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The English–ASL Continuum


Whenever two languages come in contact, a pidgin language develops, or shall we say a continuum of languages between the two. We use the vocabulary of both languages, while following the grammatical rules of our first language. Two conversing people, each with a different first language, have their own slant on the pidgin language being used. It’s a loose arrangement, arising from the effort of both sides to enhance communication and understanding.

Your Deaf associates will be more adept at negotiating the English–ASL continuum than you, because they’re somewhat bilingual. They constitute an island of ASL surrounded by an ocean of English. Their ability to transition between English and ASL means you don’t have to communicate in perfect ASL to be understood, much to your advantage.

We began our first language using imperfect structure, but we became proficient at it nonetheless. The same will be true with your second language. As a beginner you have little concept of the English–ASL continuum, but don’t let that deter you. Jump right in. We learn language through the process of communicating, whether our usage is perfect or not. We learn from our mistakes.

Also, not all Deaf people communicate in pure ASL. Some sign in a very English like fashion, while others feel more comfortable mixing English and ASL. Don’t feel you have to communicate in pure ASL. We’ll call it Sign and leave it at that. We each have our own style of communicating. The important things are successful communication, and your increasing comfort level.

  

                   ASL sign illustration and video

LEARN

  

 

          ASL sign illustration and video

SIGN

 

  

ASL sign illustration and video

DO

          

       ASL sign illustration and video

HOW

  

 

 

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