An Introduction to American Sign Language
American Sign Language (ASL) is a complex visual language that uses space rather than sound to communicate ideas. It is the natural language of Deaf people living in the United States and several other countries.
Sign language is not universal. Some countries share a common sign language much the same as some countries share a similar spoken language. For example, Spain and Mexico both speak Spanish, but they still have many differences in languages. However Mexican Sign Language (LSM) and Spanish Sign Language have several differences. ASL and British Sign Language (BSL) are very different!
ASL is grammatically different than English. It is not proper to think of ASL as broken English. English has a Subject-Object-Verb sentence structure, but ASL uses a topic-comment structure. ASL has very specific grammar rules.
ASL is not just gestures. It is a complete language of its own. Gestures are only a part of ASL. Other parts include facial grammar, such as eye gaze, eyebrow movement, mouth shapes and nose movement. ASL also uses space to create relationships, which is very different from the way English shows relationships. Placement, indexing, and body shift are three ways space is used in ASL grammar.
Interpreters may not sign word-for-word when interpreting spoken English into ASL. Instead, a concept-to-concept or meaning-to-meaning method is often used. The average person may wrongly think that the ASL interpretation appears incorrect or that the interpreter is adding information, especially when interpreting Bible verses into ASL.
Share these ideas and help educate others about the beauty and complexity of ASL and the function of interpreters.