TerpTopics: AMERICAN SIGN LANGUAGE: Introduction to ASL and Sign Language Interpreting.
 
"TerpTopics(TM)" "Interpreter Topics Rendered Faithfully (TM)"

Original, relevant, and timely content of interest to ASL and sign language interpreting students and practitioners, including introductory information about deafness and American Deaf Culture.

Topics

WELCOME

 + About Us
 + BLOG
 + Contact Us
 + Jobs  DAILY!
 + Subscribe 
Pink Star

LEGAL

 + Cite this Site
 + Copyright
 + Marks
 + Privacy
 + Terms of Use

INTERPRETING

 + Anecdotes
 + Bi-Cultural Mediation
 + Cloze Skill
 + Compression
 + Demand Control Pink Star
 + Development
 + Dictionaries Pink Star
 + Dynamic Equivalence
 + Education
 + Employment
 + Ethics
 + Expansion
 + FAQ
 + Fingerspelling
 + Glossary
 + Health
 + History
 + How to Become
 + Humor
 + Laws
 + Mentoring
 + Models:
     - Processing
     - Service
 + Practice Pink Star
 + Qualified?
 + Settings
 + Sign Negotiation
 + Silent Socials
 + Technology
 + Tips
 + Vocabulary 

ASK A TERP

 + ASL Students Ask
 + Children Ask
 + CoWorkers Ask
 + Deaf Ask
 + Employers Ask
 + HH Ask
 + Hearing Ask
 + Law Enforcement Asks
 + Neighbors Ask
 + New Terps Ask
 + Parents Ask
 + Relatives Ask
 + Schoolmates Ask
 + Store Clerks Ask
 + Teachers Ask Pink Star
 + Who'd We Miss?

LANGUAGE

 + Linguistics
    - Codes
    - Form & Function
    - Meaning
    - Mode
    - Pidgin
    - Prosody
    - Vocabulary Pink Star
 + ASL
    - Alphabet
    - Classifiers  
    - Dictionaries Pink Star
    - Fingerspelling
    - Grammar
    - History
    - Idioms
    - Practice
    - Variation
    - Visualization
 + English
    - Grammar
    - Idioms

DEAFNESS

 + Causes
 + Community
 + Culture
 + Education
 + Laws
 + Technology

MORE

 + Agency Finder
 + Books
 + DictionariesPink Star
 + Educators
 + Feeds
 + Glossary Pink Star
 + Humor  
 + Jobs
 + Links
 + Movies
 + News  Pink Star
 + Quotes
 + Shop
 + Subscribe
 + Videos & DVDs
 + Worship 


TRANSLATE THIS PAGE


.  | Bookmark This Page

.
The Natural Language of Deaf Americans

American Sign Language (ASL) is the natural language of Deaf Americans.  As languages tend to be, ASL is, of course, a source of pride among its users.

.

History

An introductory synopsis of the history of ASL is available here.

.

True Language

ASL is a full and complete language in its own right.  It is not "English on the hands."  In fact, it is not English at all and is a completely different language, separate from English.  An introduction to ASL grammar is available here.

ASL is not a universal language; every deaf person throughout the world does not use or understand it.  ASL is the language of Deaf Americans.  Citizens of most other nations probably do not use or understand American Sign Language.  Like most of us, deaf people use the sign language that is in use within their communities (in case you are curious about the names of other sign languages, here is a nice reference list).  American Sign Language is used in some parts of Canada.

Signers in Great Britain do not use ASL; they use BSL (British Sign Language).  This little fact is one of many that are initially surprising to students who are just beginning their studies.  Hearing Americans often assume that where English is used, American Sign Language is used.  No, ASL is the language of Deaf Americans, and is not the naturally acquired language of British citizens anymore than it is of, for example, French or Jordanian citizens.

Sign language users might be bi- or multi-lingual; adept at using any number of spoken, written, or signed languages - just like everyone else. 

.

Gesture

A common misunderstanding is that sign language is simply a series of gestures used in place of real [sic] (spoken) communication.  It is not.  Although, it is true that most people, hearing and deaf, use both gesture and language during communication.  An example of gesture is when an American shrugs, which may mean "I don't know," "I don't care," or "It doesn't matter to me," depending on the context.

.

Poetry

As with most languages, there are poems created in sign language, just as there are poems in spoken language (click here and here).  Concerning poetry, much is lost in translation.  Whatever its language of origin - English, Djerma, ASL, Sindebele, Mandarin, or any other - a poem is simply not wholly translatable.  It is for this fact that (sad to say) the beauty and impact of an ASL poem simply cannot be completely conveyed in English, and vice versa.  Hard to believe?  Try this little experiment: Imagine trying to translate a poem from English to ... a canvas.  That's right.  Paint a poem.  This is one of the challenges faced by interpreters asked to render poetry.

.

Song

Songs are not written in sign language for the obvious reason.  When a song is interpreted into sign language, it is not the song anymore [remember the poem and the canvas?]; rather, it is an interpretation of its meaning.  If a song's beat or rhythm is relevant information, it will be conveyed visually by the interpreter.  Deaf people do not experience music in the way that hearing people do; a hearing person might enjoy music, or be annoyed by it; a deaf person simply does not hear it or hears limited tones, decibels, or pitches.

NOTE: You might also be interested in "Hearing Consumers Ask."

.

Variations

There are language variations among American Sign Language users, just as there are among users of English or any other language.  Language use can reflect the age (generation) of the signer or the area in which s/he grew up.  There are formal ways of signing something, and informal ways of signing, just as spoken English has formal and informal expression.

.

English Alphabet

The English alphabet can be expressed manually (see fingerspelling).  Non-ASL words can thusly be spelled manually, using signs that represent letters of the English alphabet.  

.

Loan Signs

Sometimes, fingerspelled words from other languages are used so often in ASL that they become "ASL-icized" (adapted for use by ASL users).  This a common linguistic phenomenon and happens among users of practically all languages.  This is called lexical borrowing.  The resulting signs are called loan signs.  Examples of lexical borrowing in American English include the words pizza and spaghetti, which have traveled linguistically far from their Italian origin, having now been Anglicized (adapted by English users).

.

Three-Dimensional

American Sign Language is three-dimensional (3D).  Spoken languages are linear (two-dimensional or 2D).  A person using spoken or written language is able to produce communication that has a beginning, middle, and ending ... with occasional back-peddling to interject or for clarify, of course.  Users of signed languages are able to represent several events or ideas at the same time because they have the use of 3D space - an idea that is at first perplexing to us 2D-communicators.

We have known speech language pathologists, medical care providers, and well-meaning family members to say that learning sign language in some way interferes with speech or with learning a spoken language, that the learner becomes "lazy," or language acquisition will somehow be "delayed."

Before making a final language decision for their child, parents might wish to see the evidence for such claims for themselves, and to speak with other clients or patients who have previously been down the road you are now on (say, 10 or 15 years previously).  Parents can make better-informed decisions after reading the reports, seeing the numbers, and meeting with other families and their now-teenage or -adult children.

.

Users

Users of sign language include deaf and hard or hearing persons and their family members and friends, as well as interpreters, of course.  

You might be surprised to learn that many hearing persons use sign language as their first language for a variety of reasons.  Persons with Down Syndrome, Apraxia of speech, or other developmental or cognitive disorders, and their families and friends, often find that ASL is just what the doctor ordered - although in truth, the doctor may not yet have mentioned it (sad to say).

.

You Are Invited!

If you are curious, fascinated, even enthralled, by American Sign Language, rest assured that you are not alone.  Thousands of Americans of every age and interest have come to ASL with limited or no background in the language (many with no deaf family members or friends) because the beauty and versatility of this amazing language simply must be experienced.  

Consider yourself invited!  We hope you will explore this and other sites, read books, visit a Silent Social, find a deaf club, read some BLogs, view some VLogs; pore over the dictionaries, and give yourself the gifts of American Sign Language and sign language interpreting.

For an introduction to interpreting, please click here.  To visit the national Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf online, please click here.

We hope to see you at an interpreting workshop in the near future! 

 


This page was edited: 09/13/2009
This page has been visited Hit Counter times since:
October 2008.
TerpTopics is a trademark and service mark of TerpTopics, LLC. © 2008; 2009. All rights reserved.

TerpTopics™ is an independent entity; as such does not claim or attempt to claim, represent, or imply by any means whatsoever that it is associated with any other entity that may or may not offer services, goods, or information of interest to interpreter, Deaf, or student communities.  The opinions expressed here those of TerpTopics unless otherwise stated.  Please keep in mind that, while every effort is made to present correct, appropriate, and reasonable information that is based on our experience, anecdotal experiences of others, or developed during the general course of study and professional development, we do not represent TerpTopics as having cornered the market on wisdom (heck, no!) or experience; one reason why links to several other good and reliable resources are made available throughout this site, and we hope that earnest seekers of knowledge will take advantage of them.

 

.

.Click to visit our BLOG.

.

.

.

 

Gifts, goodies, and prezzies!  Shop 'til you drop!!  =)

Did someone say
self-indulgence?
YUP!
Click here now!
;)

.

.

.

.

.

.

 

Books, books, and MORE books!

So many books;
so little time ...
Why waste it?
Click here now.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

Movies, movies, and MORE movies!!

Discover films of interest to ASL or interpreting students here.