What is ASL specifically?

ALS, or American Sign Language is the primary language of the deaf and is the 4th most common language spoken in English speaking North America. ASL is a real living language which means that because it is still being used today, it is constantly evolving and changing over time, just like we see with all languages. In comparisons, Latin is considered a dead language and because of this is used in scientific contexts for naming various structures and organism as it ensures that the labels remain the same going forward. If enough people adopt new variations to pre-existing words, ASL will also change. For this reason, ASL, like all languages has regional differences/regional dialect. This means different communities sign words differently. Think of the word “boot” which means a shoe in North America, yet in England it refers to the trunk of a car. Keep this in mind as you learn various ASL signs referred to in this course and cross referencing these signs to other sources. Not all signs will be exactly the same and now you know why!

Above: I LOVE YOU is a fun sign to teach baby!

ASL is a system of communication, just like spoken English which has its very own set of rules for grammar, punctuation and syntax, or sentence order. For example, take the sentence “Look, red bird!” Now imagine signing each word in the sentence. Can you imagine what the outcome might be? You’re right, if you signed the word LOOK, then the rest of your sentence would go unnoticed since you’ve directed someone to look away! Instead, you would sign “Red bird, look” to avoid having them look away before getting the full message. Said another way, speaking English, using correct grammar and performing ASL at the same time, following all the rules for each language, is entirely impossible.

This is actually a blessing for signing parents, because it means that we can ignore the finer rules of ASL to our advantage. So for our needs we won’t be worried about grammar, punctuation or syntax! I’ve just mentioned this for your own knowledge should your interest in signing and ALS progress further than your immediate needs with your baby.

This course will not teach you to be fluent in ASL, and throughout the course, you won’t be learning much more than about 350 individual words at the very extreme and this is if you get absolutely dedicated to baby signing (which some of us inevitably do)! The vast majority of signing parents and babies, however, learn just 30-60 signs and this is perfectly fine, and what baby sign language is really designed to accomplish. Some parents start off thinking that they want to sign one hundred percent of the time, covering all words in a sentence, however this is totally unnecessary and possibly even counterproductive. So take a deep breath, this is very easy, trust me!

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