Myths About American Sign Language

It is easy when you are not a part of a particular subculture to innocently come to believe certain myths about that group. In the case of the deaf, there are some glaring misunderstandings that people may not realize they believe until giving it more thought.

One significant myth is that ASL is universal. If you stop to think about it, you may see that the obvious clue as to why this is not the case is included in the name itself… AMERICAN Sign Language. It does not always occur to hearing individuals that every country has their own sign language system. For example, the sign for “Kangaroo” may vary in the United States and Australia! Similar to oral histories among the hearing, signs are also sometimes passed from one member of a culture to another without having any written record of the language. A related myth is that all deaf people use sign language. It may surprise you to know that some of the deaf are raised orally, which means that they depend solely on lip-reading and talking to communicate with others.

Apart from how deaf people interact with one another, there are a few other prevalent myths about the lives of deaf people that are worth note. First, there is a widespread misconception that deaf people cannot drive. Not only can they drive, they tend to be safer drivers than hearing people, in part due to their need to be particularly alert since they are unable to rely on the same sound cues others may take for granted. A second fallacy in regards to the deaf culture is a belief that they do not appreciate music. Actually, some deaf people find listening to music and feeling the vibrations an enjoyable pastime.

It is important to avoid these myths if you hope to interact successfully in the deaf community, otherwise you may unintentionally assume certain things and raise the risk of offending someone you are trying to make a connection with. The more you learn about the deaf, sign language, ASL and engage in an online program to broaden your understanding of the culture, the richer and more successful your experiences will be.