Friday, April 15, 2011


So my son tells me the ASL students at school have started telling him he is making mistakes with his signing. They are learning some different signs then he uses. Now what is interesting to me is when I was first learning I was told that you go with what the deaf person uses. I am also often told by Deaf people his signing is beautiful. They are often shocked by his fluency. Granted he wants to take ASL at the college level to polish his native language but it seems odd beginning students would feel the need to "correct" him.

I have a feeling the hearing ASL teacher is either using a different dialect than my son's or dated text book signs. I am also curious if the text book they use was published on the West coast.

Mty son is a native signer. He has a blended southern California/ Northwest dialect. For example the slang he uses is from years at the state deaf school and the deaf school in Los Angeles. Often the older kids come up with the slang so it can be regional. They ASL students are not taught slang.

My son also will sign some things the way he learned from the deaf community in LA because he likes it better. Signs like strawberry and cheat. This doesn't mean he is wrong.

This is not a big deal but I am just curious how much deaf culture the students are learning along with the language.


  1. Good questions. Also, depends on the teacher's ASL skill as well, and if the teacher is actually USING ASL, and not SEE or "PSE".

    But yes, definitely, new ASL signers should NOT be telling your son, a native signer, that he is signing "wrong"!

  2. It depends. Even people get their English corrected, but usually from people who are very good at English.But there are people who aren't good at English who can detect it.

    He should take ASL class if he haven't done so yet. Tutors have been explaining English from ASL prospective all the time to deaf whose first language is ASL and struggle with English...Such as the plural form of signing... If he doesn't know what a classifer is or anything like that, he should learn it. It's like people who are native English speaker who never took English grammar to learn about how English works at school.

  3. Hi Mel

    Met your son at Camp Taloali in 2009 ~ he was one of the most creative of ABC-XYZ's handshape in ASL storytelling.

    Have you seen ~ Master ASL! This book is good for High School level for ASL classes and also check out ~ an excellent bilingual resources.

    Say Hi to Hayden from Mary ^_*

  4. It is an interesting topic.

    Anony he uses classifiers and understands plurals but he has only had one year of ASL.

    He also code switches depending on who he is talking to. So if he is signing with a hearing person he tends to go more with PSE. I can tell the difference when he is with native deaf signers.

    The bummer is he is worried since he is mainstreamed and not in a fluent signing environment he may be loosing some of his native skills.

  5. Hi Mary!

    You rock! thanks so much I will check it out.

  6. Just to make sure you understand what I am writing (people misunderstand me all the time - some people think my first language is NOT English or is ASL when my first language is English)

    I am talking about a grammar-like class for ASL users (Although a simple ASL class will teach all this). Like we have English grammar. Another word, Just because people know how to speak English in a correct form doesn't mean they don't HAVE to take Language Arts in school. They still have to take it otherwise they would never know something simple like what a plural is and where it should apply. Same for ASL like classifers and all that.

  7. I wonder about the teacher of that ASL class. Is a book being used as the authority in the class? What book is being with a SEE influence? Did the teacher take courses in ASL instruction? Does the teacher have an elitist attitude?

    I've been corrected by my own son from his classes at school or college, and with good reason. My sign is heavily influenced by English, by the various immigrant and minority peoples I have worked with, and by being married to a Hispanic South American-born husband. Certainly I don't use classical ASL.

    However, besides promoting classical ASL, we need to appreciate the various colors and influences we pick up as we go through life. Like in any language, they add spice and originality.

  8. It's possible that they are learning signs from different parts of the US (how many signs are there for pizza, donut, and birthday anyway?) or it's possible the teacher is not teaching the correct signs and may be using some SEE signs.

    It's interesting because my ASL has been influenced by New England (like the New England sign for "garbage" was met with some pretty funny looks), DC area (Gallaudet), and some family signs used by the two boys I nannied for (ie: cereal, strawberry, birthday, soon, etc). I usually can switch to the dialect that fits who I am talking to. Signing differently doesn't automatically mean it is wrong.

  9. The kids are "correcting" him on single signs not grammar. They can't follow him when he signs in his native syntax. Most of the kids sign in English word order. Haddy code switches for them.

    The teacher is not trained as an educator but as an interpreter so she is influenced by that. I am just curious why he is being corrected for using signs he learned from Deaf people who are at least second generation.

    He is also a bit upset that deaf kids don't learn ASL the way hearing kids learn English in school. He is planning to find a way to go back and learn the classic grammar of his native language but it is hard to find a formal educational environment for native users.

    Thanks for the comments, it is so great to get feedback on issues.

  10. Very interesting. As a student of ASL I have also always been told to go with what the deaf person uses. Sometimes I might ask for clarification, if it is a sign I am not familiar with, but I would never say that a sign used by a deaf person is wrong.

  11. I wonder how much shock all the students would be in if Haddy looked at them really odd and said, "oh I am sorry, are you the deaf one, is this your native language??" He does not correct their english. They should not correct his ASL. I see this so often and I always tell people to follow the deaf persons sign. My daughter is 6 and corrects us all the time. But, she is the native signer in the family. We follow her lead.