Myths About American Sign Language (ASL)

Myth #1:  American Sign Language is Universal.

American Sign Language is not universal.  This myth is often shared by the majority of the hearing community.  American Sign Language is learned by the majority of the Deaf community in North America.  In addition, there are other countries that have adopted American Sign Language as their form of a visual language.  Furthermore, American Sign Language is a derivative of French Sign Language (FSL).  People, who know American Sign Language, or French Sign Language, would be able to communicate pretty well with each other.  However, just because one country speaks English, does not mean their sign language system would be used in another country that also speaks English.  The more you know about American Sign Language, the more you will realize that it is not a universal language.

Myth #2:   American Sign Language is Shorthand.

Numerous people believe that American Sign Language is a form of shorthand.  And, these people would be incorrect.  American Sign Language is not a form of shorthand, but a complex language system with linguistic components.  Many people have this belief because American Sign Language does not have a written component to it.  Instead, American Sign Language is a manual way of communicating with those who can, and cannot hear.  The next time you hear someone say that American Sign Language is a form of shorthand, you can politely correct them.

Myth #3:  All Deaf People use American Sign Language.

This myth is definitely false.  There are many deaf people that do not know, or learn American Sign Language, for one reason or another.  Some deaf people grow up learning how to read lips and talk in order to communicate with those around them.  Other deaf people are raised in an environment where he or she learns American Sign Language as their primary language.  Regardless of which method one learns, now you know that all deaf people are raised differently, with different communication methods.

Myth #4:  American Sign Language is Easy to Learn.

American Sign Language is not easy to learn.  In fact, it takes many years to “Master” this language.  In order to learn American Sign Language, it is imperative to interact with the Deaf community.   People often think that by completing a couple of classes in American Sign Language, one would be able to interpret or sign at a proficient level.  However, this belief is definitely completely wrong.  To learn American Sign Language, it takes the same amount of time, or longer as a spoken language, to learn or master.  The more you practice your American Sign Language skills, the better you will become.

 Myth #5:  Parents of Deaf Children Learn American Sign Language.

Ninety percent of deaf children are born to hearing parents, of which, seventy-five percent do not know American Sign Language.  Many times, parents with deaf children do not learn how to sign.  Instead, they force their children to learn how to lip read and talk in order to communicate with them and other family members.  On average, lip reading is the least effective way to communicate with those who are deaf.

2 thoughts on “Myths About American Sign Language (ASL)

  1. Myth#5
    I am the parent of 3 deaf children and I agree with what you said. I learned sign language (and still learning ASL) and all their siblings did also in order to communicate together as a family. But we learned the hard way, as the area that we lived in years ago tried to have us use the oral approach–which caused our oldest child (that was deaf) to get way behind in his education because of their methods. I am happy that through our struggle to get sign language taught, however, it made a big difference in the education of the other two children. I am an artist and writer, and have since established a non-profit company dedicated to producing materials for parents of the deaf in ASL (DVDs in American Sign Language). Our goal is to provide these materials to libraries throughout the country, for free, so that deaf children everywhere can have books (DVDs) in their primary language–ASL, just as libraries now have many Audio books available for Blind children.

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