What is ASL and How You Can Learn It Easily
What is ASL or American Sign Language?
ASL which is the short form of American Sign Language is the visual language of deaf peoples of America and Canada. According to world health organization 11 million peoples of USA has hearing loss. Almost 600000 people use this language for communication. Though it’s the language of deaf people many people who can’t hear well and many hearing people also use this language by facial expression and body movements. Many people think that sign language is the universal language but like any other language it differs from country to country and even sometimes it differs greatly in different regions of same country. For example sign language in UK is called British Sign Language and it’s different from ASL. There are more than 135 sign languages in the world.
Figure: Hand shape of letter A, S, L
Some interesting facts of ASL:
- ASL is the most studied sign language and many countries use the features of ASL in their own sign language.
- Like any other sign language ASL was invented by deaf community. Most people believe that hearing people made rules of sign language.
- Though ASL is the sign language for Americans and Canadians this language is independent from English language. This sign language has unique grammar and visual nature.
- ASL is similar to spoken Japanese and Navajo.
- ASL has similarity with French Sign Language (LSF) because one of the first teachers of the deaf in America came from French at the time of 19th century.
- ASL has its own rules and which is different from other sign language because some hand shapes that are possible in ASL aren’t possible by other sign language peoples.
- Like other normal people who hear English or other language, deaf peoples left hemisphere of brain are activated when they process sign language.
- Study finds that deaf peoples who learnt ASL from birth show greater activity in right hemisphere of the brain at the time of processing ASL sentences.
When did ASL begin?
Before the existence of ASL various signing systems were created by deaf communities which are known as old American Sign Language. The journey of ASL started from 1814 by Dr. Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet who was the minister of Hartford, Connecticut. His neighbor had a deaf daughter named Alice Cogswell. Though Alice was deaf but she was very intelligent girl so Gallaudet wanted to educate her. But he had little success in doing that as he has no effective teaching method. At that time in Europe there was good deaf education system. So he went to Europe to learn those methods. In 1817 he started first free public deaf school in the Hartford, Connecticut with the help of Clerc who was one of the best deaf instructors in Europe. This school is now known as American School for the Deaf.
How to Learn American Sign Language:
Learning ASL requires patience, practice and sense of humor as you need to learn lot of things from hand body movements to lip patterns. Don’t be afraid it’s fun to learn and there are many online resources especially videos, books and apps which made this learning interesting. Here are few ways you can try to learn ASL.
Learn from sign language tutor:
High qualified private tutor could be the best option to learn ASL. This would be more beneficial for those who (especially kids) are introvert and find difficulty in learning with the large population.
Learn from deaf community:
This is one of the best ways. Try to communicate with them using their sign language. At first you will face problem but with the passage of time you can grasp all these signs.
Learn from DawnSignPress:
DawnSignPress gives free access to their online videos by which you can easily learn ASL signs. They have a great reputation for their quality ASL for more than 40 years. They have ASL dictionary, board books, classic fairy tales and many more that you can try to learn. Recently they have been featured on TALK BUSINESS 360 TV.
Learn from deaf school:
There are many free and paid schools that offer training on ASL. Some of them offer evening classes so you take those classes after doing your other tasks on day time. Also sometimes community or educational institutions organize workshop on ASL.
Take online course:
One of the great advantage of online courses are you are free to see when you want. You can see videos or classes multiple times. Some online courses are live where you have to attend in correct time.
Learn from YouTube:
There are various channels that let you to learn ASL free. If you can’t pay online course then this is a great option. Instead of watching random videos from different channels watch the whole playlist or video part by part. Select some good YouTube channels and subscribe them for update.
Practice in front of mirror:
Learning ASL is like learning art. The more you practice the more you learn. As you need to learn from hand shapes to lip patterns if you do the practice in front of mirror you will know your mistake quickly.
I hope this article enlightens your knowledge about ASL. There are various ways to learn ASL but unless you start communicating with deaf community you can’t improve your fluency on ASL.