American Sign Language is the predominant form of communication among the deaf population in the United States and many parts of Canada. It incorporates hand gestures, facial expressions, and body language into a comprehensive linguistic system.
ASL traces its history to New England in the early 1800s, when Thomas Hopkins Gallaude, a Protestant minister, set up a school specifically for deaf students. Prior to this time, most communication with deaf persons was in “home signing,” unable to be shared in the wider community. Several of Gallaude’s students went on to found other similar schools, and a variation of the language he taught became standardized over time in the US.
ASL is not a direct translation of English words into motion symbols, but rather a system with its own grammatical rules. Learning and practicing the language is a fun experience, and provides a student with the lifelong opportunity to communicate with the deaf community.
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