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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