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American Sign Language: All You Need to Know

The image represents the words ‘A’ ‘S’ ‘L’ from the right corner. According to a research from Schein and Delk in 1974, American Sign Language speakers constitute the third-largest population “requiring an interpreter in court”. The number of users of ASL across the US varies as the researchers are unable to identify the standard of an ASL user. But It exceeds 10 million users over the nation according to some research. If you are thinking of learning ASL as your career choice, you came to the right place to know. I am gonna tell you from the history of ASL to it’s usage, career path, difficulties, tips to overcome struggles and many more.

ASL: Basic Knowledge

What Type of Language is ASL?

American sign language is not a phonetic language. You will learn it as a visual gesture language which uses signs from the wrist and fingers to communicate. You may find it surprizing but there are more than 15 million approximate users of ASL in the USA and Canada.

Is ASL a Gesture Version of English?

You will find it difficult to believe that American Sign Language is not an imitation of English Language in any possible way. The grammar and sentence making are totally different in ASL. ASL has no capitalized word as English. It will come as a great surprise to you that ASL has more connection to spoken Japanese and Navajo than to English. 

Is There a Lingua Franca for Sign Language?

It is technically not possible to have a universal language for signs. Different cultures, communities developed their own sign language for deafs so that they can communicate in that culture. 

Even if a universal sign language is possible, it has not been developed yet. A native English Speaker generally understands what a British or Australian says. But ASL users will not understand British Sign Language (BSL) or Australian Sign Language (Auslan).

Origin of American Sign Language

American School for the Deaf (ASD), founded in Hartford, Connecticut in 1817 is considered the birthplace for ASL. When Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet became successful in teaching sign language to a young deaf girl and wanted to learn European sign techniques to enhance his method. So French Sign Language (SLF) played a major role in development of ASL. 

Although people did not consider sign language as a major way of communication before 1950. But now ASL is the most used language by deafs all over the world by numbers. Remember one thing again, ASL, BSL, Auslan, SLF are completely different sign languages now. You know one sign language never means you will understand another.

Who Takes ASL Classes?

ASL classes are for two types of people.

Try Our Online ASL Certificate Course

ASL as A Career Choice

If you reached this point then you have an interest to grow your career in ASL interpreter. Sign language interpreters get a lot of money annually from this job. As of Jul 29, 2020 you can get at an average $4,828 a month by interpreting the Sign Language jobs in the United States.

While you see in Ziprecruiter monthly salaries as high as $9,167 and as low as $1,833. The majority of American Sign Language Interpreters get salaries ranging between $3,500 (25th percentile) to $5,708 (75th percentile) across the United States.

ASL worth

ASL Interpreters: Fields and Qualifications

American Sign Language interpreters use ASL verified signs, fingerspelling, and body language to bridge communication between the deaf, hearing patient, and hearing communities. You can get employed as an ASL interpreter in

You have to be fluent in both English, and ASL and generally have a bachelor’s degree. Optional certification from online portals can also add value to your employment. The US government gave the following criteria to become a professional ASL interpreter. 

ASL syl

Demand for ASL Interpreter Online

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the demand for Sign Language Interpreters may increase upto 19% (much faster than the average) by 2028. 

ASL Data

Interpreting jobs tend to grow rapidly due to the use of video relay service and video remote interpreting technologies. These technologies will allow you real-time ASL interpretation through video calling over high-speed Internet connections. 

You can find employment opportunities in educational and religious institutions by online as well as social service, community and arts organizations. By the time your interpreting skills sharpen, you can apply for International interpreter jobs in the UN, EU, G7, etc. and may establish careers in legal or medical interpretation.

Enrol in Certificate in American Sign Language Become an International Interpreter

Types of Sign Language

As you know, there is no universal sign language. You can find as many as 135 sign languages in the world. American Sign Language, British Australian New Zealand Sign Language, Arabic Sign Language, Japanese Sign Language, Spanish Sign Language are popular among them. It is really strange and surprising that only 2 hands can be used for thousands of visual gestures in sign language. 

The interesting fact is that you are not going to find any similarities in between two different sign languages although they share almost the same root (American-Canadian and British, French and American, Spanish and French, Arabic and Hebrew and so on.)

 

To give you a clear concept, look at ASL and BSL in the infographics below-

Asl Alphabet

Look at this Arabic Sign Language. Gestures are different with fingers than the American and British Sign Language. Even Spanish, French and other Latin root phonetic languages are completely different in sign language.  

Arabic Sign Language

Fingerspelling: the Secret of Difference

FIngerspelling is the imitation of alphabetic language by signing letters. If you want to spell your name ‘Mr. X’ in the ASL letters, you have to know fingerspelling first. Different countries have different pronunciation of the same letter. That is the reason for having different American and British sign language despite being the very same language for us.

Tips for Fingerspelling

If you already know to fingerspell each letter of the alphabet, then it is time to sharpen the sentences or phrases. Though it depends on your adaptability to master a language, I can at least give you some tips. 

Canadian Exception

If you live in Canada and are looking to learn Canadian Sign Language then pause there. Canada uses ASL and FSQ (Langue des Signes Québécoise) officially as they have native English (argumentally similar to American) and French speakers a lot. So if you know ASL, it is not just in the US but you get a chance to grow your career in Canada also. 

Get Certificate in American Sign Language Course

Sign language: A Different World of Communication

An English-speaking guy would never understand American Sign Language. This may sound weird to you but it is true. 

Why Learning Sign Language is Important

Sign language is beneficial and important for many reasons. You will find a normal kid with sign language skills more communicative, social, creative than a regular one. Your IQ might click a high notch if you learn Sign Language. These are the importance for learning Sign Language.  

Improves Spelling

You can find in this research that children with basic sign language skills (such as American Sign Language – ASL) of signing the alphabet can have improved spelling ability. Signing leaves an imprint on the brain to help kids better memorise the words. Your muscles have their own mini-memories. If you add signing a word to oral spelling then it becomes easier for you to remember even as an adult.

Communication

Fluency in sign language allows you to communicate with hearing, hard of hearing, and deaf individuals. You can talk with students in mainstream and deaf school or university programs and deaf or hard of hearing and business-related people in your community. Sign Language also improves your family communication for hearing people with deaf or hard of hearing family members.

Improves Finger Movement/Motor Skill

You can largely develop your motor skills because of the movement required for communicating with hand gestures. If you are struggling with small muscle strength and coordination, sign language can build these. You even get to learn a new language. 

Career Opportunities for Sign Language Interpreters

The most exciting career path open to you as a bilingual hearing professional is interpretation. The urgency of qualified ASL interpreters (mentioned earlier) is increasing in the community and mainstream programs in schools and colleges/universities. Your demand as an interpreter is in hospitals, courts, governmental agencies, community activities, and local, county, and state legislatures. You already know the salaries of the interpreters.  

You can also work as professionals in public and private agencies and educational settings. Such professions include teachers, counselors, consultants, therapists, and specialists. You can teach law enforcement and emergency response workers to get benefit from a knowledge of ASL. 

ASL Training Online Programs

Suppose you are not a person to go outside the town to learn or can not manage time to study at Gallaudet University in person. Then check out these courses which offer flexibility in ASL Certification Course.

John Academy

This tremendous education portal offers the best courses at a reasonable cost all over the country online. Certificate in American Sign Language (ASL) Online Course will offer you a level 2 certification. You can learn alphabets, numbers, colors, animals, family, and many more throughout the course. Check out the link to see for yourself. You can get the entire course at $199.00 regular price with 60% to 90% discount as well. So why wait? 

Udemy

Udemy offers a lot of contentful courses on ASL. Despite being a relatively old education portal, Udemy still manages to get many students. Check out the American Sign Language Level 1 course to know more. 

Gallaudet University

Gallaudet University is the founder of ASL in the USA. They offer interactive courses online with a tremendous opportunity to learn. Check out Online ASL courses to know more. However, they hike as many as $300 for each class. If you are looking for a graduation degree and full time teaching in classes, you should give it a shot.  

Take Lessons Live

TakeLessonsLive is a different learning portal than others. They offer multi scheduled live sessions for learning American Sign Language. You can question the instructor and get immediate feedback. This allows you to learn promptly and interactively. Check out the link to learn more.  

Sign Language 101

This site is instructed by Byron Bridges. He was born deaf and grew up in a deaf family. So you will get practical knowledge on this site. More exciting is that Byron offers free courses to learn ASL (although they receive donations if you find them useful).

Why Certification is Important?

In the USA, the online courses should be accredited from an authorized accreditation body. If you find IAO (International Accreditation Organization) and CIQ accreditation, take the course without second thought. The certificates from such a website carries a diploma value and high professional ground. You can easily outperform any competitor for a job with such a valued certificate. 

Is It Easy to Learn ASL if You Know English

Well, American Sign Language has a technique of fingerspelling English alphabets. But it does not indicate that ASL is an imitation of the English language. Yes, you will get an advantage for knowing English. But without proper hard work, you can not succeed. Let me tell you some points to make it clear-

Is American Sign Language Natural

ASL is a newborn language compared to other phonetic languages. But it is a natural language as children can learn it subconsciously. 

Visual Learning

American Sign Language is a visual learning process. Many of us learn things visually rather than hearing or saying anything (motor mechanics learn that way). So it is possible that you can learn ASL better and quicker if you have a habit of Visual learning. For deaf kids,visual learning is their primary and probably the only learning medium.

Unique Gestures to Express Words

Although there are gestures to express English words in ASL, ASL has unique ways to symbolize a feeling. If you are not familiar with these signs and symbols, a tenured English Professor would not understand the meaning of ASL. 

Different Sentence Structure

Deaf people can use a higher amount of brain in thinking and processing than regular people because of their less sensory usage. So sentence structure is quite different and without extra prefixes and suffixes. Say for 

English: Frank is throwing a ball.

ASL: Frank-Ball-Throw

Different Tense Rules

ASL and most of the sign languages have a short and easy way to express tense sense. In ASL,

Closing Note

American Sign Language is an interesting communication medium when you get to understand the signs. It feels amazing when you can communicate without even writing or pronouncing a single word. Yet you manage to throw an entire speech or lecture just by palm movements and facial expressions. The urge for highly qualified (with a graduation) Sign Language Interpreters are increasing in the US and Canada along with lucrative salaries. 

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October 29, 2020

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