Perhaps you know someone who is deaf, or you’ve been experiencing hearing loss yourself. Whatever the case, ASL (American Sign Language) plays a crucial role in the life of a deaf or hard-of-hearing individual. Interestingly, it is also a very specific language with nuances and grammatical rules that are unique to its own structure. We have a look at some of the top little known facts about sign language, which might be very useful to know about this distinctive way of communicating. Read on to familiarize yourself with these four facts.
Fact #1: ASL is not just another form of English
Little do we know that ASL is not just a simple signed form of what we have come to know as the English Language. In fact, it is quite the opposite! ASL is an entirely different language, based on FSL (French Sign Language), with its own grammatical form and vocabulary. You may not even find some english words in the ASL repertoire, which means they will have to be spelled out via fingerspelling. ASL must be treated as a unique, standalone, language with its very own style.
Fact #2: There are many different sign languages across the globe
In line with Fact #1, comes this tidbit of information: there are many sign languages in the world! Signed languages come in a variety of forms depending on the culture from which they stem. If we take a look at South and North America alone, you can already find 35 different signed languages!
Fact #3: Sign language is culturally-based, not as a result of a disability
One of the most erroneous ideas regarding the community of deaf people is that they all identify themselves with a disability. This is most definitely NOT the case. People who have lost their hearing, or were born without it, often consider themselves a part of a culture, not a disability group. Like any culture, they speak a specific language and engage with others of the same group. Within this discussion, there lies an even greater conversation regarding their own cultural identity versus the pervasive perception of them as disabled people, and you can read more about the difference here.
Fact #4: Facial expressions are very important
Sign language is unique in that it often relies on facial expressions to convey stories, meanings and even words. Facial expressions might even replace the need for a specific sign so that the message is relayed successfully with a single look. Unlike other languages that use facial expressions as a means to add to the narrative element of a story or to emphasize an emotion, ASL uses facial expressions as a means to tell a story or say a word.
It’s important to understand the uniqueness of ASL when engaging with someone who relies on it as their sole method of communication. ASL stems from a particular culture and from a unique way of expressing emotion, words, sentences and stories. Like any language in existence, it is intriguing to explore and is beautiful in its own unique way.