American Sign Language
This is a free American Sign Language (ASL) resource site for
people who want to learn sign language. This site will help you learn common
sign language phrases and the manual alphabet or "fingerspelling." You will also learn about sign language interpreting, Deaf culture, and
various methods of communication with people who are Deaf. Signing is fun to do
and it helps you meet and communicate with Deaf people.
Sign Language Classes |
Sign Language Phrases
Deaf History |
ASL Dictionary |
Here is a definition of ASL that has been around for a long time.
American Sign Language is a visual-gestural language used by 500,000 members of the North American Deaf community. According to www.dictionary.com American Sign Language is the primary sign language used by Deaf and hearing-impaired people in the United States and Canada. ASL was devised in part by Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet on the basis of sign language in France. It is also called
Ameslan. In Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary we read that
ASL is a sign language for the Deaf in which meaning is conveyed by a system of articulated hand gestures and their placement relative to the upper body. The date of the entry from Merriam-Webster was 1960. When compared with other languages, signing hasn't been recognized as a language for very long has it? Oh sure, ASL has been developing and in use since the early 1800's but it wasn't until 1960 that experts
started recognizing it as a full-blown autonomous language. For some other
sign language images, see the ASL
graphics section of the site.
American Sign Language
This sign language website is intended to be a free place to learn signing.
The main topics for this site are: Sign language classes, the history of American Sign Language,
ASL phrases, American Sign Language letters (fingerspelling), American Sign
Language for babies, and a sign language chart. ASL University is intended to be an online curriculum resource for ASL students, instructors, interpreters, and parents of deaf children. I'm a Deaf (hard of hearing) Associate Professor of Deaf Studies at a university in California. I prefer to communicate in American sign Language. I put together this site to provide a place to discuss ASL,
signing in general, deafness (Deafhood), and interpreters. Note: Interpreting is a broad field that involves more than just "signing and body language."
I also take a look at how ASL qualifies as a foreign language. When I'm around "Hearing people" I tend to use a hearing-aid. If I'm in a meeting I will either use an interpreter or, depending on how close I am to the speaker and how quiet the room is I'll lip-read and use my hearing-aid. My wife and I have had four children and we taught them all to sign ASL. I also write a bit about
Deaf education and baby sign (baby talk using sign language). "Baby signing" amongst people who can hear is sort of new to
Deaf culture. Deaf children of Deaf parents have, of course, used sign language but it was new for hearing children. One of our kids is hard of hearing and attended the Utah School for the Deaf. She is now mainstreamed.
Remember, ASL is so much more than just "Deaf people waiving their hands in the air" -- it is truly becoming a world language. In this website I also talk about Deaf services agencies, some of which provide interpreters for the Deaf (not "deaf interpreters.")
I don't discuss BSL much. (British Sign Language) Their fingerspelling is different (two-handed alphabet) and not used by the American Deaf Community. I've also set up an area of this site that deals with ASL Linguistics (linguistic signs/linguistic sign). Use the links to jump around and check out the site.
We should say "at least" 500,000 people use ASL. That is an OLD statistic from the 1980's. My estimate is more along the lines of: 2 million people are using ASL on a daily basis. At least 500,000 of those people are using it as their primary means of communication. Millions more know "some" sign language and use it "once in a while." For example, a grandmother of a Deaf child may have taken a six-week community education course and now she knows just enough to offer her grandson candy and cookies.
ASL is a visual gestural language. That means it is a language that is expressed through the hands and face and is perceived through the eyes. It isn't just waving your hands in the air. If you furrow your eyebrows, tilt your head, glance in a certain direction, twist your body a certain way, puff your cheek, or any number of other "inflections" --you are adding or changing meaning in ASL. A "visual gestural" language carries just as much information as an oral/aural (mouth/ear) language.
Is ASL limited to just the United States and Canada? No. ASL is also used in varying degrees in the Philippines, Ghana, Nigeria, Chad, Burkina Faso, Gabon, Zaire, Central African Republic, Cote d'Ivoire, Mauritania, Kenya, Madagascar, Benin, Togo, Zimbabwe, Singapore, Hong Kong.
Is ASL a universal language? No. Those countries I just mentioned also have their own signed languages. ASL is the dominant signed language in North America, plus it is used
to some extent in quite a few other countries, but it is certainly not understood by deaf people everywhere.
It seems so many people these days want to learn sign. However, I notice many bloggers (and my students in their research papers) don't know how to spell it. All of the following are WRONG: sign langage, american signs language, american sign languages, american sign langage, signs languages, etc.
There are many similarly messed up terms for fingerspelling (e.g. hand letters). Plus there are the weird old names for ASL that never caught on, like "Amslan." One time I saw someone calling it auslan
-- but I reckon that is Australian Sign Language.
Did we get ASL from Native American sign language? No. Indian Sign Language was in use prior to American Sign Language being developed, but the two are separate visual languages.
Elsewhere on this site you can find a printable sign language alphabet card
and a chart that shows basic words in Sign Language.
for a sign language alphabet chart.
The sign for "thank you"
The sign for "hello"
• How to sign
"I love you" in ASL
Visit: fingerspelling for a great ASL fingerspelling
practice site (ASL alphabet).