Have you ever been watching television and you see one person talking, but there is another person using their hands to talk.
They are using their hands to talk to deaf people, people who cannot hear the T.V. or the person speaking in front of them. They are using something called American Sign Language or ASL for short.
We can use our ears to hear but deaf people rely on their eyes to understand.They use sign language to communicate. Deaf people often depend on someone who can hear and knows sign language to interpret for them. "Interpret" means changing from one language to another, like changing from Spanish to English. The interpreter listens to the person speaking and then changes that into sign language for the deaf person.
We use sign language a lot and don't realize it.
Can you tell what these signs mean?
On this page we are going to help you learn to communicate with someone who is deaf. A person is "deaf" when they cannot hear. Some people are only partly deaf but still need to use special ways to communicate.
Pretend that you are at the airport and you are trying to find your parents. But, everyone you ask for help speaks a different language. You hear someone over a loud speaker calling your name and telling you where to meet your parents, but it is in a language you don't understand. Imagine how great it would be to have someone come up to and ask you in English if they can help you find them.
Deaf people are very thankful for people who learn their language. It means that they can make new friends and that there are people in the world that can help them when it is necessary to get information that only comes from hearing.
The first book on sign language was in 1620, to help deaf people talk to each other. In 1755 the first school for deaf students was founded in Paris.
A picture of early sign language.
A man named Gallaudet went to see the deaf school in Paris. He wanted to help deaf children in the United States. He asked one of the teachers to come back to America and help him start a deaf school. He started one in Connecticut, in 1815.
This teacher taught Mr. Gallaudet sign language that they used in the Paris deaf school. This has changed over time and eventually became the language that is used by deaf people in America. (Different countries use different signs. Some signs vary between states here in the U.S.)
It is estimated that close to one-half million people in the U.S. use sign language today.
It takes a long time to learn a new language, it is the same with sign language. You must learn all the signs just like we had to learn all names of things when we were little.
But if you first learn how to use your fingers to spell, you can spell out the things you are trying to say. (The alphabet below can only be used in places where they use these signs, mostly the United States.) There are many videos online that can help you learn sign language.
But, let's start by learning the ABCs of sign language, sometimes called the "signed alphabet." Here they are:
<Click this icon to see a larger version of this chart and to print out a copy for practicing.
It helps if you practice these in the mirror and compare your hand to the hands on this sheet.
Maybe when you are older you might want to be an interpreter for deaf people. You can take special classes and learn ASL in most states. You might want to contact your local deaf school for more information.
If you don't live in the U.S., you can most likely find information online about a deaf school or classes to learn your version of sign language.