American Sign Language v. Spoken Language 

Faculty Advisor: Jennifer Garci 

Immediately when delving into the topic of American Sign Language, my driving idea was to analyze the key differences and similarities between ASL and spoken language. Later, more specific questions began to stem from this central idea, including: “How is meaning or emotion conveyed through sign language,” and “How are nuances expressed in ASL?” Aside from learning how to use sign language itself, I also plan to learn about the history and cultural significance of the language. Some associated driving questions with this aspect of my study include: “How is ASL incorporated into traditional educational environments,” “How does sign language adapt for dialects, idioms, and slang,” and “How does ASL compare to sign language in other countries?” My current language studies are Spanish and Mandarin, so I plan t0 pay particular attention to understanding how ASL compares to signing for those two languages. 

ASL is a widely known, accessible, and well-documented language. Considering this, there aren’t many outlets for learning that are out of my reach. I plan to consult many free resources, specifically Youtube channels ( “ASLMeredith,”  “Dr. Bill Vicars,” and “Chris Gorges”). I have also done research into downloading the best mobile app for learning sign language and plan to download “the ASL app” for studying away from my laptop. Additionally a major aspect of my plan concerning my study of the history and culture of sign language is a month-long, online, and self-paced course offered by Ted Supalla at Georgetown University. The only aspect of my plan that requires funding is a $12 annual subscription-based website (“ASL Deafined”) designed explicitly to teach ASL to people of all different levels and ages. I will supplement the self-directed lesson-based learning with 1:1 outreach to individuals who can add a first-person perspective on the questions I am exploring through this independent study. Examples include: students enrolled in the newly offered ASL course at Jordan Highschool, relatives, members of the community with professional insight into ASL.  

Monthly Plan: 

January – Two of the aforementioned Youtube channels run by Chris Gorges and ASLMeredith specialize in beginner ASL, with countless videos for practicing fingerspelling, basic words, and numbers. I plan to mainly consult these two channels during the first month of my study as it is paramount to understand the basics before exploring further into understanding and creating phrases. 

February – I plan to continue using Chris Gorges’ and ASLMeredith’s channels and branching out further into Dr. Bill Vicars’ channel, which  focuses on grammar and more extensive vocabulary study. I also will begin to consult “ASL Deafined” this month and start working up the levels offered.  

March – I will continue referring to the slightly more advanced ASL Deafined and Youtube videos from the resources in my preliminary list. During this month I plan to start and finish the course offered by Georgetown. 

April – I will continue the above, and begin watching/analyzing videos of interpreters and conversations to understand colloquial ASL. Additionally, I plan to reach out to a professional translator/interpreter to better understand ASL and its functions.  In April, I will also start work on my final presentation and enlist a peer to help me present. 

May – I will continue using ASL Deafined as well as transitioning into the advanced videos offered on Dr. Bill Vicars’ channel. I will also finish my presentation. 

  • I plan to document my progress via monthly, or even possibly bi-weekly, videos posted to my blog of my learning.  

Final Project: 

A presentation on the historical and societal importance of American Sign Language and spoken language read by someone as I translate live in sign language.