ASL Week Six (notes)


I want you to take a moment to review your alphabet and make sure you are not learning your letters improperly. Look at the video again and just check yourself.

Positioning and placement: where you put people and things is extremely important in American Sign Language (ASL). What do I mean by that? If you are having a signed conversation, and you are talking about “Sally” – in sign language, you “put” Sally somewhere (using your pointer/index finger) and then throughout the conversation, you just point to where you put her and that would be interpreted as “she” or “Sally” depending on the sign. As I told you before, because sign language is so visual, you have to think of it in terms of a canvas, or a play. Setting up props and leaving them in the correct position leads to clarity of thought and ease in the conversation. Many times in a conversation, a deaf person will say something like this….My best friend, Randy, (pointer finger) HE nice guy. It’s like an emphasis on the noun. In sign language it would go like this: MY FRIEND RANDY (Put him somewhere and then point to him) HE NICE GUY. Sounds super strange in English, but in American Sign Language, that is generally how you sign it. Your pointer/index finger is a powerful tool. Wielded correctly, it can mean you, he, she, it, him, her, they, we, us, me. Use it often!!

Now, if you are talking about more than one person, say you go to a party and you are going to tell your deaf friend about the three or four people that you went to the party with–that concept uses something special–a classifier of sorts. Using your non dominant hand in a “five hand” position, you would fingerspell the name of your first friend and point to the index finger on your opposite hand. Then, fingerspell the name of the second friend, and point to your middle finger, and so on (you may run out of room, so let’s keep it to three friends for now). Now, anytime you talk about friend A, or friend B, etc, all you do is point to the finger that you assigned that person. This is a very natural and comfortable way for signers to deal with groups and to not become confused about which friend you are talking about.

Fingerspelling quiz with time, plus a few signs. answerkey-wk6

Numbers: 1,000 +

Our conversational phrase for today: Nice to meet you. Likewise.

Signs we learned this week: Pronouns including self, I, me, my, mine. He, she, it, yours, hers, his, its. Theirs, ours, etc. Also introducing nouns around the house: house, home, bed (room) living room, kitchen, garage, dining room. Book, magazine, newspaper, computer, television, radio.

Deaf culture: I don’t really want to get into this next topic too deeply, but it’s worth introducing, just so that you understand that there are some very different approaches to educating deaf children. I do not take a stand on either side. It is a politically charged, emotional, and controversial topic.  The thing to remember is that people on both sides of the issue want what is best for the deaf child. I am going to put it in its most simplistic terms: there are two camps: one where the kids are brought up in an oral environment (cued speech)-they are taught to lip read, they are taught orally with amplification (hearing aids or cochlear implant) They grow up in a orally focused environment, with English as their primary language. The other camp, again, oversimplified for our brief discussion is a child who is brought up in a signing environment. They grow up with American Sign Language (ASL) as their primary language and they actually have to learn English, through sign language-if that makes sense. The deaf kids who grow up in a signing environment learn visually and usually get more of an identity as a deaf person-there is a whole deaf culture out there. Deaf people do things differently; they think differently about things and they have a strong “identity” as a deaf person. The child raised in an oral environment tends to grow up in a “hearing world” and so doesn’t absorb the deaf culture, but rather assimilates into the hearing world, depending on amplification and lip reading to help them navigate their way. Deaf people raised in a signing environment assimilate too, but in a different way. Neither is better, though both groups would tell you their way is better. It’s just a touchy subject. Think of a hearing parent who has a deaf child: how do they communicate with their own child? Many think that the best way is to raise their deaf child in the same kind of environment they grew up in-a primarily hearing one. They want their children to know and understand English and be able to talk to them. There are other parents who make a different decision and they themselves will learn sign language and raise their child in a visual, signing environment to accommodate the child.

Unrelated to how to raise a deaf child is yet another very interesting group of people: CODA (children of deaf adults). Generally speaking, deaf parents give birth to hearing children and that breeds a whole different set of circumstances. To hear some of the funniest stories about being a hearing child with deaf parents, please check out the CODA BROTHERS. They are hysterical. Not always appropriate for young kids…but always funny. I love watching their very natural use of American Sign Language and listening to their stories of growing up in a deaf household.


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