Erin Michele Lamb An Introduction to Deaf Culture
Language Facts Culturally deaf Americans communicate using American Sign Language or ASL. Sign language is not universal. Different countries use their own unique signs and facial expressions to communicate. ASL is America’s third most used language.
ASL Structure ASL is not just “signed English.” Like all languages, it has its own grammar, vocabulary, and rules. Unlike English, ASL follows a topic/comment sentence structure. For example, the question “What school do you go to?” would be signed “School go-to which?”
Facial Expressions Facial expressions play an important role in all signed languages. Facial expressions not only show feelings and intentions, but they clarify the meaning of words and sentences. In fact, the type of sentence can be changed by just using a different facial expression.
Sentence Types and Their Facial Expressions Statements Yes/No Questions W/H Questions Eyebrows: Up for topic Remain Up Remain Down Head: Nodding Tilt Forward Lips: Pursed together “O” shaped
Helpful Facts “Deaf” and “hard-of-hearing” are culturally acceptable terms. Try to avoid negative terms like “hearing impaired,” “handicapped,” or “disabled” when describing a deaf person. The deaf view their culture and language with pride. They do not consider themselves to be disadvantaged, just different. Communication between a hearing and a deaf person can easily be achieved using written communication. Just remember to have patience!
Resources Video animation is a great way to learn signs.signs. Pre-made lesson plans for teaching ASL to hearing or deaf studentsASL are available online.