ASL & English Handcuffed

What are some good or bad things about your experience moving between English and ASL? Feel free to comment below!


Hi, I’m Adrean Clark. A thought popped up today that I would like to share with you. You know when you watch different TV shows and movies, sometimes during the story two people don’t get along very well. Maybe they’re siblings… and to get them to solve their problems, they are handcuffed together. The two people are stuck, and forced to figure things out together. They have to discuss their issues and they do eventually become friends.

It came to mind that this “plot device” applies to writing. English and American Sign Language are “friends,” because they have to be. They are handcuffed together. ASL has no written version so English takes up that missing component. As a community, we’ve accepted that arrangement, because we haven’t experienced anything different. It has become part of our psyche. Things don’t need to be this way at all.

I’ll explain more:

Right now I’m learning Danish. I really enjoy learning about the culture and language. As part of my studies, I joined a website where I can type journal entries in Danish. My writing isn’t the best yet, so underneath my Danish entry I add the English version.

During the process I noticed that I tend to be very eager to write in Danish but not so eager to write in English. I feel like my levels of competency in Danish and English are battling each other; Not much progress is made in Danish because my mind is still attached to English, and in turn my English translation is chained to my Danish message. It’s frustrating.

When it comes to ASL and English, often I switch back and forth between the languages. Sometimes I can’t find the right ASL word, so I fall back on English. Other times I’m thinking of a great title for a fantastic project, the English name pops up first and then it’s a struggle to translate it to ASL. The two languages are handcuffed together.

I don’t like this at all. That’s why it’s important to have si5s writing – to cut the chain and let ASL breathe on its own. It’ll give us room to own ASL and absorb its full essence. English will then stay in its own boundaries. We need this.

So, I wanted to share this thought with you today. What do you all think? Let me know!

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