Have you ever been in another country that speaks English, but not REALLY?
Like when someone from the UK spells color as colour or flavor as flavour, there is a distinct difference between the language because of this.
That is just a small example of why American Sign Language or ASL is different then other types of Sign Language.
I get the question of the difference between American Sign Language and Sign Language on almost a daily basis, so I felt it time to really explain the differences and why I believe American Sign Language is the best way to go for those of us who live in the States.
Is Sign Language Universal?
Just like any spoken language there are multiple types of languages like English and Spanish and French. The same is true for Sign Language. Against popular belief, there is a separate Sign Language for each language. Although it would be convenient, there is not a universal Sign Language that is used among all people groups and languages. There are similarities between different languages, known as cognates, like piano in English and Spanish, however in Sign Language it would look more like this:
American Sign Language British Sign Language
These similarities may confuse you into thinking that most of the two languages are the same, but it is not the case. Signs are adapted but the culture they are apart of. For example the sign for boy in American Sign Language and Spanish Sign Language are very different.
American Sign Language. British Sign Language Spanish Sign Language
This is because the cultures look at what defines a boy very differently. In American Sign Language the sign for boy resembles a baseball cap, while the sign for boy in British and Spanish Sign Language refers to something different within that culture.
What About the Different Forms of Sign Language in America (or the States)?
This is also a great question that I get from new signers as well as parents of Hearing and Deaf or Hard-of-Hearing children.
You will hear about 3 main types, or forms, of Sign Language in the States that consists of American Sign Language, Pidgeon (PSE), and Signed Exact English(SEE), but what does that mean and what is the big difference between these “types” of Sign Language?
To break this down:
Picture a spectrum where strict American Sign Language lives on the Left Side and the Right Side is labeled Signed Exact English (SEE Sign or SEE)