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Five Common Misconceptions About American Sign Language

Let’s look at five misconceptions associated with American Sign Language.

American Sign Language (ASL), like any foreign language, falls prey to a wide array of misconceptions from people who have less familiarity with the language.

While it is called “American” Sign Language, this doesn’t mean it shares all of the same traits as the English language and is simply a representation of English that uses hands and gestures.

But ASL is different from that. Let’s look at five misconceptions associated with ASL.

ASL Is “English On The Hands”

ASL has very little in common with the spoken English language and is not simply representing English using motions. American Sign Language was formed independently of the English language and uses a unique sentence structure, as well as symbols, for different words and ideas.

The main features of ASL are:

Hand Shape

Palm Orientation

Hand Movement

Hand Location

Gestural Features (posture and facial expression)

While the English alphabet is used to spell words in English, this isn’t a part of ASL. It’s a separate, independent part of signed communication.

ASL Is Shorthand

Another misunderstanding about American Sign Language is that it’s a form of speedy communication that uses abbreviations and symbols. This misconception stems from the fact that there isn’t a written component of ASL.

ASL Is Most Like British Sign Language

The United States and the United Kingdom do share spoken English as their primary language. However, American Sign Language and British Sign Language have great variation.

Did you know American Sign Language has French Sign Language roots, while British Sign Language had more influence in the developing of Australian Auslan and New Zealand Sign Language?

ASL Is Finger Spelling

American Sign Language uses fingerspelling when borrowing words from the English language for their proper nouns and certain technical terms that don’t have an ASL equivalent. Examples of when fingerspelling is appropriate to include when people talk about names, places, brands, and titles.

Whenever fingerspelling is used in ASL, it uses the American Fingerspelled Alphabet. This alphabet uses 22 hand shapes. When held in specific positions or using certain movements, these shapes can represent all 26 letters of the English alphabet.

Lip Reading Is An Effective Alternative To Learning Sign Language

It has been estimated that only around 30% of English can be read through lip movements by the deaf and hard of hearing. Lip reading is also not effective because it is a one-way method of communicating with someone. What this means that communication only goes from one person to the other instead of back and forth. American Sign Language is a two-way method of communication, meaning people can take turns speaking and listening.

Family Service Foundation Can Help You Reach Out

Family Service Foundation provides mental health and social support services that encourage growth in our clients, change their lives for the better, and enrich the community. We provide world-class mental health and community social services to individuals throughout the state of Maryland, bettering their lives and enabling them to reach their highest potential.

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This entry was posted on Wednesday, June 19th, 2019 at 7:58 pm . You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

At Family Service Foundation (FSF), a social services organization in Baltimore, Maryland, we are dedicated to providing advocacy and support to individuals with mental and physical disabilities that have recently left inpatient settings. Integration back into the community can be difficult; for that reason, each member of our team works to provide services specifically tailored to each individual and family that we work with. We believe that all individuals can achieve their highest levels of social, physical, and emotional well-being in the community when they have the proper support. FSF specializes in serving Deaf, Deaf-Blind, and individuals with intellectual disabilities. We also have American Sign Language interpreters on staff at all of our locations for the convenience of our Deaf and hard of hearing clients. For more information about The Family Service Foundation, please visit our website at or give us a call at 301-459-2121.
5301 76th Ave
Landover Hills