5 Common Misconceptions and Truths About American Sign Language

American Sign Language or ASL, like any other foreign language, has fallen prey to many misconceptions. These misconceptions make it difficult for people to hire skilled services and make the lives of deaf people around us better. Many laws have made it mandatory for enterprises to hire these services to encourage employment opportunities for people with hearing disabilities. But since your judgment would be laden with these misconceptions, you might hire the wrong person for the job – impacting the understanding and clarity. Simply put, knowing the truth behind these misconceptions will help you hire the right talent. Here are five myths and facts about American sign language

Myths and the truth about American Sign Language

ASL translates English through hands

ASL has some commonality with spoken English; however, it doesn’t represent American English words. ASL has its unique sentence structure and symbols to communicate different words and ideas to people with disabilities. ASL includes: 

  • Hand Movements
  • Hand Shape 
  • Palm Orientation
  • Hand Location
  • Gestures like facial expression and posture

The words of English are communicated using fingerspelling and hand motion. It is not a part of American Sign Language but is a separate element of communication.

ASL is Shorthand 

Many people think that ASL is shorthand or a way to communicate rapidly. But just because it uses abbreviations and symbols, it doesn’t make it shorthand. Shorthand is used for taking down notes rapidly during verbal communication. Since ASL does not include any written component, it is clearly a myth. ASL is a complex language and has its linguistic elements. 

ASL is like British Sign Language

Since America and UK use English as spoken language, many think American Sign Language and British Sign Language are the same. But no, they have a huge difference. The American sign language is taken from French Sign Language. Meanwhile, British Sign Language is adopted from Australian Auslan and New Zealand Sign Language. This alone makes a huge difference between the gestures, hand movements, hand shape and sentence structuring.

ASL is Finger Spelling 

Fingerspelling is only a small part of Sign Language, used to communicate the words taken from the English language, for e.g., proper nouns and technical terms.  Other critical factors listed in ‘Myth#1’ predominantly help establish communication between ASL interpreters and persons with disabilities. Technically speaking, there are 22 handshapes that represent the English alphabet. When held in a particular position or movement, they represent all 26 letters of the English alphabet.

Lip reading is effective as compared to any sign language

Factually, only 30% of English can be read through lip reading by people with hearing disabilities. Lip reading is not an effective method and cannot be used as an alternative for one-way communication. And establishing two-way communication is nearly impossible through lip reading.

Wrapping up

These were some common misconceptions about American Sign Language; we hope that by knowing the truth, you will be able to make a better choice while hiring an ASL interpreter with the right skill set and make communication easy between people with disabilities and other employees your organization.

Author: Salvador Moreno