Archive of ‘Why’ category

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!

The Power of Language

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Hi, I’m Adrean Clark. I have a few thoughts I want to share with you.

For a while I’ve been dwelling on how reading and writing is powerful. You probably know that I wrote the book, How to Write American Sign Language. After the book came out, people asked me, “Why should we write ASL? We have English.” Let me show you something.

(Adrean holds her shirt up to the camera. It is a black longsleeve shirt with a slogan printed on it. The slogan says I (heart) MY M(Apple Logo)C – I love my Mac.)

This is my favorite shirt. I love it, because it’s comfortable… and because of the words printed on it. The words are about the Mac – I’m a big fan of Macs. If you came up to me in person, you would see my shirt and automatically have a mental image. You would understand that I’m an Apple fan. You’d also have the opportunity to think, “Yes! A fellow Apple supporter!” or “Silly Apple fangirl, I prefer Android.”

All this happens within a matter of seconds. We didn’t have to sit down for hours while rehashing our history to find out what we like. The understanding occurs instantly.

Over the years we’ve debated over our language. Language is a means to convey information, history and culture. It’s a community toolbox that we use to relate to each other. We are using it as a common means to discuss and share with people.

English has its own “box” of history and culture. It carries a perspective of its own. For example, the ASL word “deaf.” It means an inability to hear — in ASL we “cut” our ears and “cut” our lips to show an inability to hear and speak. This comes from English. We accepted that word’s definition.

Are we really unable to “hear” and “speak”? No! We sign and watch each other. Where can we document our community’s perspective? How can we represent our thinking and cultural values?

If I want to put ASL on a shirt, for example, without writing I would have to decide what kind of person to represent as a signer. Is s/he black? Do I show s/he from a profile view? Who do I even show? Lots of overwhelming options. Where is the opportunity to focus on the language, on the message itself?

That is why we need a means to package ASL via a quick and effective medium. Reading and writing, the thought process and sharing of information is very powerful. We need it.

Now, you may be curious — how do you translate the message on my shirt in ASL? Here it is:

(Image in written ASL — Apple I Kissfist.)

For more information on written ASL, read How to Write American Sign Language.

ASLwrite – Support American Sign Language Through Writing!

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