out just because they can't
see through walls. Not all deaf people feel this way about being deaf, but
Here are just a few tips to help people who are new to interacting with
people who are deaf, as well as to introduce them to what is known as
"Deaf culture" or "the Deaf world." Knowing how to better
interact with each other can help us respect and understand one another and
help bring together the Deaf world and the hearing world, which are really
one world with many different people.
Just as you would not ask someone you are meeting for the first time if they
have always been fat or other personal questions, remember it is generally
inappropriate to ask deaf people how they became deaf or if they have always
been deaf, at least when meeting them for the first time, unless the deaf
person brings up the subject.
Don't worry about using such English terminology as "Did you hear about
what happened?" or, "I bet you hear that a lot." Not only is
this non-offensive to deaf people, but also if there is an interpreter
interpreting such phrases, the deaf are familiar with this use of the English
word "hear." Besides, if there is no interpreter, it's not like
they'll hear it anyway.
One quick way to put up a barrier between yourself and Deaf people is to say
you're too embarrassed to try to learn any sign except in private. Do not be
afraid to try to use whatever sign language you know. Deaf people who sign
will not be offended but rather very happy and excited to meet someone who is
smart, outgoing, and culturally sensitive enough to know even just a couple
signs. Since the majority of the population does not know sign language, they
are happy to see someone they can communicate with, even if it's just saying
Remember that not all deaf people use sign language. Some rely solely on
reading lips. In such cases, remember that the deaf person must be able to
see your mouth in order to understand what you are saying. They cannot
understand what you are saying when you cover your mouth or if one of you has
your back turned.
If you are having trouble communicating with a deaf person, remember you can usually resort to writing. Grab a pen and paper, a chalkboard, a computer, etc. Keep in mind that some deaf people do not have very good English because they have never
clearly heard English and perhaps because their native language is sign language. One way to make communication easier as well as to start learning sign language is to learn how to finger spell the alphabet. Then you can at least spell out key words without
having to find something to write on.
The medical definition of deafness is a physical condition in which a person
has profound or severe hearing loss; the cultural view of being deaf is a
person with varying degrees of hearing loss who interacts with the Deaf
community. Often, when referring to being culturally Deaf, the word is
capitalized, and when referring to people with hearing loss in general, it is
not capitalized (as not all people with hearing loss interact with the Deaf
community). Very few deaf people have been absolutely deaf without any
perception of sound their whole lives. Many people who are "Deaf" by culture are medically "hard of hearing," meaning they have a certain degree of hearing ability.
It is generally not offensive to ask someone who is considered deaf if they are deaf or hard of hearing. However, some Deaf people understandably refrain from disclosing that they can hear some sound for fear their hearing counterparts will assume they can hear more than they actually do. A good
rule of thumb is to assume the person cannot hear you unless the deaf person
tells you they can.
Also, keep in mind that not all deaf people are mute. Some people become deaf
after speaking their whole lives. Just because a person can speak does not
mean they are not deaf.
Keep in mind that some deaf people may have a tendency to feel left out of
conversations between hearing people. When talking in groups with deaf people
present, continue to sign while talking even when you are not addressing the
deaf person, or make sure continuous interpretation is provided. (Keep in
mind also that not everyone who says they know sign language is a good
interpreter.) Although this does not necessarily allow them to fully
participate at the same pace of the conversation, the effort can mean a lot.
In turn, deaf people often at formal gatherings have a person "voice
interpret" what they are signing for the benefit of people who do not
sign, with the exception of some Deaf clubs who prefer no talking. This is a
reciprocal courtesy with signing for the deaf when hearing people speak.
However, although deaf people are generally considerate in making sure there
is interpretation provided for those who do not sign, if no one voice
interprets, you do not want to complain how that is unfair that you are left
out of the conversation. Having lived with the same challenge in the hearing
world, most deaf people would be unsympathetic to such complaints. However,
usually if you simply ask for voice interpretation, they will be more than
glad to have someone provide it. Just keep in mind that sometimes there is no
one around who can voice interpret.
As mentioned before how many deaf people don't consider themselves to be
disabled, one thing to avoid is expressing feeling sorry for deaf people. Of
course, people don't mean to offend, and many deaf people will be gracious
enough to excuse such patronizing. However, just as you would not appreciate
someone complimenting you on being such an honest person despite your
background or ethnicity, deaf people in general do not care to be told how
great it is that they are outgoing, good church goers, smart, etc. despite
their being deaf, nor do they like people telling them how sorry they are
that they can't hear. Don't let worrying about offending deaf people preoccupy
you though; just remember deaf people are pretty much like other people, and
they just want to be treated the same as other people as much as possible.
When I was all of two
years old, my family received its first ASL (American Sign Language) lesson.
They discovered that maybe, just maybe, this might be a useful language.
It was 1968 and I'd just
had my tonsils removed. I woke up in a hospital room surrounded by hearing
relatives and a nurse. Naturally, my throat hurt.
muttered. No response.
"Sh, sh, don't try
to talk," said the nurse. "Your throat is sore."
said once again, only this time I started gesturing. Still no response. All of
my relatives looked at each other and shrugged.
MMMPH!" By then everyone was scrambling for the source of my angst. One by
one my family dug up a teddy bear, a comic book, a favorite toy, and other
stuff I had no interest in.
Finally, my Deaf mother
walked in the room.
wrong?" she signed.
I quickly made a
"W" handshape and gently tapped it on my chin.
water," my mom explained to my exasperated family. They reluctantly nodded
and told the nurse. She said I wasn't allowed to drink yet but I could suck on
an ice cube. Good enough for me.
Ten minutes later, the
same scene repeated itself only this time I made a "T" handshape and
wiggled it. Again, all of the hearing people in the room struggled to figure
out what was going on. It was like a game of charades gone bad.
Once more, mom to the
"He needs to go to the
bathroom," she sighed.
Most of my family didn't
know what to think. They'd been told all along by medical and educational
professionals that ASL was to be avoided at all costs.
Apparently, there was
this popular misconception that use of ASL would hinder my speech and also
distort my ability to process English (for a rebuttal of this myth, check out
my article ASL: Not Guilty).
But suddenly, here was
my family witnessing firsthand that signing is indeed a very effective means of
communication. Even so, it took several more years before they finally felt
comfortable with it.
ASL is Back
I'd like to say it was
my "water" and "bathroom" episode in the hospital that
brought ASL back to the forefront. Truth be told, there were many people
fighting behind the scenes to bring this beautiful language back to the
classroom in Deaf schools all over the United States.
The biggest breakthrough
came in the 1960's from William Stokoe, who shocked the world with research
that proved ASL matched all the criteria necessary to be considered a natural
language. Although his research and publications were initially met with scorn
and ridicule, Stokoe's work withstood the test of time and laid the groundwork
for Deaf Studies classes that are the norm today. Most significantly, it opened
the door for sign language to be accepted as an appropriate language of instruction
in the classroom. By the mid-70's, most schools for the Deaf had once again
recognized sign language as such.
Another breakthrough was
the famous 1988 Deaf President Now protest at Gallaudet University. Deaf
students shut down the campus for a week in opposition of a newly elected
president, Elizabeth Zinser, who happened to be hearing. The deaf student
body--and the deaf community at large--felt it was time for a deaf person to
lead a deaf university. The DPN movement drew worldwide media coverage and
succeeded in winning the support of politicians, civil rights leaders, and the
general public. DPN culminated in the appointment of Dr. I. King Jordan as the
first deaf president of Gallaudet University. The ripple effect from this turn
of events led to greater awareness of ASL and Deaf culture.
Since then, ASL has
exploded in popularity. It is currently the third most-used language in
America. It is now taught for academic credit in hearing high schools and
colleges/universities throughout the United States.
An Easy "A"?
A caveat: now that many
students can take ASL for foreign language credit, it needs to be said that
this is definitely NOT an "easy 'A'." There are numerous students
who, intimidated by the traditional foreign language offerings such as Spanish
or French, wind up taking ASL because they think it will be much easier.
Considering how there's no real written version of ASL (actually, one has been
devised, but it's not widely used), how complicated can it get? After all, it's
just waving your hands around in the air, right?
Wrong. I can vouch for
this myself. When my wife took an Introduction to Linguistics course at
Gallaudet University, I took a peek into her textbook and found myself
absolutely overwhelmed. There was extensive coverage of ASL phonology,
morphology, syntax, use of classifiers, and other jargon I couldn't understand.
Today, my wife is an ASL
instructor. She reports that the students who sign up for her classes out of a
sincere desire to learn tend to do well. Those who sign up because they think
it's an easy way out of the foreign language requirement often find themselves
in the midst of a rude awakening. They soon realize that ASL is more than just
"gesturing" or a "mimed version of word-for-word English."
In fact, it has little in common with English. If you interpret an ASL phrase
word-for-word, it will not come out in perfect English, the same way as if you
literally translated phrases from Spanish, French, or any other foreign
language. In a nutshell: ASL is a language in its own right, as William Stokoe
worked so hard to prove several decades ago. When you study it, expect to learn
as much as you would as if you were taking any other foreign language course.
That said, anyone who
really wants to learn ASL can definitely do so if they put in the effort. It
takes only weeks or months to become skilled enough to maintain a basic
conversation, so it's not that long before you can use what you learn. At the
same time, to truly master ASL, be patient; it can take anywhere between 5 and
10 years to become fluent. And the best way to do so, quite simply, is to
become actively involved in Deaf culture.
ASL: A Paradigm Shift”
- Many people think being involved in the Deaf
- culture is easy and that learning ASL is easy.
- ASL wasn’t considered a natural language until
- Deaf President Now, DPN, changed history
- Teaching hearing kids ASL isn’t going to hinder
- their learning
- Mid 1970’s most educators recognized ASL as a
- mode for instruction
- It’s important to have a ‘back-up’ language to
- Many families are told to avoid using ASL.
- It may take 5-10 years to become fluent in the
- In the past, many medical professionals were
- ignorant to the deaf culture and the language, slowly improving today
- ASL is the 3rd most used language
Grammar Note pg 2
Questions asking for information (wh- questions) are signed with the eyebrows in what position? What is the position of the head?
- eyebrows down and squeezed together
- head tilted forward
Culture Note pg 2
What is customary in first introductions, even casual ones?
To give first and last name.
Grammar Note pg 3
Questions asking for a "yes" or "no" answer are signed with the eyebrows in what position? What is the position of the head?
What is special about the subject pronoun in these instances?
- eyebrows up
- head tilted forward
- * The subject pronoun is sometimes repeated at the end of the sentence.
- Example: I STUDENT I
Grammar Note pg 4
Simple affirmative sentences are accompanied by what?
Grammar Note pg 4
Simple negative sentences are accompanied by what?
Culture Note pg 5
The sign DEAF is used for what two purposes?
1. To refer to the social and cultural identification of the person.
2.May also refer to hearing ability.
Grammar Note pg 6
What are the 3 ways the sentence "I'm a student" can be signed (specifically in reference to the subject pronoun).
- 1. I STUDENT I
- 2. I STUDENT
- 3. STUDENT I
Culture Note pg 7
What is the difference in asking "WHERE LIVE YOU" and "WHERE FROM YOU"?
WHERE LIVE YOU- refers to where you are currently living.
WHERE FROM YOU- refers to from where you are originally - Among Deaf people it is used to ask which school for the Deaf they attended
Grammar Note pg 14
Questions which ask for a yes or no answer can be answered by repeating what?
The verb from the question.
Ex: TAKE-UP A-S-L CLASS YOU?
YES, I TAKE-UP.
Grammar Note pg 15
1. When using the sign THERE how do you indicate a place that is not in sight?
2. When using the sign THERE how do you indicate something with a specific nearby object?
1. Use the sign THERE in the approximate direction of the place.
2. Use the sign THERE looking directly at the object, use a short directional movement pointing to the object.
Grammar Note pg 17
What two ways can you set up a sentence asking for information (wh questions)?
- 1. Wh in front of subject
- 2. Wh after subject
- Ex: 1. WHERE PAPER
- 2. PAPER WHERE
Grammar Note pg 24
What is special about Directional Verbs?
They change the direction of their movement to show a change from one location to another.
- GO- starts near the body and points outward
- COME- starts away from the body and points inward
The sign is the same otherwise
Example shown in class- HELP can show I help you
by starting the sign close to your body and moving it toward the person you are referencing.
- you help me
- Starting the sign away from the body (where the other person is) and bringing it in toward yourself.
Cultural Note pg 29
If there is no way to avoid walking between two signers having a conversation what should you sign?
Grammar Note pg 36
1. When using the sign LOOK^LIKE do you do with your head and eyebrows?
2. What does ^ indicate in the gloss of this sign?
1. eyebrows down, squeezed together, head tilted forward
2. That it is a contraction of the signs APPEARANCE and SAME
Grammar Note pg 39
Where to colors appear in a sentence?
Either before or after the noun.
- WOMAN THERE, DRESS RED
- WOMAN THERE, RED DRESS
Grammar Note pg 40
How can you describe specific details using descriptive signs?
You can alter them
- Ex: STRIPES
- Can be moved to show either vertical or horizontal based on which direction you sign it.
Same with the length of a skirt.
Grammar Note pg 42
The subject or object of a sentence can be signed first as the topic of the sentence- how do you indicate a topic of a sentence when signing?
Ex: MAN THERE ARROGANT
When signing MAN you raise eyebrows.