What is ASL?
ASL stands for American Sign Language and it is considered a
language. It is not signs for the English language but a foreign
language. It isnít a universal language; itís the same as other
countries speaking different languages. Sign language is a language
for the deaf people. ASL is the fourth most
used language in the United States only behind English, Spanish and
Italian (silentwordministries.org). ASL is a visual language meaning
that it is not expressed through sound but rather through combining
hand shapes through movement of hands, arms and facial expressions.
Facial expression is extremely important in signing (nidcd.nih.gov).
The beginning of ASL is somewhat obscure though many say that ASL
came mostly from FSL (French Sign Language). In 1815 an American by
the name of Thomas Gallaudet went to Europe hoping to learn how to
teach deaf children to sign. It is in 1815 that Gallaudet met
Laurent Clerc a famous pupil in Paris. In 1817 Gallaudet convinced
Clerc to come back to America with him. It was in this year that
Gallaudet and Clerc founded the Connecticut Asylum for the Education
and Instruction of Deaf and Dumb Persons in West Hartford,
Connecticut. This school was the first public American school for
The website www.info.com states that this made Clerc the
first Deaf teacher in America. This is why at least 60% of ASL signs
come from OFSL which is Old French Sign Language (aslinfo.com). The
National Deaf-Mute College is now known as Gallaudet University
which was founded by Gallaudetís son Edward who was also fluent in
William Stokoe a professor of English was hired at Gallaudet
University in 1955. Stokoe helped establish that sign language was indeed a language. In 1965 he
published "The Dictionary of American Sign Language" (aslinfo.com).
Many things have changed for the Deaf and hard of hearing since
the 1800ís. Deaf people are no longer looked down upon or held back
from being all that they can be. Who knows maybe someday the
president of the United States will even be a Deaf person. The sky
is the limit for what a Deaf person can do.
"About ASL." <http://www.aslinfo.com/aboutasl.cfm>
Camp, Ted, ed. "History of Sign Language." Silent Word Ministries.
"What is American Sign Language."