A Few Things to Know About American Sign Language | NPR

Yeah. I do have a few things I want people to know. “Please” “Thank you” “I’m sorry” For my family and other people, I’d love them to learn basic signs. Questions: “How are you?” “How was your day?” And then the responses for those types of questions. They already know “I love you.” Yeah so my background is coming from a family with parents who are Deaf, my siblings are Deaf, and so my first language was ZEI. Which is Iranian Sign Language. I did learn some British Sign Language, but I haven’t remembered it. I guess it’s just like any other foreign language people learn if you hear it one or two times it’s cool, but you forget it quickly. Ok, it’s like the English language has different accents. In the South there’s an accent, in the West, you know in different parts of the country people have different accents. It’s the same thing with sign language. The different styles of signing are the same as accents in English I also think that some people say that I sign something a little bit different. It’s probably the influence from another country. People come from other countries and they don’t maybe develop the fluency in the way Americans sign it. So they do develop an accent in sign language. So I’m a black person and I use Black ASL. There’s an influence with black hearing community members— They have an influence on how black deaf people sign. So there is African American Vernacular English. So there are some things to say like “girl please” or “you’re trippin’.” There are certain phrases in the black community that have been influenced, and now black deaf people use them, like the ones that i just mentioned. I use Black ASL, but not in the classroom. I use Black ASL with a specific community. I don’t always think in ASL. I typically think in English, English word order. Remember ASL is very different from English. ASL is it’s own bonafide language with grammatical rules. In English it’s typically subject-verb-object. That’s typically the word order. It’s linear, it has a very linear structure. While as in ASL, the structure is less. It could have the object-subject-verb. And the way we know what is a subject or object, for example, is through facial expressions. I acquired language, so just like any other infant acquires language, I acquired my language at a few months of age. One time my kids were sleeping, and my daughter was actually sleep signing. You know that? My daughter, what she did, she was like, [signing while asleep], and I’m in shock. My daughter is signing in her sleep. I was born with a hearing loss, but it got worse when I was 18 years old. And when I was 18, I had a decision to make. I could either get surgery—I could get a cochlear implant or I could learn sign language. I didn’t want to have the cochlear implant surgery, and I decided to learn sign language. Doors began to open to a whole new world. People call me hearing impaired, and I have to tell them, for example, that’s not a term that I accept. I’m Deaf. They don’t understand that Deaf people have a culture. They think that hearing impaired is more politically correct, but actually it’s more offensive. Because what you do, is you don’t recognize the fact that I come from a linguistic minority where we have our own culture—Not only here but around the world. I also want people to know that just because I can speak, doesn’t mean I’m not Deaf. I run into hearing people who often say, “Well you can hear a little bit, and you can speak well. That means you’re not Deaf.” I would say “Excuse me. You can’t tell me what I am or am not.”

21 Replies to “A Few Things to Know About American Sign Language | NPR

  1. I have learned SO much in just the first 2min of this video! My mind is blown by my ignorance of ASL. Thank you for inspiring me to change this ASAP! I'm looking forward in learning more about ASL and sharing this video! 😻

  2. I took sign language classes for free at my church and several $50 classes in my community. It was great. It can be a little nerve wrecking getting in front of a group of deaf ppl, but they really appreciate what you've learned and that you can communicate with them even if it's only basic signs.

  3. I started studying ASL in February. Just like other languages I have studies I've started to dream in that language.

  4. I just started learning some ASL a few months ago. I am learning from the Sign Duo and Bill Vicars both on here. But Bill Vicars also has his own page. He is an actual ASL teacher in the US. The Sign Duo are a hearing and deaf couple and recommended hands down Bill Vicars.

  5. Wow! It's really inightful to study ASL for a few months in a college classroom, then watch actual deaf people sign. They're a lot less formal when signing. Like when people learn English and don't know certain slang like "gonna" and they say going to.

  6. I REALLY wish more high schools and colleges would offer ASL as a language option. I most definitely would have utilized it

  7. “Where’s the bathroom” – definitely important. I have been an interpreter for 26 years, but I’ve had three surgeries on my hands in one year. Thank goodness about 90% of ASL is on the face or I’d miss my Deaf friends. I am VERY careful about interpreting now because when I’m responsible for access it’s never about me.

  8. Good video. Would be better with out the social justice warrior talk about what she takes offensively and what it means to be BLACK and deaf, not just deaf. Because we always gotta make that a thing, right? Also… "deaf" is literally defined as hearing impairment. Gimme a break.

  9. As a Spanish interpreter, people often tell me how they speak a little Spanish. I would love to hear people say I know sign language.

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