Signing The Same For A Better Understanding
Sign Language Designed For Easy Communication.
Because no two people are alike, no two people will communicate in exactly the same way. You’ll see that everyone functions differently.
You can study sign language, including international contact between Deaf people, with the same teacher for years, learning all ASL exactly as presented and copying the teacher’s every move.
But, as soon as you get comfortable with signing on your own, your use of ASL will become individualized. You’ll develop your own personal style of signing and nobody else will do it quite the same way you do.
Many of these differences in style are due to physical variations. Some people are very limber and can move quickly. Everything works together the way it should – like a well-made machine. Finders fly, arms move rhythmically up and down, the body bends and turns.
But what about someone who suffers from arthritis or whose movement is otherwise restricted? It’s common sense to realize that if it hurts to move your fingers and hands, your movements will be slower and less fluid than they would be otherwise.
When deafness occurs in the elderly, they may find it becoming increasingly difficult to use sign language due to arthritis and other conditions.
Other physical attributes can also affect signing. Height, weight, and body proportion will affect the way you sign, giving you a style all your own.
Personal differences in signing are no different from personal differences in speaking. Some people speak slowly. Some quickly. Some lisp or have other peculiarities. Usually, we can all manage to make ourselves understood and understand others.
It has been researched that there are regional variations of ASL. Some of these are pronounced and can make it difficult for two signing people to understand each other.
Generally deaf people, who has experienced different types of hearing loss over the years, are accepting of these differences and don’t place values on them. They merely acknowledge them for what they are – differences.
Every language uses some facial expression, but ASL takes it to a different level. Facial expression in ASL not only conveys emotion or emphasis, it tells you a great deal about what kind of sentence or thought is being, and how it is organized.
Something as subtle as blinking the eyes can signal the type of phrase being signed. Eye blinks are used to signal conditional clauses, such as in the sentence, “If the auditorium was damaged in the storm, we’ll hold the meeting somewhere else.”
If eye blinks and several other facial indicators are not used when signing that sentence, the person receiving the information will not understand it.
Without facial expression, the sentence likely would be understood as “The auditorium was damaged, we’ll hold the meeting somewhere else.”
Another use of facial expression is to indicate not only that a question is being asked, but the type of question it is. A ‘yes’ or ‘no’ question is accompanied with raised eyebrow.
When asking a ‘who,’ ‘what,’ ‘when,’ ‘where,’ or’ why,’ question, the eyebrows are kept lowered, and a frown appears on the face.
Speaking people use tone and volume to put meaning in their words. Picture this: Another person is watching you perform a task at home.
Say you’re painting the woodwork around the fireplace. You’ve worked carefully and everything looks great. “Oh, that’s really a great job,” the person says admiringly.
Or, you’ve been particularly sloppy with this job, and paint is all over the carpet and the fireplace bricks, “Oh, that’s really a great job,” the person says scornfully.
You get the point. Same words, but different emphasis and tone. In one case you’re a household hero, in the other case you’d better start looking for someplace else to hang out that evening.
Some people do the same thing, but with facial expression.
Eye contact in sign language is also extremely important. As I said earlier, it is a natural tendency to look at the face of a person who is signing.
Your eyes are naturally drawn there, and many people find it difficult to break eye contact. Again, as our friend Martha Stewart would say, “it’s a good thing.” It is considered rude and disrespectful to look away when someone is signing.
The rules of etiquette differ between signed and spoken language. In spoken conversation, a person is considered a good listener if she watches the person who is speaking and gives signs that she really hears what’s being said. She may nod occasionally, indicating that she is listening intently.
Breaking eye contact with someone who is signing to you is akin to sticking your fingers into your ears when somebody is talking to you. It indicates both a lack of interest and a lack of respect for the signer.
There are exceptions, of course. If you smell something funny and catch a glimpse of flames out of the corner of your eye, it would be foolhardy to stay put for fear of offending someone by breaking eye contact before he or she finishes their story.
Sometimes signers break and then re-establish eye contact with the person receiving the conversation to indicate that they do not wish to be interrupted.
It is customary for the person receiving sign language to wait until the signer looks at him before he starts a turn at signing.
For example, if a person is really enjoying telling his story of his promotion and new secretary, he may avoid looking at you because he’s not ready to end his turn at signing.
“This is not to say that sign language is an exact language, with rules set in stone.”
A group of Deaf people who get together at a club or someone’s home will not sit in an orderly fashion, signing one at a time while the rest of the group maintains constant eye contact.
Everyone’s experience of hearing loss is different. Most people who endure any kind of serious loss, whether it’s physical or emotional, go through the stages of denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.
Other feelings include frustration, embarrassment and sadness. Two common psychological effects of hearing impairment are depression and anxiety.
Depression – A natural reaction to serious loss is depression. Individuals who are depressed often deny or minimize the problem. Signs and symptoms vary and don’t always follow a particular pattern.
But they can include persistent sadness and feelings of hopelessness, loss of appetite, sleep disturbance, extreme mood changes, irritability and poor concentration.
Anxiety – Anxiety involves an extreme sense of fear about what may happen in the future. It often stems from misinformation and fear of the unknown.
Anxiety can be influenced by other factors, such as family history, personality and general outlook on life. Anxiety and depression often go hand in hand.
AMERICAN SIGN ALPHABET
The American Manual Alphabet contains 26 hand shapes that correspond to the letters of the English alphabet. It is used for fingerspelling, a system of communication that involves spelling out words in an alphabetical language.
Fingerspelling can be used by itself, but it’s often used in conjunction with sign language to spell out proper names and technical words. It is cumbersome and time consuming to use as a means of communication by itself.
The average fingerspelling rate is about 60 words per minute, which is only about 40 percent as fast as the normal rate of speaking. People who are deaf and blind will often use finger spelling on its own. One makes hand shapes and movements on the palm of the deaf, blind person person receiving the message.
Some of the handshakes are the exact shapes of the printed block letter they represent and are easy to remember. Some are a bit trickier. You’ve already learned that a hand shape is not a sign, but a tool invented for use in communication.
Manual alphabets are not natural languages, but useful additions to those languages. The handshakes are relatively easy and can be learned in just a few hours. But more practice will be necessary before you’ll be fully comfortable and proficient in fingerspelling.
Certain signs tend to vary more than others. Signs for holidays vary greatly from region to region. It is thought that this is due to children in Deaf residential schools who invented signs for Christmas, Easter, Valentine’s Day, and other holidays to represent something that was special to them about the day.
If kids at one school received chocolate on Valentine’s Day, for instance, the sign they invented might reflect that gift. It could be something completely different, though, for the children who observed Valentine’s Day in a different manner.
One thing is certain – American signs reflect American culture. It is intriguing to begin to understand the origins of signs. The sign for “store,” for instance, reflects something particular about stores as viewed in American culture.
It used to be, and still is in many cases, that most stores had bells above their doors so that shopkeepers would be alerted when customers entered. The ASL sign for store, hands in the “O” handshape, held at shoulder level with the wrist rotating out two times, is indicative of ringing bells.
In Jamaica, the sign for “store,” formed with the hands held above the head, reflects the cultural tradition of carrying a basket on the head to and from a store.
Although there is not yet a formalized international sign language, there are some signs that seem to be widely accepted as international; for example, the proper names of countries. Deaf people in Belgium have their own sign for their country, as do deaf people in other countries.
But people in other countries do not use the same sign for Belgium the Belgians do. They do have their own signs for Belgium.
It is becoming more acceptable and politically correct, however (if nothing else, the ’90’s will be remembered as being the era of political correctness) to use the sign that is the choice of the people of a particular country.
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(Also See How To Integrate Deaf Culture In Your Family | What You Must Do)
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