Wednesday, March 28, 2012

"American Sign Language"

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“American Sign Language”

American Sign Language is a very organized language that relies on gestures such as body movements, specific hand-shapes, location of the hands, and facial expressions. American Sign Language and English are similar, they both convey ideas, but both have their own distinguished characteristics. ASL is visual, processed through the eyes, rather than audible, and has it own structure and grammar. ASL is not another form of English; it is a language used among the deaf community. “Between 1 million and 8 million people in the united states are hard of hearing or deaf” (“Deaf Culture”).

It is not exactly known when and where American Sign Language began. Despite this fact, ASL has existed since deaf Americans began communicating with one another. In 1815 Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet, a minister, was seeking a way to help his deaf community. Gallaudet wanted to learn how deaf people communicated with one another. Europe offered this; deaf people had already developed communication skills. In Paris Gallaudet studied the system of Abbe Roche Ambroise Sicard. Two years later in Hartford, Connecticut Thomas H. Gallaudet established the first American school for the deaf. By the year 186 twenty-two schools had been established (“American Sign”). Today many schools for the deaf have their doors open. Gallaudets’ contribution made ASL one of the most developed and elaborate sing language in the world.

“Nearly 0 percent of deaf children are born to hearing families” (“Deaf Culture”). Concerned, though misled, parents insisted that deaf students should try to integrate into the hearing world. Instructors believed children would become hearing people by simply teaching them how to speak and lip-read. To discourage signing, children’s hands were tied together; many other methods were also used. What educators did not know was that only 0% of the total words being spoken is gather through lip-reading. This was very inconvenient and made it impossible for young people to communicate. Despite these efforts children chose to communicate through signing. “Members of the Deaf Community do not consider themselves to be disabled. They see themselves as a cultural group bonded together by a common language” (Vicars). Misinformed people believed that ASL isolated deaf people however; it brought non-hearing people together to form a rich, vibrant culture.

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American Sign Language has no limitations or barriers for communicating subtle or complex ideas. Any topic of conversation can be discussed from sports to philosophy, from religion to politics, and so forth. All of these general ideas and rage of emotions are conveyed through detailed and specific movements of the face, shoulders, arms, hands, and body. When signing or finger spelling the hand used to write should be utilized. Fingerspelling, the use of specific finger positions to represent the letters of the alphabet, is used to give names of people, names of cities and states, titles of movies and books, and brand names. For example, to fingerspell the name Ana the letters “a” and “n” are used. The Letter “a” is fingerspelled by folding the fingers of your right or left hand down to the palm, except the thumb which is lightly pressed against the folded index finger. The letter “n” is fingerspelled by placing the thumb between the ring finger and the middle finger and then bending the other fingers down to the palm. To fingerspell the complete name simply fingerspell “a”, “n”, “a”. To express a feeling the sign and the facial expression and/or body movement are necessary to properly convey the emotion. For instance, in the sign happiness the facial expression would be content, smiling face. ASL can express any idea or feeling. “American Sign Language…meets all of the requirements for human languages-it is a rule-governed, grammatical symbol system that changes over time and that members of a community share” (“American Deaf”).

American Sign Language is more than just signs; it is as complex as any other language. Thanks to the contributions of Thomas H. Gallaudet, education of ASL is wide spread in the United States. In the past hard of hearing was considered a disability. Fortunately, today deafness is less controversial and is far more embraced. “Members of the Deaf Community do not consider themselves to be disabled. They see themselves as a cultural group bonded by a common language” (Vicars).

Works Cited

“American Deaf Culture.” 00. 5 Oct 00 http// “American Sign Language History.” 4 Oct 00 http//

“Deaf Culture.” Microsoft® Encarta® Online Encyclopedia 00. 17-00. Microsoft Corporation. All Rights Reserved. 5 Oct 00 http//

Vicars, Bill. “Culture.” 00. 5 Oct 00 http//

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