American Sign Language, or ASL, is one of the most commonly used languages in the United States. Sign language is defined exactly as it sounds; it is a language based on symbolic hand gestures or signs that have specific meanings to those who utilize it. It has been in use in the United States since the early 1800s.

Frenchman Laurent Clerc and American Thomas Galludet were the persons who helped to create the Americanized version of sign language. Their signs were based upon the signs used at that time by the deaf in France. As a result of 'borrowing' the language from France, the syntax of American Sign Language does not match that used in English. For example, the sentence "I am going to the store" would not be signed word for word unless the signer is using SEE, or signing exact English. This is mainly utilized in an educational setting.

Each state in the United States has a state run school for the deaf available; although not all deaf children attend special schools. Many are mainstreamed into public schools. There is also a University exclusively for the deaf in Washington D.C. This is named for Thomas Galludet, who assisted in creating a school for the deaf and establishing an American sign language, which were both accomplished before 1820.

The manual sign is not the only method of communication used in sign language. Just as people emphasize words, those who sign use body movement and facial expressions to convey what they are signing. Also, sign language is not a universal language. Each country, each state, each region and even each family can have a different sign for a particular word or phrase. Even so, there are sign languages in different countries which can be effectively 'grouped' into different families of sign language.

In recent years, educators of young children have begun to use sign language for pre-lingual children. This helps the very young to avoid the frustrations of being unable to communicate with their parents and/or caregivers. Children as young as eight months old are able to communicate in a limited manner, although effectively, using sign language.

Famous users of American sign language include Marlee Matlin, the Osmond Family, Lou Ferrigno (the original Incredible Hulk actor), Helen Keller, former Miss American Heather Whitestone, Juliette Gordon Lowe (founder of the Girl Scouts), Alexander Graham Bell, Thomas Edison, Rush Limbaugh, and Beethoven.

To learn some of the basics behind signing, or even if you are just interested in the subject, I recommend the VideoJug website Sign Language section.

Author's Bio: 

Jack Dobson loves VideoJug! It is the world's leading purveyor of online, "How To", video content. Filled with instructional films on thousands of subjects - it really is the place to go with any questions. Visit VideoJug today!