What Is American Sign Language (ASL)?

What Is American Sign Language (ASL)?

American Sign Language is a visual language that is used by people who are deaf or hard of hearing. ASL is their first language, just like English is for people who speak English. ASL has its own grammar, culture, and history. It is not a manual representation of spoken English, and it is not a signed version of English. It is a separate language.

What is ASL?

American Sign Language (ASL) is a visual language that uses hand shapes, gestures, facial expressions, and body language to communicate. It is the primary language of many deaf people in North America and parts of Canada. ASL is a distinct language with its own grammar and syntax and is not related to English. However, it borrows from English word order rules.

ASL has its own vocabulary, which includes signs for common words such as “please,” “thank you,” “you’re welcome,” “I’m sorry,” “excuse me,” and “goodbye.” The sign for each word is made by combining two or more features of ASL grammar. For example, the sign for please involves combines the features of movement, orientation, expression, and hand shape.

There are different dialects of ASL used in different regions of North America. Some dialects are more commonly used than others, but all are equally valid ways of communicating in ASL.

History of ASL

The history of American Sign Language (ASL) can be traced back to early 19th-century France. The first known deaf person to use a form of signed communication was Frenchman Charles Michel de l’Eppe, who developed a system called methodical signs. This system was later brought to the United States by Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet, who is considered the “father” of ASL.

ASL began to take shape in the 1820s when Gallaudet met and worked with a young deaf man named Laurent Clerc. Together, they established the first school for the deaf in America, now known as Gallaudet University. After years of teaching ASL at this school, Clerc eventually returned to his native France where he helped spread ASL throughout Europe.

Today, ASL is used by hundreds of thousands of people in North America and is one of the most popular forms of sign language in the world. It has also been influenced by other sign languages, such as British Sign Language (BSL) and French Sign Language (LSF).

Who Uses ASL?

There are many different groups of people who use ASL. Some of the most common include:

  • Deaf people: ASL is the primary mode of communication for many deaf people in the United States. It is also used by deaf people in other countries, although the signs may be slightly different.
  • Hard-of-hearing people: Some hard-of-hearing people use ASL as their main form of communication. Others may use it in addition to spoken language, or they may only use it when they cannot communicate verbally.
  • People who work with deaf or hard-of-hearing people: This includes teachers, interpreters, counselors, and others who frequently work with deaf or hard-of-hearing individuals. Many of these professionals are fluent in ASL.
  • People who have family or friends who are deaf or hard of hearing: Many hearing people learn ASL so that they can communicate better with their loved ones.

Grammar and Structure of ASL

ASL is a grammatically complex language with a unique structure. It is not simply a signed version of English, but a distinct language with its own rules and grammar. ASL has its own syntax, or sentence structure, which is different from English. For example, ASL sentences are often constructed around the verb, rather than the subject-verb-object order of English sentences. This can make ASL sentences appear to be backward when translated directly into English.

ASL also has a different morphology, or word formation system, then English. For instance, there are no separate words for “he,” “she,” and “it” in ASL. Instead, the same sign is used for all three pronouns, and the context of the conversation determines which pronoun is meant. Additionally, there are no plural forms of nouns in ASL – instead, a quantity sign is used to indicate that more than one item is being referred to.

The grammar and structure of ASL can take some time to get used to, but it is a beautiful and expressive language that is well worth the effort to learn!

How to Learn ASL

American Sign Language, is a visual language used by deaf people in the United States and Canada. It is a complex language with its own grammar, syntax, and vocabulary. Learning ASL can be a challenge, but it is also a rewarding experience.

Here are some tips on how to learn ASL:

  1. Find a good ASL teacher. A good ASL teacher will be able to help you learn the basics of the language and provide guidance as you progress.
  2. Use resources like books, websites, and videos. There are many great resources available to help you learn ASL. Make use of them!
  3. Practice, practice, practice! The best way to learn any language is to practice it as often as possible. So find some friends or fellow students who are also interested in learning ASL and practice together as often as you can.

American Sign Language Resources

ASL is a visual language that uses hand gestures, body language, and facial expressions to communicate. It is the primary language of deaf and hard-of-hearing people in the United States and most of Canada.

There are a variety of resources available for those interested in learning ASL or improving their skills.

Here are a few:

  • ASL dictionaries: These can be used to look up signs for words or phrases you don’t know.
  • ASL courses: Formal courses can be taken online or in person, depending on your location and schedule.
  • Practice materials: There are a number of websites and apps that offer practice materials, such as videos of ASL conversations or quizzes on grammar and vocabulary.


American Sign Language is a beautiful way to communicate with others, regardless of whether they are deaf, hard of hearing, or hearing. It is a language that is rich in culture and history, and it is a skill that can be used to connect with people from all walks of life. Whether you are interested in learning ASL for personal or professional reasons, we hope this article has given you a better understanding of what it is and why it matters.

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