Before taking this class, I can honestly admit that I didn't know much about American Sign Language. However, I have an extended family member who is deaf. I remember going to family reunions as a young child and trying to communicate with her. As I grew older, I could see the frustration she felt when trying to communicate with everyone who didn't know ASL. This is one of the main reasons why I began on my journey to learn ASL. Before taking this class, I had no idea ASL was to precise, and expressive. I've learned recently that it has its own set of grammatical rules and syntax unlike any other language, even more so than English! Before reading, I also wasn't aware of the elaborate history behind ASL. I thought it was a fairly new language, maybe dating back to the late 19th century. However, I was proved wrong when I read that people were signing as early as the 18th century.
In chapter 1, I read that in the past children were being discouraged from using ASL in schools. It’s stated in the chapter that some hearing teachers told their students that ASL was considered “animal-like.” I found this appalling! ASL is the only way of communication for the deaf community, just like English is the way of communication for hearing people! What I also found every surprising was that it was said by a teacher! As a teacher, it’s your goal to help every child succeed in the classroom, not hinder them. Therefore, these teachers should have made in effort in learning more about ASL, so that they could have more effectively communicated with their deaf students. As a future teacher, I will use my knowledge of ASL to communicate to my students so that they feel comfortable in the learning environment.
In reading Chapter 2, I learned sign language is an international language and varies from country to country. Many signs used in one country can mean something completely different in another country. I had no idea that there were so many different types of sign language including Scandinavian, Japanese, British, French, Spanish, and many more! My first reaction to finding out about the many different forms was, “does a language barrier exist between them?” The obvious answer would be yes! However, I was amazed to find out that language gaps don’t really exist between the many different forms. They improvise, use gestures, and expressions to establish mutual comprehension. This is one of the many reasons why I find ASL so intriguing.
Chapter 3 discusses Braille and ASL and if there is a similarity between the two. As a young child, I thought Braille and ASL went hand-in-hand. Nonetheless, this isn't the case whatsoever! Braille and ASL are completely two different things. I've learned from reading, that many times deaf people are confused with blind people. After reading about this, I actually encountered an individual referring to a deaf person as blind. If I was a deaf person in society, I would constantly feel frustrated and annoyed with the misused term. It’s important for us people in society to recognize, and respect the differences between the two.
Overall, I do feel like my opinion of Braille changed. Before reading I thought of Braille as some sort of language. However, now that I’m more knowledgeable, I’m aware Braille is just a tactile form of printed media rather than a language!
Chapter 4 discusses the importance of Abbe de L’Eppe and Abbe Roch-Ambrosie Cucurron in the preservation of American Sign Language. These two men took it upon themselves to teach the deaf community in Paris in the 18th century. In my opinion, both were very extraordinary individuals to do what they did! L’Eppe was the first hearing person to go into the deaf community, to learn and to let the deaf people teach him! He also recognized the importance of ASL in an instructional setting. Nonetheless, if it wasn’t for L’Eppe, children in schools would still be discouraged from using ASL in the school system today!
This chapter in particular taught me a lot! I figured that since American English derived from Britain so would ASL. However, I was initially caught off guard when reading that ASL and BSL (British Sign Language) don’t have many similarities at all. One of the only links between the two is the “Martha Vineyard dialect.” I read in the chapter, that at first glance BSL can ultimately be mistaken for ASL. I feel like this statement kind of contradicted the fact that they are different. How could they be mistaken for one another if there are no similarities between the two?
British Sign Language sounds very interesting, and I definitely would be interested in learning more about it! However, I feel like it’s important to me to first fully understand American Sign Language first!
Chapter 6 & 7
I can honestly say for the first week or so of class, the grammar and syntax of ASL was very confusing. It still confuses me from time to time. However, I feel this is a natural thing in learning a new language. Just like an English student learning Spanish for the first time, everything is going to be slightly confusing for the first couple of weeks. Now that I’m more knowledgeable about the syntactical structure of ASL I find it easier to follow than the English language!
I also read in this chapter about Manually Coded English, which depicts English Vocabulary and grammatical structure. I personally feel like this could benefit ASL students learning English. It’s more of a step-by-step process rather than a fully immersion process which can be beneficial for some students. The students are still using sign language while learning about the syntactical structure of English. However, I do think it could cause confusion as well. Ultimately, you are trying to mix two completely different types of language.
Chapter 7 discusses the ASL as a written language. When I began reading this chapter I thought to myself, “How can ASL be a written language, if it’s purely visual?” After finishing the chapter I learned that ultimately ASL has no written language, and that many researchers for some time have been searching for a way to reproduce ASL in print. I personally can’t think of a way to write ASL! Since it’s a visual language, I don’t think there will ever be a completely accurate written form.
Chapter 8 discusses how ASL is learned by the deaf community. To be honest, I've always wondered about this; for instance, children who are born deaf and have hearing parents. I personally feel like it’s important to integrate ASL into the school system. Deaf children are not any less important than any other child, and should be given the opportunity to formally learn ASL in the school if needed!
This chapter was probably one of the most interesting I've read so far in this book! In the English language many jokes rely on homonyms, and puns which in turn are not understood by many people in the deaf community. However, I was surprised to learn the deaf community has to own way of communicating humor. ASL humor is visually based, and involves the use of gestures, cinematic effects, and a lot of “sign-play.” As of right now, I don’t recognize humor in ASL. However, just as a young child learning English it takes time!
Since ASL is a visual language, I though accents were impossible! After reading this chapter I learned that hearing accents are based more off of language differences and ASL accents are based more off of style differences. For example some sign small, and some large. I also found it very interesting that accents occur within different states! For example, birthday is signed a different way in Alabama than it is in Maine.
Reading these first 10 ten chapters has really opened my eyes to some interesting things within ASL. I look forward to reading the book in its entirety.