8/31/2019 2 Comments
So You Want To Learn ASL?
If you follow me on social media, you’ll notice I’ve started to do an #ASLSignOfTheDay, and have been surprised by the amount of interest it has received! A big thanks to everyone who is supporting me, and coming back to learn more and more signs.
But, in light of all of that, especially since I speak in the videos, I want to make a few things clear: ASL (American Sign Language) is its own language, with a different grammatical structure. It is not a word for word translation of English. It's not an universal sign language, different countries have their own. You can learn vocabulary by watching my videos, but not how to use it correctly.
The best way to learn ASL is with a Deaf teacher! Because job discrimination is so high for those of us with hearing loss, it’s highly frowned upon for a hearing person to take that job, especially as a non-native signer (I’m Hard of Hearing and didn't start learning ASL until I was 18). If you want to learn, I suggest checking to see if there are any classes with Deaf teachers near you. I know from experience that hearing teachers don’t always teach the language correctly, and some people that I know who’ve taken those classes come out with some funky looking signs. We can spot you.
ASL has regional varieties! So note that I’m from New England, some of my signs will differ from those on the west coast, or in the south.
There are some signs I probably won’t be able to show in my videos, as ASL has this amazing thing called classifiers. Simply put, classifiers are ways of expressing thoughts in a 3D space. My fellow authors will understand this as the difference between show and tell. With a classifier I can show that something is just a little bit away, or a very long way away, all by using the same sign, just differing how it’s performed.
ASL uses a dominant hand. No, you don’t need to all make it your right. If you happen to be left handed, go ahead and use your left hand. Just be consistent. A common newbie mistake is to switch back and forth. I did it at first, but I’m also slightly ambidextrous, so I took some time to figure out which hand I wanted to be my dominant.
ASL involves facial expressions! You won’t catch it in many of my videos, as I’m showing a word not a sentence, but eyebrows and mouth positions can be part of the grammar.
Two handed signs can be done one handed! In the real world sometimes a person has an injury, or a disability, or happens to be holding something. In those cases the signs can be performed one handed, or use an arm or a nearby object as a prop. It’s pretty cool.
Because of the different grammatical structure, there are some English words that are not found in ASL (the is a prime example), and others are used in different context. Another cool thing? While ASL does have some gendered signs, it doesn't have pronouns like he or she. We essentially use they.
A few resources beyond my daily videos to help out those that want to learn:
Dictionaries: Handspeak, Signing Savvy, Sign ASL.
Try this link for some app suggestions! Or this link!
I also love Sign with Robert on giphy!
Questions? Ask below and I'll do my best to answer!
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