The Sign Language Alphabet

The Sign Language Alphabet

Sign language is the third most commonly used language in America today. The ASL alphabet or the Alphabet for American Sign Language is said to have come to be by way of two means. At first it was only thought the ASL Alphabet was brought to America by Laurent Clerc a Deaf man who taught Deaf students in the first School for the Deaf in Hartford, Conn. He is said to have adopted many aspects of FSL (French Sign Language) in his teachings. New evidence says that sign language was partly already here in America at Chilmark and West Tisbury on Martha's Vineyard where a large collection of Deaf individuals communicated clearly and efficiently regardless of their lack of effective education. From any perspective, sign always has and always will be evolving similar to English as it has evolved over the years since America broke away from England.

The ASL Alphabet is a collection of hand shapes (classifiers) that represent a letter of the alphabet in the English language. These symbols are tools of a visual language that are essential to the communication of Deaf and Hard of Hearing peoples. That said; the fluent ASL user actually uses finger spelling sparingly. Letters are commonly used mainly for names, jargon, and slang. Hearing people who are just learning sign often use finger spelling as a safety net for words they don't know in sign or signs they can't remember in the moment (Nice! This can not be done whilst learning any other language).
It is very important that letters are shown clearly and precisely as possible, although, the fluent ASL user can do this, while, moving their hands very quickly, requiring lots of practice for beginning students of ASL if they want to keep up with the conversation.

Typically younger students of ASL can pick up fingerspelling very quickly. Older users are very able as well, though ambidexterity may be a little weaker, therefore requiring more hand and finger manipulating practice. Fingerspell to yourself in front of a mirror for practice and/or socialize with Deaf people is very popular; this is an ever accepted and highly encouraged method of mastering the language. There are many tips that can help you pick up the alphabet more fluently, like, spelling words in the news paper as you read, spelling street signs as you pass them by, even practicing during a boring work meeting is easy, simply sign "spell" the names of your colleague under a table or at your side.

Learning the Sign Language Alphabet is not all you will need to know to be able to communicate with Deaf and Hard of Hearing people; ASL has hundreds of vocabulary words as well as its own structure and grammar, but it is your first step into their world.

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