What is American Sign Language
American Sign Language (ASL) is a full-fledged, complicated, and natural language. ASL (American Sign Language) is a method of communicating thoughts and ideas through hand motions, gestures, and facial expressions, rather than oral sound.
For American Sign Language users, linguistic information is processed through the eyes instead of ears. Facial expressions and body movements, as well as the shape, positioning, and movement of the hands, all play a role in conveyance of information.
ASL is predominantly used by Deaf and Hard of Hearing members in the United States, although numerous hearing people use the language as well. There is an estimated number of 350,000 – 500,000 American Sign Language users in the United States. (C: Gallaudet University)
Even though American Sign Language is used in America, it is a complete language with its own grammatical rules, sentence order, and structure, completely separate from English. It contains all the fundamental features a language needs to function.
Many people think there is a universal sign language, when in fact, there is no official form of sign language that is universal. Just like how spoken languages were developed, different countries and regions have their own sign languages. For example, there are notorious differences between British Sign Language (BSL) and American Sign Language (ASL). An American Sign Language user with zero knowledge of British Sign Language would not be able to comprehend a person signing in British Sign Language and vice versa. Additionally, just like other languages, American Sign Language is an active and living language that evolves over time with a set of regional dialects and slang.
The natural complexity and in-depth of American Sign Language makes ASL interpreters a crucial role in society. American Sign Language interpreting is arguably one of the most mentally intensive jobs. People often assume that you only need to know English and enough ASL to be able to interpret effectively while forgetting that both languages have their own grammatical rules, sentence order, and structure that are thoroughly different from each other.
As an American Sign Language interpreter, it is required to be able to comprehend a piece of information formed in spoken English, convert the information into American Sign Language, and interpret the message in American Sign Language, all while listening and comprehend the next piece of information as the English speaker continues to talk. The same process is required for the other way around. American Sign Language interpreters essentially need to have two parts of the brains that operate independently from each other and yet rely on each other for information processing. This takes years and years of extensive training.
In shorter words, it is not realistic to rely on someone who had recently learned American Sign Language to be able to facilitate communication effectively and comprehensively. Creating an inclusive environment and staying in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) regulations is done by utilizing professional American Sign Language interpreters.