Welcome, I’m Joshua, and I’m excited that you’re here because it shows me that you have a genuine interest in learning more about American Sign Language, the Deaf Culture, and or other tools and resources provided on this site.
I believe each person can learn, remember, use, and hold a conversation with a deaf or hard of hearing person through American Sign Language with confidence.
My mission is to build tools and resources that allow you to use this beautiful and visual language that leaves a smile on someone’s face anytime and anywhere!
You’re in the right place if you’re looking to learn:
- American Sign Language
- Deaf Culture
- Differences between ASL, SEE, & PSE
- How to have a conversation
- How to feel confident & competent
- Work with or around them
- What to do when losing your hearing
- Help in emergency situations
I’ve outlined a table of contents to help you get on the right foot below:
What is American Sign Language?
It is a beautiful and expressive language that requires shape, placement, and movement of hands to communicate concepts and ideas with deaf and hard of hearing people.
We also rely on the movement of arms, body, and facial expressions to emphasize emotional and grammatical information.
How did Sign Language get started?
The question of how sign language got started comes with a vague answer as there are many different findings like:
- Juan Pablo de Bonet wrote a book in 1620 that shows the first known manual alphabet “system,” but some people have shown that it isn’t the first manual alphabet (e.g., fingerspelling).
- A community of deaf individuals who lived on Martha’s Vineyard started sign language known as Martha’s Vineyard Sign Language (MVSL) in the 17th century off a small island of Massachusetts.
- Others believed Abbe Charles Michel de L’Epee was the first person who came up with it. It happened in 1771 when he started the first and free public school for the deaf in Paris, France.
We don’t know for sure, but we’re confident that American Sign Language started in the 19th century from the American School for the Deaf (ASD) with Thomas Gallaudet and Laurent Clerc.
Sign language itself comes from a natural process that the deaf and hard of hearing community needs to use to help them communicate, gain access, and get the education they need to progress ahead in their lives.
If you want to learn more about the history, click here.
Is Sign Language a universal language?
Unfortunately, it is not a universal language and is recognized just like spoken languages in other countries.
There are estimated to be more than 130 different sign languages worldwide like French (LSQ), British (BSL), and Australian (Auslan).
Is Sign Language the same as the English language?
It comes with its own set of fundamental features, including rules for pronunciation, word formation, and word order.
For example, you’d ask a question by raising your voice’s pitch and may adjust the order of words.
For us, we ask a question with our body language like facial expressions by raising our eyebrow or widening our eyes while tilting our bodies forward.
Is Sign Language an actual language?
Sign language is a visual language and is a natural process that can be understood by two parties.
However, not all states in America recognize ASL as an actual language.
We believe ASL to be recognized due to two reasons:
- It comes with a structure that includes nouns, verbs, and adjectives.
- Maintains its own set of grammar rules to follow.
And on top of it, it also should be recognized as a foreign language, enabling students to get it for credit in high school and college.
Differences between ASL, PSE, and SEE?
- American Sign Language (ASL): Most people in the United States who are deaf or hard of hearing use it.
It uses fingerspelling, use signs that show gestures and ideas, and is an independent language standing on its grammar and syntax.
It is not a manual version like Signed Exact English (SEE) or Pidgin Signed English (PSE).
- Pidgin Signed English (PSE): A combination of ASL and SEE.
Most people in the Deaf culture rely on ASL; however, some people who happen to learn and sign later in life do not sign strictly in ASL. Instead, they use a mixture of ASL and SEE, which is known as PSE.
PSE is usually for individuals who rely on spoken English.
- Signed Exact English (SEE): This is considered not to be a language.
Instead, SEE is a manually coded form of English that uses some of ASL signs to work with unique gestures or inflections that allow English to be signed precisely as if it is being spoken or written.
If you want to see significant differences between these three methods, check this out.
At the end of the day, if you want to learn some signs, we encourage you to go with ASL or PSE instead of SEE as it is much more flexible and easy to understand across different groups of deaf and hard of hearing people.
Why should you learn American Sign Language?
Many people do not realize how many people lose their hearing and that it is more common than we think. At this time, a small percentage of this population can only communicate with the use of sign language.
With your new language acquisition, you’ll become part of the social network that helps grow, and enables them to participate in society with ease.
Not only that you’ll be able to become more expressive, but you’ll be able to read other people’s bodies’ language, being able to hold “silent” conversations with your friends (you can think of yourself as a secret agent!), and gain new job opportunities due to knowing second language.
Read this article to learn the top 25 reasons you should learn sign language.
What is Deaf Culture?
The deaf culture is a set of learned behaviors of a deaf group that uses American Sign Language, has its values, rules, and traditions (recognized by Dr. Barbara Kannapel, a Deaf Sociolinguist at Gallaudet University).
We believe in sharing an environment that enables us to use American Sign Language as a tool at home, school, and in the community.
Doing this allows us to have access to the information out there, giving us an ability to learn how the world works and having the independence to drive, travel, and participate in all aspects of society.
What are the differences between deaf and hard of hearing?
If you have heard different words that describe a person with hearing loss, especially with Deaf (with an uppercase “D”), deaf (with a lowercase “d”), and hard of hearing.
Read on to understand the differences between three groups:
- Deaf (uppercase “D”): This describes people who identify themselves as culturally Deaf and are actively involved with the Deaf community.
In short, it shows a cultural identity for people with hearing loss that shares a common culture and have a shared sign language like American Sign Language (ASL).
- deaf (lowercase “d”): Refers to the medical condition of having hearing loss, and does not have a strong connection with the Deaf community.
Some people do not use sign language and prefer to communicate orally.
However, there are many reasons why some people identify themselves in this group as they could have grown up in the hearing world with little to no exposure to the Deaf community.
- Hard of hearing: A widely-accepted term to describe someone with mild to moderate hearing loss.
In general, people who are hard of hearing but most likely not to use sign language as their first or preferred language or that they did not have the opportunity to learn sign language or prefer not to.
Ultimately, each person has his or her own preferred term when it comes to identifying themselves. If you are not sure about this person and which one he/she is identifying him/herself with – you can ask!
Are there different levels of hearing loss?
When you meet a person, if they say they’re deaf, it may not mean he or she is “profoundly” deaf.
Their abilities to hear varies with four different levels:
- Mild Hearing Loss (20-40 decibels): Hard to hear softer or subtler sounds.
- Moderate Hearing Loss (41-60 decibels): hard to hear speech or sounds at a normal volume level.
- Severe Hearing Loss (61-80 decibels): Hear loud speech or sounds, but difficult to hear anything at a normal volume level.
- Profound Hearing Loss (81+ decibels): Can hear very loud sounds that may be audible or couldn’t hear at all.
* If you are curious about me, it’s profound hearing loss. I am only able to hear certain things: a fighter jet flying overhead, a rock concert, or a gunshot, or any sound that is at 110 decibels or above.
Read more about the decibel (dB). You’ll see which sounds produce from the lowest to the highest decibel, which is fascinating to learn!
How to approach a deaf or hard of hearing person?
You’ll want to know if this person is deaf or hard of hearing by noticing a few things like:
- Appears to ignore you,
- Wearing a hearing aid or cochlear implant,
- Or communicate with hand gestures toward someone else.
From here, you’ll decide how you’d get this person’s attention by waiting until you’re in the person’s field of vision.
Once that person notices you, you then can give a friendly wave (or at least sign “hello”) to let him or her know you’re interested in getting a conversation.
If you are struggling in getting that person’s attention, try to walk up slowly and tap on his or her shoulder.
To help you become more “deaf-aware,” click here to learn more about deaf etiquette.
Specific words and actions you do not want to use with deaf and hard of hearing people
We do have specific words in our communities that we don’t like because they can be derogatory or rude.
Hearing-impaired is the word we’d refuse to use because we perceive it as unfavorable.
It describes the physical condition of not hearing, referring to “physically” deaf people.
It does not identify us as the signing community members. We don’t believe deafness to be a disability.
Mute is another word you don’t want to use. Some of us are unable to use our speech. But we all have a voice through different communication methods.
Click here to learn more about the do’s and don’t’s with deaf and hard of hearing people.
Can deaf people drive?
Yes, deaf and hard of hearing people can drive their vehicles safely as it requires eyes instead of ears.
Can we read Braille?
It is for people who cannot see (blind or near-sighted).
You may meet a person who is deaf-blindness, but it is rare. They are unique human beings, and they’ll blow your mind with what they can do.
Not just Helen Keller but people like Haben Girman, a Disability Rights Lawyer, Author, and Speaker!
What about lip-reading?
Unfortunately, for some reason – this question seems to be a popular one. We believe it comes from movies and television shows.
A skilled lip reader could get about 30-40% of spoken words correctly. It isn’t even enough to carry a conversation.
It can also prevent them from making important decisions (e.g., with a doctor in a medical setting, buying a car, etc.).
Does all deaf people sign?
Great question and the answer is no.
Not all deaf people sign because they have little to no exposure to signed environments.
Some of them use different communication methods like lip-reading, pen, and paper, or use their voices to communicate.
Read on to learn more about the top 50 myths busted related to deaf, and hard of hearing people.
Tools and Resources
Sign Language Alphabet
Without fingerspelling skills, you wouldn’t be able to learn or use American Sign Language.
Click here to practice, learn, and memorize the alphabet in sign language!
Sign Language Numbers
Numbers help us sign and express an amount, age, or distance, especially with time, date, or currency amount.
It is one of the most critical assets next to fingerspelling.
Click here to learn how to do numbers in sign language.
Sign Language One-Word Questions
It helps you hold a conversation with deaf and hard of hearing people while enabling you to have an in-depth conversation.
Make sure to understand how to use the question mark first before learning to sign who, what, when, where, which, why, and how.
Click here to learn one-word questions in sign language.
Sign Language Phrases
We will kick off with some most popular and frequent phrases you can learn and practice with just in case you bump into a deaf or hard of hearing person. They will appreciate you more than you know!
Click here to get started with sign language phrases. If you haven’t practiced or memorized with alphabet and numbers, do them first!
Or you can take ASL – Level One with us by clicking here!
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Hopefully, you’ll find these resources to be helpful!
If you have any questions, you’re welcome to contact us by clicking here. We will get back to you within 24-48 business hours.