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Why Study ASL?

Why do so many people want to learn sign?

The answer might be found in the results of a study conducted by a researcher at the University of California Los Angeles. Albert Mehrabian, a well known psychologist, discovered that only seven percent of the meaning conveyed by typical utterance regarding our feelings and attitudes comes from the words we use, 38 percent from our voice, and 55 percent from our body language. When our body language conflicts with our words, listeners will typically pay more attention to our nonverbal message (Mehrabian, 1972).

Think what a difference it would make if you could improve your nonverbal communication skills by just a small percent? How many more sales would you make? How many more satisfied customers would you have? How many more interpersonal conflicts would you avoid by just being a little bit better at communicating nonverbally?

Next time you give a speech wouldn't it be great to use a bunch of natural looking gestures that hammer home your important points to the subconscious minds of your listeners? Next time you're negotiating a contract, wouldn't you just love to get a handle on what's going through the other person's mind? Being more attuned to his or her body language might just help you avoid making some costly communication mistakes.

American Sign Language (ASL) is growing in usage everyday.

Many states have passed laws recognizing ASL as a complete and natural language. Hundreds of colleges and universities throughout America now accept ASL in fulfillment of language entrance and exit requirements.

More and more television stations are using sign language in their programs and advertising.

Most school systems are now mainstreaming their deaf and hard of hearing students-- dramatically increasing the need for sign language interpreters.

More and more employers are looking for applicants who can sign. They know that having signers on their staff can contribute toward a good faith showing of compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act and similar legislation.

A snowball effect is taking place as more and more people learn to use American Sign Language.

While many languages are " dying off,"  American Sign Language is growing in usage everyday.

Have a baby or know one? ASL can enable your baby to communicate with you using language many months earlier than spoken language alone:

Reader comments:

In a message dated 2/11/02 8:55:48 AM Central Standard Time, writes:

Hi, I just found your site and wanted to add my praise to the chorus. Although I haven't read through most of it yet, I've already found it highly enlightening and plan to return. I wanted to add something to the section you titled "Why learn ASL?": I've worked a little bit with hearing, pre-verbal children (up to about ages 2 or 3 when they start to speak) in day care settings, and I've noticed that a lot of them can learn to sign before they can speak. Anyone who has spent time around small kids knows that they are trying very hard to communicate things to us before they are physically able to speak in a way that adults can understand; using ASL (or at least some signs) with hearing kids helps them to communicate a little earlier than they could otherwise. This helps relieve the frustration both kids and adults often feel when the kids are still too young to communicate verbally; besides just being a fun activity for kids to do with parents and teachers, using ASL can give hearing as well as deaf kids a sense of empowerment at being able to express themselves (and adults a better sense of what the kids are thinking)! 

Mehrabian, Albert. 1972. Nonverbal communication. Chicago: Aldine Atherton.


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