Learning ASL

Discussion in 'General Advice' started by Enzel, Apr 4, 2015.

  1. Enzel

    Enzel androgynous jrpg protag

    So, it's been on my List of Useful Things to learn for a while for various reasons, but I've been concerned about my ability to communicate with it because I understand ASL requires eye contact/strong facial expressions and...I generally don't like looking at faces, especially the faces of people I don't know. I'm not very good at reading expressions either and that's probably related. The exception is people I know well, like the person I date, but I look at her face because I like her face, not really for communication...

    I think it's at least partially an anxiety thing, and I remember being put off by Deaf people when very young because of the no volume control/strong facial expressions combo. I have since grown up and can understand that other people have different experiences, etc etc, and I think knowing ASL is a good life skill. I just am not sure how much of a deal breaker the face thing is w communication/if there are any workarounds maybe.
  2. Lissa Lysik'an

    Lissa Lysik'an Dragon-loving Faerie

    I do not look at faces. People's faces are scary.
    ASL is not about faces, it's about the gestures. Where the hands go (and sometimes how they go there - the movement can indicate negation, for example).
    • Like x 1
  3. Ink

    Ink Well-Known Member

    I found that, although I was good at learning signs, I was always abysmal at reading them. I thought it was due to lack of practice on that side of things, but factors related to autism might have been a factor now that I look back. Hmmmm.

    I can say that even my small amount of ability in actually communicating with ASL has proven helpful in a something is better than nothing way.

    I'm certainly interested in hearing how you do with it. :)
    Last edited: Apr 4, 2015
  4. seebs

    seebs Benevolent Dictator

    I should totally learn ASL, I think.
  5. Ink

    Ink Well-Known Member

    I can't think of a downside to learning it. If you ever find yourself non-verbal, having another means of communication doesn't hurt.
  6. Enzel

    Enzel androgynous jrpg protag

    Thank you guys for replying, head is fuzzy because I'm sick again (woo) but I'll formulate a proper response when I can
  7. Wiwaxia

    Wiwaxia problematic taxon

    Learning ASL's been on my "get around to eventually" list for a long time, along with picking Japanese back up.
    Additional benefit: my mom studied as a marine biologist and she told me about one dive she went on (or maybe one she heard about, I don't quite remember) with a bunch of D/deaf people who were signing away merrily underwater while the hearing people had to laboriously write out messages on underwater slates and hold them up to each other.
    • Like x 3
  8. a tiny mushroom

    a tiny mushroom the tiniest

    I've just finished taking a beginner course in Auslan, and I need to enrol in the next course, but I have found it very useful! I've been teaching it to my family and partner, and it's really handy when I am finding talking hard. I can foresee issues in the future wrt facial expressions (someone in my class asked how you portray sarcasm in sign language, and our teacher said that it's all in the facial expression, and I tried not to smash my head against the desk), but overall, I think it's the signs that are the most important (obviously, Deaf people can refute me here).

    I kinda wonder how autistic Deaf people cope with it, tho?
  9. Enzel

    Enzel androgynous jrpg protag

    Hmm, what I'm gathering is that the facial expressions are sort of like voice tone then, though i've heard the size and enthusiasm of signs can indicate it too? So I guess, autistic Deaf people are probably not too much more at a disadvantage than hearing autistics are communicating with other hearing people...aren't humans fun.

    I can at least fake eye contact if I need to, sometimes I seem to do it automatically but it's probably habit because I don't seem to get anything out of it. I often am asked if I'm feeling something I'm not because of my facial expressions, though, so I will probably have to practice that.

    Edit: it may be bc im still sick and a little loopy from meds but typing that out was weird. like, I noticed that was a thing people did (asked me if I was angry or something when Im not) but I never strung all the incidents together before. This is happening a lot as I talk about stuff on here. like "oh yeah, this is a thing that's always happened to me...wait a minute, now that I've typed it out how come no one in my life ever noticed I was weird???"
    Last edited: Apr 7, 2015
  10. a tiny mushroom

    a tiny mushroom the tiniest

    Yeah, it was explained to us by my Auslan teacher that facial expression is the equivalent of tone of voice for Deaf people 'cause they can't hear your voice, so how else are they gonna know what you're feeling when you say things? Which is all fine and dandy until autistics happen =P
  11. Ink

    Ink Well-Known Member

    Sign language prosody deficits...

    I say go for it anyway! :)
  12. Kaylotta

    Kaylotta Writer Trash

    I've got a good friend who is studying to be an ASL-English and LSQ/LSF-French interpreter, and according to her, while the signs are obviously really important, facial expression not only expresses tone but can actually be involved in expressing grammar and syntax. For instance, eyebrows up is a yes/no question, eyebrows down is a who/what/where/when/why question. There's also frequently a significant amount of mouth shape involved.

    That being said, I'm sure there are people who can't do eye contact - autistic hearing and Deaf, as evidenced by even just this forum thread. I'm not part of the Deaf community; I really don't know how it's dealt with. I can't imagine it would hurt to learn, though you might be at a bit of a disadvantage. I dunno!
  13. Parsley

    Parsley High in Vitamin K

    I took two classes on ASL in college and we went over the importance of expressions in the second course. I was taught that expressions, especially anything to do with the eyebrows, are used kind of like grammar. I'll try to find my old textbooks and learning DVDs so I can verify what the different eyebrow positions mean if anyone's curious, but I remember the eyebrows being one of the most important parts of the face to focus on since they work kind of like the punctuation at the end of a sentence. You only need to glance at the face occasionally since the hands are most important overall. I don't remember ever needing to look at faces in that class for any reason but to check someone's eyebrows, as odd as that might sound out of context.
  14. Re Allyssa

    Re Allyssa Sylph of Heart

    I don't really know how to answer the expressions question in this... Maybe since it is grammatically important, those specific features would be easier to learn? That's how it would be for me anyway. xP

    But, in case anyone was looking for an ASL website to learn from (taught by a Deaf person), this site is pretty good, and explains some culture things along with the language stuff (always important to me).

    Also my friend (Eric) teaches a student led course for ASL through pop songs, and he leaves the website open to all. (I've taken the course and it's super fun! There's probably a video of me signing Let It Go somewhere on the site, actually. xD) (Also, iirc, he's hard of hearing (unsure on the capitals for that one))
    http://erikpintar.com/sign/ (my semester)
    http://erikpintar.com/signPop/ (last semester)
    (I can't find the current semester, if anyone wants it, I can probably ask Eric for it.)

    (Ninja edit typo)
    • Like x 1
  15. Coriander

    Coriander Active Member

    Okay I'm a first year ASL student and learning ASL is a) the most fun thing I have ever done and b) something with a huge amount of potential uses, especially as sometimes I have trouble finding words and/or physically verbalizing
    The thing with eye contact: yeah, it's important, but a good way to skirt it for ASL purposes is to look at eyebrows or lips, both of which serve grammatical functions and differentiate various magnitudes (a little far away, really far away, etc). Mostly you will not be successful if you watch hands, which is the usual first instinct.
    Lifeprint is the best website for learning ASL I've found and also the most comprehensive dictionary. I highly recommend the youtube video lessons they guy who runs the site does. There's also a website I use for class that you do need an account for but is also really good and interactive/ has quizzes, which is useful. That one is CyberASL.
    In general I found eye contact really hard when I was just starting to learn ASL but the expressions in general get easier to remember to do and easier to pick up on without eye contact with more practice.
    If anyone's looking for books about ASL history/culture a number of the ones I've been assigned this year (by my Deaf teacher, for the record) have been lovely to read and very informative so hit me up and I will tell you all about them.
    • Like x 1
  16. Ink

    Ink Well-Known Member

    Thanks for the mention of Lifeprint, Coriander. :)

    It looks helpful....

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