Diversity In American Sign Language

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The culture and pride found surrounding the Deaf community is a concept that remains foreign to English speakers. There are generalizations and misconceptions about those who identify as deaf of hard of hearing. Being truly proficient in American Sign Language (ASL) is not purely based on signing skills. Those who are considered fluent signers are those who understand the underlying concepts and conversational innuendos, such as idioms.
American Sign Language is a visual-gestural language currently being used by approximately 250,000-500,000 Americans of all ages (Baker-Shenk 47). The language was developed from French Sign Language through the collaboration of Laurent Clerc and Thomas Gallaudet in 1817 (Shaw 158). Before this time, there
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Before attending, my instructor warned that there is a vast difference between signing in a classroom setting and attempting to converse at “Deaf speed.” There is one particular Deaf chat that is seared in my memory. I was enrolled in the first section of American Sign Language and UCF and I ventured to a near-by restaurant for a Deaf chat hosted by the ASL Club. I approached a young male signer hoping that he would take pity on my novice skills. There were many things that I didn’t catch and I had to ask him to sign slower. I attempted to tell my partner that a lot of his signs “went over my head,” which is a fairly common expression in spoken English. He gave me the weirdest look as I tried to explain to him what I meant. From there I learned about TRAIN GONE, SORRY. This is a fixed expression consisting of more than one sign, and its meaning is not based on the meanings of the two separate signs (Baker-Shenk 119). The underlying meaning is, “sorry you missed it and I am not going to repeat it,” congruent with the English phrase, “you missed the …show more content…
Idioms are commonly defined as expressions that take on their own meaning that cannot be understood outside of the meanings of the individual words. “For example, there is a figurative extension for the sign BLUE, which means ‘to feel blue.’ In English the word ‘blue’ without any change in form can be used to mean ‘blue in color’ and ‘depressed’ or ‘sad’; but in ASL the figurative extension of BLUE is made with the same handshape and the same location but with a change in quality of movement. BLUE, the color sign, has a repeated twist of the wrist; BLUE, the derivative sign, has a single slow arcing movement” (Bellugi 21).
Another example of a common ASL idiom is FISH-SWALLOW, meaning that someone is acting gullible. The spoken English counterpart is “swallow something hook, line, and sinker.” You can sign this about yourself or about another person by referencing. This phrase is used humorously after someone regrettably misplaced his or her trust.
There are several idioms found in ASL that have no spoken English equivalent. One example of this is SCRATCH-FOREHEAD. A nonnative signer may interpret this as meaning confused because of how we interpret body language. However, the true meaning is along the times of “scarred for life” or “I will never forget that” (Baker-Shenk

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