We have had a lot of people comment on regional signs and express an interest in more information on this interesting aspect of American Sign Language. Just like there are different forms of sign language in different countries, many areas in our country express things in varying ways. As the title of this entry suggests, if you are from Michigan, you better use the word POP when referring to Coca-Cola, but many regions refer to that type of drink as SODA, and some call ALL those fizzy drinks “Coke.” More to the point, people in different areas of the United States have different accents when speaking English. Well, the same could be said for sign language. Not only are there variations by individual (just like members of the hearing population have their own way of speaking), there are often multiple signs for the same concept depending on where you are. Sure, this can be confusing, but it’s all part of what makes languages unique and one of reminders that it doesn’t hurt to ask.
When people travel, they often describe what they experience as a twist on something familiar to them. Noticing these differences provides a great opportunity to connect with locals and ask them more. The same goes for sign language! Not sure what message the person is trying to convey? Just ask! It will put you one more step toward understanding this rich language beyond your own circle, and help accomplish the ASLdeafined goal of fostering better communication. That sounds like a win-win to us. Languages are always in flux, growing and changing to suit the needs of the population, so that is why we have never tried to trap this ever-changing dynamic in lessons, because the minute we claim something is signed a certain way somewhere, you can bet someone else is putting their own touch on it.
Have you ever encountered regional signs? We would love to hear your story. Have some spare time today or in your classroom? Have some fun and ponder the idea of how the area where you live has its own way of doing things and what you think might be a good sign variation or new sign to express that. If you’re truly inspired, videotape the results and share on one of our Facebook groups. We look forward to seeing what your students comes up with!