Written Sign Language

In learning about ASL, I have come to know Deaf culture better.  One thing that I share with my children regularly is reading from books, naturally written in English.  For Deaf people whose first language is a sign language, the written form of a spoken language does not match the way they think in symbols, grammar, and style.

Although videos do capture the exact face-to-face performance of ASL, watching something together does not build as strong a relationship as doing something together.  Reading together helps develop critical thinking, vocabulary, and persistence.  It puts ideas into a concrete space that can be easily referenced, carried, and shared.

In order for me to better be able to practice ASL, I needed to design a way to write down what I was learning.  Though several methods have been made in the past, none have yet caught on within the popular Deaf culture.  I feel the main problem is that they are trying to document the exact shapes and movements used in sign language without regard to the choices from experience they represent.  A drawing does not well reflect a language's history.

I have tried to design ASLSJ around the English alphabet and keyboard for ease of use in the most popular way Deaf people communicate electronically, via e-mail and texting.  Combinations of letters roughly correspond to handshapes, positions, and movements as used in ASL.  Unfortunately, the script is only a starting point.

The real challenge of learning to read is remembering how phrases have been used in different contexts.  Being fluent in a language requires understanding someone's words as they fit into their line of reasoning.  Slurring of words causes a lot of frustration to someone first trying to learn a language.  Writing is a simplification of what was said, and therefore requires the reader to fill in the gaps of how it was said with their intuition.

Below are excerpts from works in ASL that I have transcribed.