A homegrown "foreign" language - American Sign Language

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Chase

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Can you converse in American Sign Language (ASL)? Or are you more comfortable with Signed Exact English (SEE)? Some actually get by with finger-spelling.

If you can sign, are you a deafie? How about profoundly hard-of-hearing? Perhaps you’re a hearie with deaf relatives or friends, in which case you’re a cross between an advocate and an angel.

Or maybe ASL is your profession--that of interpreter.

Whatever (palms toward the midriff, the tips of both five-hands brushing each other back and forth), tell why you sign, are learning to sign, or use some element of signing.

My name’s Chase (one thumb-up "ten" sign fleeing while the other thumb-up "ten" sign quickly pursues).

My sister, four years older, was born deaf, so I learned ASL at the same time I learned spoken English. I was progressively more hard-of-hearing for over two decades, then totally deaf for the last ten years. For me, ASL has been a terrific alternate communication to speech-reading (formerly lip-reading, but so much more).

What’s your sign?
 
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mccardey

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Oh I wish I could contribute to this!! When my boy spent a long time in hospital I learnt some rudimentary words in Auslan (Australian Sign) so I could say hello to his four-year-old ward-mate. But I've forgotten most of it, now - that was so long ago!

I read a few books at the time, though, about sign languages and the deaf communities - fascinating stuff! I especially remember Oliver Sacks' "Seeing Voices"...

I remember hello ( open right hand, palm forward, moved in an arc to the right) and ice-cream ( right hand fist, moved down from the chin twice). Important words for a small boy in hospital ;)

Oh - and drink was miming a glass-to-the-mouth with a kind of questioning thing; hungry was a thumb to the right side of the neck with two forward strokes; sleep was closing extended right index finger down to the thumb at the right eye; and sad (this is sad) was moving the index finger down the chin.

But sad could be fixed with a bit of tickling and a few jelly snakes :)

That's all I remember.

Can I just say though that Auslan was a particularly beautiful language. I mean - all languages are beautiful in a particular way; but this was really particularly beautiful...
 
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mccardey

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Oh! Helicopter!

Because I knew in advance one was going to arrive and Kristopher would want to see it - make the blades with the right hand in top of the left hand index finger. And then rock the right hand, moving both hands up at the same time.

That's all I've got. Nice thread, though... I've seen people from the local deaf community chatting and honestly, it's like hearing French in France. *sigh* I wish I was multi-lingual!!
 
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Xelebes

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I'm more of a fan of Makaton as it is easier for me as someone with an ASD. I know quite a few autistics who use ASL, but I find it harder to read.

My sister took up ASL in high school - not for any need - and there was only a few things I could pick up. I don't use any sign language right now, but I've been exploring different sign languages for the instances I go mute.
 
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SaraP

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I don't speak any sign languages, but I do work with baby signing.

I find it amazing that each country has developed its own sign language. I also like it that PSL is one of this country's official languages. I like the look on people's faces when I tell them that.
 

Chase

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Wow! So many responses and mostly about sign languages other than American Sign Language.

Makaton, for instance, is a relatively recent program used predominantly in the UK for people with speech difficulties, rather than inabilities to hear. It's based on British Sign Language (BLS).

As Sara wrote, each country has developed its own sign language. Unfortunately, that's even true for English-speaking countries.

Gestuno is the international sign language (as Esperanto is the international spoken language). The problem with both is that there are few practitioners of either.
 
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It's not so much each country as each community. True sign languages develop independently of the nearby spoken languages, mostly due to the fact that they make use of entirely different articulatory components.

Anyway, I used to know a bit of ASL, but it has died from lack of use. Which is too bad, because the structure of sign languages is very interesting.

It was my understanding that Makaton is now independent from any national sign language, but rather incorporates whichever sign language is familiar in the specific area of use. (Of course, it did originate in Britain.)
 

Chase

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Because I knew in advance one was going to arrive and Kristopher would want to see it - make the blades with the right hand in top of the left hand index finger. And then rock the right hand, moving both hands up at the same time.

McCardey,

Your Auslan sign for helicopter is the same as our ASL sign.

Some of the other signs you mentioned are close, but that can often be misleading. For instance, ASL for "hello" is somewhat like the British military salute, open hand forward, forefinger to the brow then out a few inches.

One member sent a private message asking about signing names. That’s complicated:

1. Most names, like Sylvia and David must be finger-spelled at first.

2. My name happens to be a verb with a ready-made sign. To my great relief, my sister changed the baby name she originally gave me* to the sign for "chase," two fists with thumbs up, one chasing the other.

Likewise, I have a friend named Holly, for which the sign is the forefinger and thumb of one hand drawing the shape of a holly leaf in the air.

3. *For those who sign ASL, an old custom is that whether you’re deaf or hearing, your sign name must be given by someone who’s deaf.

3A. The top half of the signer’s face is masculine, so male names signed near the face should be at nose level or above. The bottom of the face is of course the feminine half, and the same condition applies. Thus, my sister named our brother Bert with a B-hand forming a wave in one’s hair from the forehead. She named my girlfriend, Kay, with a K-hand touching one’s cheek in the manner that we sign "sweet."

As I wrote above, signs are complicated. Even here in the US, many signs differ from area to area, just as dialects and colloquialisms differ, as Liosse de Velishaf wrote.

For instance, one person sent me a thumbs-up in PM. I know most folks think that sign means "good" or "okay," and I take it as such.

However, to a navy aviator, the thumb up from a fist means "Ready." That’s especially important on the deck of a carrier.

In ASL, that sign by itself means the number ten. Ha ha ha, lots of confusion all around.
 

Chase

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Max,

Thanks for the interesting piece on eleventh century monastic sign. What Stork calls "mimetic" action, ASL teachers (which I hasten to stress I'm not) call those "natural" signs.

Still, what's natural to one isn't to another. The Benedictine sign for milk is to mimic milking a forefinger. In ASL, we use both hands as a dairy farmer of old milking a cow.

However, the Benedictine sign for fish is almost exactly the ASL counterpart.

As you wrote, it deeply fascinates.
 

Chase

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Weekly deaf joke or idiom

By some estimates, American Sign Language is the third in languages practiced in North America. English is spoken by most on the continent, Spanish is the next, and surprisingly ASL is known by enough North Americans to rank third, somewhat ahead of French.

So to keep this thread alive, I’m going to bump it up weekly with a deaf joke, idiom, or trivia.

Feel free to add your own experience with Ameslan or a related varition.

Popular deafie joke:

A young, handsome deafie--too poor to afford an expensive cochlear implant so that he could hear--was in a quandary: A very elderly, very homely, very rich woman offered to finance the operation so that he could hear.

It was a case of wife or deaf.
 

Greenify13

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Oh interesting. I started a little while back looking into ASL, I had done some of this when I was very young, my youngest brother has epilepsy and was delayed in speech. Now that my oldest son, Isaac is delayed in speech because he can not hear properly we have tried using some key signs to help us better understand him. He'll now sign "eat" if he's hungry or thirsty (he hasn't grasped "cup" or "drink") he'll do "more" as well. And his own special sign for when he wants something, which is curious because it's the same way my brother had done it as well! He's also done the sign for "father" and "baby" but these are rare.
I wish I knew more, or could get us into some kind of class, even having the sign of "eat" has been extremely helpful in my life and understanding of the toddler.
 

Chase

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I wish I knew more, or could get us into some kind of class, even having the sign of "eat" has been extremely helpful in my life and understanding of the toddler.

Greenify,

You may find these sources handy for acquiring useful signs:

In the order listed, these online ASL dictionaries have been very helpful in showing ASL words and phrases in video action:

http://www.aslpro.com/cgi-bin/aslpro/aslpro.cgi

http://www.lifeprint.com/

http://commtechlab.msu.edu/Sites/aslweb/browser.htm

I’m sure there are baby sign books available, but these two books are great adult illustrated ASL dictionaries:

Martin Sternberg’s American Sign Language Dictionary.

Gustason and Zawolkow’s Signing Exact English.
 

Greenify13

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Greenify,

You may find these sources handy for acquiring useful signs:

In the order listed, these online ASL dictionaries have been very helpful in showing ASL words and phrases in video action:

http://www.aslpro.com/cgi-bin/aslpro/aslpro.cgi

http://www.lifeprint.com/

http://commtechlab.msu.edu/Sites/aslweb/browser.htm

I’m sure there are baby sign books available, but these two books are great adult illustrated ASL dictionaries:

Martin Sternberg’s American Sign Language Dictionary.

Gustason and Zawolkow’s Signing Exact English.
Chase! You are a dear, and please feel free to call me Greeny, everyone does. Thank you, I will definitely look into them all! Today Isaac's been learning "bath", since it's one of his favorite things to do!
 

Chase

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Greeny,

Bath, bathe, wash, scrub in the shower is both closed hands scrubbing the chest with knuckles.

One of the signs for happy, glad, joy, merry, delight is almost the same, only both hands open, palms toward the heart (chest), going up and down.

Ha ha ha, for some reason, my girlfriend continually mixes them, so sometimes she excuses herself to go take a "happy"--or when we meet, she tells me she's so "bath" to see me.

I hope your little one enjoys signing.
 
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_Sian_

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Does anyone know exactly how big the differences are between ASL and Auslan? I know that it was mentioned earlier that helicopter was the same, but hello was slightly different. Is it different like south african english is different from standard (I have trouble understanding it sometimes, anyway) or is it different only a little (like australian spoken different is slightly different from american english?)
 

Kitty Pryde

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I took a year of ASL in college from a wonderful instructor. I took it to be able to communicate with deaf and/or autistic and/or nonverbal kids at the special needs summer camp where I worked. They weren't fluent, tho, so it was hard to learn very much from them. But they were very happy when they had someone to understand them/explain what was going on. Mostly stuff like "Time for dinner, wash your hands please," or "Stop now! What's wrong with you?" but yeah. Learning it was a lot of fun.
 

mccardey

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Does anyone know exactly how big the differences are between ASL and Auslan? I know that it was mentioned earlier that helicopter was the same, but hello was slightly different. Is it different like south african english is different from standard (I have trouble understanding it sometimes, anyway) or is it different only a little (like australian spoken different is slightly different from american english?)


I remember being told that Auslan comes from a more English/Irish background and that ASL was more distinctly "American". I don't know how profound the differences are though. I do know that - in Australia - because of distances and our migration patterns the dialects between states have quite marked differences.

When I was looking into it there were a few really quite fascinating books I read about the developments of signed languages. I'll have a look and see what they were, if you're interested? I might still have them here... Not instruction books, but historically- and linguistically-focused ones.
 
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SaraP

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ASL comes from the french sign language, brought to the US by Gallaudet. It seems plausible to me that Auslan comes from British SL.

I know Portuguese SL has some roots in Swedish SL, but evolved mostly on its own.
 

Greenify13

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Thank you for clarifying the difference, this morning I had seen both, as a matter of fact. And I became confused because they looked so similar. Luckily we have been doing bathe with closed hands/fisted. *wipes sweat from brow* I should really look into classes more, and so forth, I want to volunteer at a school Isaac will most likely be going to when we move to NY. The school is for children with special needs and disabilities, I used to volunteer there long ago, and something like this may help not only at home but there as well...
 

Kitty Pryde

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My friend is a big fan of "Signing Time!" and "Baby Signing Time!" videos. It's a series of DVDs made by the mama of a deaf baby and a special needs baby, designed to teach sign words to typical kids, deaf kids, and kids with other disabilities (and babies too). Which is pretty cool.
 

Rachel Belrose

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Since I was around 12, I wanted to learn sign language. I remember watching Marlee Matlin in Their Eyes Were Watching God, and I thought the language was so amazing.

Fastforward to my first year of college, and I enrolled into some off campus sign classes. The following year, I took the offical ASLI and II classes. The next, I got accepted into the Interpreter Training Program.

It's been two years since I've graduated. I'm back in school for my education degree, but I miss my ASL classes. I literally feel my skills decreasing (not that I had much anyway ;)). All my friends who were in the program with me have moved away, so I don't see anyone to practice with. It's horribly frustrating.

WV doesn't accept ASL as a foreign language, which sucks because I eventually wanted to teach ASL as a foreign language.

One of the many reasons I want out of this place.
 

Fenika

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I picked up just a little ASL in college and was able to use it in lots of different places with different folks. Sadly I've not had the chance to learn or relearn the language.
 

Chase

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Resurrecting the deaf:

Thanks, all, for the interesting posts.

This week's totally lame corny ASL jokes:

How others communicate . . .

Mathematicians: Sine language.

Pigs: Swine language.

Biblical prophets: Heavenly sign language.

Astrologers: Star sign language.

Israelites: Zion language.

Annapolis cadets: Ensign language.

Porcupines: Spine language.

Lighthouse keepers: Shine language.

Realtors: Sign here and sign here and sign here and sign here language.

Everyone at midnight on December 31: Auld Lang Syne language.

At the Oktoberfest: Stein language.

Heirs to billions: Scion language.

Tech writers: Manually.
 

Happy Thanksgiving

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