September 23rd is the International Day of Sign Language. Have you ever considered learning about sign language together as a family? Learn facts about American Sign Language that you may not have know and discover how you can learn ASL for yourself.
Sign Language Isn’t Universal
I have to admit that before I left America, I thought sign language was universal. Originally, I thought how cool it was that people all around the world could communicate with each other through signing.
I was sad to learn that sign language varies from country to country. Even within countries, there are different “dialects” or even slang variations to sign language; American Sign Language (ASL) is the same.
There are more than 200 sign languages used in the world today.
In honor of International Day of Sign Language, let’s learn a bit about what makes ASL so special.
Facts about sign language:
1.) Sign language doesn’t exactly mirror spoken language.
For instance, American English and British English are really similar. Yet, ASL and BSL (British Sign Language) is different. This is because signing developed more in deaf communities than from spoken languages.
2.) Facial expressions are super important.
Facial expressions play a big role in spoken language. For instance, my face can’t hide exactly what I am feeling. We say a lot with our face, but we also use rhythm and tone when we speak.
In sign language, facial expressions notate rhythm and tone; all the while the person “listening” in the conversation looks at the signer’s mouth.
3.) Even grammar differs from spoken language.
Grammar rules aren’t just how the hands take form during signing, but eyebrow position, eye position, hand motions, and where the signs occur in relation to the body. If the grammar isn’t correct it causes confusion just like it does in our spoken language.
4.) Babies can even pick up sign – and quickly.
I taught both my youngest children how to sign some basic words. So, I am proof it actually works. I taught my babies how to say more if they want more food, sleep, hungry, eat/food, drink, milk and can’t remember the others.
In general, young learners are incredibly absorbent in the way they learn information. As a matter of fact, it’s said that before the age of five we learn more than in those years than we do in any other span of time in our lives. Does that make sense?
Pretty much, we learn a lot by the age of five and that is why kids, even babies, can learn sign language really well before then.
5.) Alphabet signs.
In American Sign Language, the alphabet can be done using one hand but in German and British two hands are used to sign the alphabet.
6.) Male/Female have differences – yes, even in sign language.
All signs pertaining to women (i.e. wives, daughters, aunts, etc.) are made by the jawline, and men related signs (i.e. son, father, uncle, boy, etc.) are made by the forehead.
7.) Signing is picky.
Each sign is composed of five components and any change in them can change its whole meaning. The direction of your palm can change the whole meaning of the sign. Two consecutive movements of the same hand shape/gesture can make a separate meaning.
Is ASL worth learning?
Because sign language is visual, very young children can pick up on it quickly. Teaching children how to sign before they can even speak is not uncommon. Obviously if you have a deaf person in your life, learning sign language is a huge asset for communication, but even if you don’t know a deaf person, it’s still a great language to learn.
Is ASL difficult to learn?
You wouldn’t think it, but ASL is a fairly complex language. While it’s pretty easy to learn the American Sign Language alphabet, mastery of ASL as a language can take years of dedication. The more you practice ASL, the better you will become though, so start off small and learn basic terms and signs and then build on that knowledge.
What should I learn first in ASL?
To get started learning ASL, you can master the sign language alphabet using this free ASL alphabet printable pack. From there you can learn basic signs and move on to more advanced forms of sign language.
Free Sign Language Printables:
We’ve put together a list of free ASL websites and sign language printables that you can use to start learning American Sign Language in your homeschool.
These FREE applications for your smart device can help you teach kids about sign language from home:
American Sign Language Apps for Apple:
American Sign Language Apps for Google Play:
I will be intentional about praying for Bible translation with sign language. Wycliffe has made some efforts in the translation of scriptures in sign language, but there still is a way to go.
Check out the Bible sign language translation efforts from Wycliffe.org here.
This method of communication has been a blessing to the deaf community and their families since the 17th century. Make sure to share some sign language with your kiddos on September 23rd. These free resources to learn about sign language will help.
Jeannette is a wife, mother and homeschooling mom. She has been mightily, saved by grace and is grateful for God’s sovereignty throughout her life’s journey. She has a Bachelor in English Education and her MBA. Jeannette is bi-lingual and currently lives in the Tongan Islands of the South Pacific. She posts daily freebies for homeschoolers!