What is ASL?

American Sign Language (ASL) is a visual language, and the predominate sign language used by Deaf communities in the United States and English-speaking areas of Canada. As a visual language, ASL depends on handshapes, location, facial expressions and body movements in order to convey information, while the receiver processes this information through the eyes. Of course, like all languages, ASL has its own complex rules of grammar and syntax. But think of ASL more in terms of a systematic painting before your eyes, rather than a piece of paper with words written one after the other.

ASL is not a universal language. As such, ASL is not mutually compatible with British Sign Language, nor is it conveying English into a signed form. Rather, ASL is a visual language distinct to North American Deaf communities. Some estimates claim that anywhere from 250,000 to 500,000 people use ASL in North America. Like all languages, ASL also has regional “accents”, and as you travel to different parts of North America, you may notice some signs that are unique to that region. However, ASL users from Texas to Toronto, or New York City to San Francisco, all enjoy the same common use and understanding of the language, with perhaps a slight twist in regional parlance.

Many high schools, colleges and universities recognize the importance of ASL, and have accepted the language as satisfying foreign language degree requirements. However, many of these courses are taught by instructors who are not native or even fluent in ASL. Unlike many high school and college courses, instructors from Learn ASL Live Online are all qualified, native ASL instructors. As such, students taking courses from Learn ASL Live Online will have a distinct advantage when using the language in the Deaf community.