An ABC Story

By BitcoDavid

The American manual alphabet in photographs
Fingerspelling alphabet (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

There are two essential reasons why it is harder to learn ASL as a second language, than spoken languages. First, Sign is a conceptual language rather than a symbolic one. The word table, in English, doesn’t mean a thing with four legs that sits in your kitchen. That would be your dog or your grandma. It is only that all English speakers agree from birth that, that particular combination of letters represents the item we’re talking about.

Sign on the other hand, relies on actual concepts. The sign for table shows visually, what the thing is. So it is necessary for the skilled signer to make her signs visually representative of the concepts she’s trying to express. The sign for a small coffee table would be noticeably different from the sign for a huge table in a dining hall.

The second issue is really an extension of the first. Sign relies on space, facial expression and body language. This is really tough to master. It’s not just a simple case of learning vocabulary and grammar. There is no difference in words, between he is going to the store, and I went to the store. The difference in those two sentences would be expressed by using sign space and facial expression. So, I would be talking about an individual and I would point to a predetermined area within my signing space, to indicate that I am talking about that person and not about myself. Similarly, I would use a palm over my shoulder to indicate past tense. A choice between two options is indicated by shifting body weight.

A tool has been developed to help students learn the art of pantomime and facial expression, as well as to get a basic feel for the language. In ABC stories, you don’t generally use traditional signs, although you can where you need them. The idea is to use pantomime and facial expression to convey your idea, but there’s a catch. Each gesture has to contain within it, the letters of the Fingerspelling alphabet – in sequence. So for example, you might use the gesture of swinging a baseball bat but you’d be holding the bat with “a” handshapes. You’d follow that gesture by using a “b” handshape over your eyes to symbolize watching the ball soar over the grandstand. Believe me, it’s harder than you might think.

Here, for your enjoyment is my ABC story.

BitcoDavid is a blogger and a blog site consultant. In former lives, he was an audio engineer, a videographer, a teacher – even a cab driver. He is an avid health and fitness enthusiast and a Pro/Am boxer. He has spent years working with diet and exercise to combat obesity and obesity related illness.

5 thoughts on “An ABC Story

  1. Well, I finally got to see what David looks like! Impressive to see what you have learned about ASL. Love this post. I am going to use it when I discuss some things with some parties regarding Felix’s situation. Pat


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