American Sign Language - Useful to Know, Easy to Learn!
American Sign Language is arguably the third most-spoken language in the U.S. This article explores some of its history and aspects of its use, as well as how to learn it.Ever watch a group of deaf people telling jokes in sign-language and wish you could do that? (Or at least understand what was being said so you could enjoy the joke too!) Well, you can. It is neither difficult nor expensive to learn. There are about half a million deaf people in the U.S. almost all of whom speak American Sign Language. ASL is also spoken by an untold number of friends, relatives, associates, employers, employees and other associates of deaf people. ASL is probably the third most-spoken language in the U.S. after English and Spanish. American Sign Language was developed by deaf people to communicate with other deaf people. It is a unique, complex, versatile and effective language in itself. With roots in the French Sign Language of the end of the 16th century, combined with Native American Sign Language, it took on its own unique flavor.
You may remember the Lewis and Clark Expedition (1804-1806), from your history books. It was headed by Meriwether Lewis and William Clark and was the first American overland expedition to the Pacific coast. They took along a French-speaking, part-Indian fur trapper named Toussaint Charbonneau, whose young Shoshone Indian wife, Sacagawea, translated for the expedition.
Indian Tribes along their route all spoke different languages. But the Native Americans used sign language to communicate between different peoples. The sign language they used seems to have been very widely, even universally, known and understood.
Elements of that Native American sign language were incorporated into American Sign Language. Moreover it is a three-dimensional language using more than just simple hand signals to convey meaning. A language that is spoken and not written tends to evolve and change faster than one with a written record, dictionaries and other authorities to keep the form intact and more or less static. So there are regional, even city-wide dialects. Signs for special terms and ideas are frequently confined to speakers in one local area.
But the basics remain the same, and can be easily learned by watching videos of the words and syntax being used. Excellent learning courses are available on the Internet where they can be bought and sent out on DVD''s or downloaded directly in digital form. It is interesting to note that messages in American Sign Language can be conveyed clearly at much greater distances than those of any language conveyed only by sound. For privacy concerns, it is also much more difficult to record surreptitiously.
To learn more about the useful and interesting language called American Sign Language or ASL, follow the links below.
For more about American Sign Language, including resources to learn it, visit American Sign Language Jorge Chavez is a language enthusiast and webmaster of the Chavez Language Center at http://language-center.ya23.com