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ASL: American Sign Language introduction

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Pre-amble: an introduction to this introduction -
My apologies for the poor quality of videos: I am still in the learning stages of that particular skill :-)

ASL, or American Sign Language is a language all it's own. There would be no way for an instructable to do the entire language any real justice, but I would like to introduce everyone interested to enough of the language to get a feel for it. There are a few ways to sign also that vary a bit from each other: English (which includes the finger-spelling of one letter at a time), and of course, each language has some of their own signs, and the International signs that are universal. Then, there is ASL, which is what our main focus will be on, as it is looser and more open to interpretation than other forms.

In every country, the language normally employs the sentence structure generated by those that use the language, and they do come across differently from language to language. In ASL, because of not always having a complete word for word relationship in the communication using ASL, sometimes the sentence structure is not as important as how a sign is employed.

I hope to touch on just enough to pique the interest of those that occasionally come into contact with the deaf, or at least to help you feel less uneasy about being around a group that happen to be signing to one another. And maybe, I will inspire someone to take it further, if they think they may need to (or would like to) communicate with any deaf persons.

TOOLS and implements needed:

A mirror can come in quite handy, but is not absolutely necessary.
Patience, you will need lots of this if you plan on going any further with this.
Most of the times it helps to have a partner to communicate with and practice with.
And finally, more patience :-)
 
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a.mandolin94 years ago
This is a very nice instructable regarding ASL. I myself know quite a bit of ASL and Exact English. (: If you'd like to learn more, I suggest you read the book The Joy of Sign by Lottie L. Riekehof. It's in ASL and refers to fingerspelling and pronouns as you mentioned in this Instructable along with prefixes, suffixes, and a variety of words and phrases.

You may or may not be surprised to know that almost every sign in ASL has a sensible origin. It really helps me remember all of my signs. (: It also helps if you mouth what you are saying when you sign. That helps to keep you from going too fast when signing and also helps the correspondant understand you should you sign something incorrectly or shakily. Many deaf people can read lips to an extent.

Haha, funny story... One of my teachers that's actually professed sign language at a local college was signing about her husband to a close friend of hers.. The sign for husband is boy or male and then marry. Male: Grasp the imaginary brim of a hat with four fingers and thumb. Marry: Clasp the hands, with right hand on top. The friend was terribly confused when she signed about her "boy hamburger". (: Hamburger: Cup the hands as if making a hamburger patty; reverse the position of the hands (right hand on top, then left hand on top). (:
the problem with "The Joy of Sign" is that most of the signs in that book are not used by the deaf community. As told to me by a deaf friend,

"That book was written by a hearing person that had no knowledge of ASL."

Now weather or not the author is deaf or hearing, I can not say because I know very little about the author....HOWEVER, I used to have that book & ended up tossing it because about 80% of the signs are not used by the deaf, & the other 20% the deaf do not understand.

I have been an Interpreter for more than 15 yrs so I know at least a wee it of what I speak.

I encourage everyone, weather you know a deaf person or not, I encourage everyone to at least learn the alphabet....if just 1 life is saved using ASL, or just 1 injury is lessened because of ASL, then learning ASL is worth the while.
You don't need a reason for ASL to be worth while! But being able to communicate with someone across a room without saying a word is good enough reason for me. The reason I chose to make ASL my second language is that the Deaf don't have a choice in the matters of communication. I can't, with good conscience, expect them to "learn the language". Meanwhile, others who're capable of learning a native language...choose not to? They would rather the natives learn their language? Or whatever the reason. At any rate, I refused to learn a second language simply because others didn't want to learn my native language. I've also studied French, but that was because when I [eventually] take my wife to France, I don't expect others to cater to me. I think they used to call this line of reasoning 'respect'. And I'm not sure if Goodhart or another mentioned it, but one of the best ways to become fluent in Sign is to sign with the Deaf. Most of the deaf individuals I've met because I attended Deaf meetings or groups [only because it was a course requirement]. You'll learn the nuances of the Deaf community: such as which words are finger-spelled as opposed to signed, words and phrases unique to the Deaf, and regional differences in signs. Also, technology-based signs are continually being brought into the language. And as SIRJAMES mentioned, a good amount of signs in books [though they may be considered proper] aren't used by the Deaf community in casual conversation. I'm not into linguistics or ASL interpretation, but I enjoyed my many college ASL courses, Deaf groups, and simply learning something other than "language x, y or z". Anyway, I get excited when people are interested in learning ASL; or even English sign. I know the Deaf community appreciate the effort of us speaking folk learning their language. Of course Latin is also a must-know, imo.

Goodhart (author)  SIRJAMES092 years ago
I am not familiar with the book, but from what I've learned of ASL, i.e what is used is not universally used.

Check out this MIX :-)

I apologize, the book is: The Joy of Signing, not Sign. (:
Goodhart (author)  a.mandolin93 years ago
I do believe that is one of the 3 books I have on hand. But thanks for thinking of me, and my apologies for the late reply.
ReCreate4 years ago
In Step 2, Image 1, It Should Be "Deaf People" instead of "Deaf Persons". It Has Bad Grammar.
Goodhart (author)  ReCreate4 years ago
Bad grammar making it plural? Hmmmm, look here for an explanation of why I used persons :-)

The normal plural of person was persons, as in "two persons were present".
Umm...There where 3 People...Erm , Persons There XD
Goodhart (author)  ReCreate4 years ago
2 persons, 3 persons, 1,599 persons, but they are all "people" collectively as a singular word. Persons is plural. But grammar has been changing as words change too. So who am I to say.... ;-)
Persons should not be a word...
Goodhart (author)  ReCreate2 years ago
everyone has their opinion I suppose :-)
*were And it depends on the situation. In a lot of older writings it was taught that "persons" is a gramatically correct plural for the word "person". It wasn't until recently that the term "people" has become popular and labled as socially correct. In this situation, neither word would be gramatically incorrect.
Ah, Ok
ilpug2 years ago
I admit that the first thing I thought when I saw the title was "ASL= Age Sex Location"

That wasn't creepy at all.

This is an awesome Instructable.
Goodhart (author)  ilpug2 years ago
Thank you :-)
Screamo3 years ago
O.O
ReCreate4 years ago
Vista XD
Goodhart (author)  ReCreate4 years ago
I'm sorry, I must have missed something :-)
Step 5, Image 1
Goodhart (author)  ReCreate4 years ago
Ah, yes.....MAC os LOL
Ha Yeah, He Should Have Said XP
Goodhart (author)  ReCreate4 years ago
I just did a rebuild (O.S.) of my XP machine
Umm...What Does that have anything to do?
Goodhart (author)  ReCreate4 years ago
Only that suggesting XP when I have XP is redundant, and that it has it's own set of problems, as any OS does ;-)
Ah...Yeah. What i said is that the cartoon character should have said XP instead of OS x
Goodhart (author)  ReCreate4 years ago
Aye, but it is in my ible ;-)
Aye aye captain :P
KentsOkay6 years ago
Yeah! Well worth the wait. Now I don't have to take French (dem frogs) as a foreign language =)
Goodhart (author)  KentsOkay6 years ago
Now I don't have to take French (dem frogs) as a foreign language =)

???

ASL (it used to be called AMSLAN) is not a foreign language, it is a different way to speak English ;-)
![Much of my commentary below is aimed generally, not at Goodhart, who clearly already knows it.]

Goodhart wrote:
>> ASL (it used to be called AMSLAN) is not a foreign language, it is a different
>> way to speak English ;-)

But it's not! The "American" in ASL refers to its place of origin. It is a separate language, with its own grammar, syntax and semantics, idioms and colloquialisms. ASL has to be _translated_ into English, exactly the way French or Korean or even Canadian have to be translated into American (eh? :-).

Because it is a spatial language, the grammar is fundamentally different from that of spoken (temporal/linear) language. Subject and object, person and tense, are denoted by positioning signs in a volume of space in front of the speaker, as well as by the order in which signs are presented. There are indications of this in several of your Steps, though you don't really make it explicit.

There are some good books about ASL, Deaf Culture, and the evolution (and regression) of the Hearing's perception of deafness and sign over the past 150 years. I'd recommend Oliver Sacks' Hearing Voices for a great view of Deaf Culture during its own civil rights movement in the early Seventies; Thomas and James Spradley's Deaf Like Me for the effects of the destructive "lip reading" movement up to the Sixties and the efforts toward acceptance of ASL. One might also look up the Martha's Vineyard Deaf Community of the 19th Century for an outstanding example of why deafness doesn't have to be a "handicap."

Oh; no, I'm not Deaf, nor am I anywhere near fluent in ASL (I can barely finger-spell my own name, and I'm not sure sometimes whether I'm thanking someone or flipping them off :-( ). My interest and participation in the IL movement and disability rights has just led me to learn about and pay attention to this stuff.
Goodhart (author)  kelseymh5 years ago
Yes, I meant it was not foreign to this country, i.e. the USA.

If I travel into the deep south, I have to have many of the phrases interpreted into my English. :-)
(for example: how much ya like? = how soon are you finished
and, I ain't studying that = I am ignoring that
Some schools let you take ASl as a year of foreign language, for reasons known only to myself I have a general dislike of the French...
Goodhart (author)  KentsOkay6 years ago
That is neat. I wish I had that option 34 years ago when I went to school.

for reasons known only to myself I have a general dislike of the French...

You, and 65+% of most HS students I have ever spoken with ;-)
G'lord no one seems to like the French...
Goodhart (author)  KentsOkay6 years ago
Not "THE" French so much as the purported snobbery about the language, ;-) and how hard it is to learn it "properly".
I have nothing against French people and the language. In fact most of my family speaks french as we are French Canadian. I do not speak french. I have had to take it since grade 1 and I have never liked it. All of the memory work. Learning how to conjugate verbs and form a proper question. It drove me nuts!
Goodhart (author)  computerwiz_2226 years ago
In high school, I had one year of German, a purportedly simple language to learn: but I was totally unable to think in German (the sentence structure was just too foreign to me). I do think Sign language should be offered early in every school for students. It has been demonstrated that many youngsters can learn simple SL before they are able to speak, and it seems to help the brain develop faster.
Werid, we were told german was one of the harder languages and that French, Spanish, etc. were the easy ones. I squeaked out a 'D' in german.
Goodhart (author)  keyguy135 years ago
We were told that French was the worst, Spanish, was easiest, and German simple but not overly complicated. I learned a bunch of words, but the grammer baffled me (thinking of the word for window, building, etc being 'masculine' or feminine didn't help matters either).
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