Today is National Sign Language Day! It is celebrated on April 15th, the anniversary of the opening day of the country’s oldest school for the deaf. The American School for the Deaf (ASD) was founded in 1817 in Hartford, Connecticut.
A Bit of History
American Sign Language owes some of its origins to French Sign Language. In 1816, Hopkins Gallaudet, a congregational minister, traveled to Europe to observe its schools for the deaf in the hopes of learning how deaf persons could communicate. There he met Laurent Clerc, a graduate of a French school for the deaf with knowledge about French Sign Language and deaf communication. Clerc returned to America with Gallaudet to establish the first American school for the deaf.
Gallaudet and Clerc created a sign system that encompassed all English words and grammar (now known as Old Signed English). This system naturally evolved to exclude grammar and shorten sentences down to key phrases. This is what is now American Sign Language. The signed languages of the world share universal features, making international signers more capable of understanding one another than spoken-language counterparts.
Today, ASL is “the most comprehensive, complete, and expressive system of signed language in the world today.” Approximately 70 million deaf people use ASL as their first language. Educators are supporting the use of ASL by offering it at colleges and universities to meet foreign language requirements.
Say it with Sign!
In the spirit of National Sign Language Day, we’d like to present you with this blast from the past, featuring Valley Hearing Center’s own Larry Solow and Sharon Solow.
Larry and Sharon created Say it with Sign to educate viewers on conversational ASL. As you can see, sign language is near and dear to us.
How are you celebrating National Sign Language Day? Head over to ASL Day’s facebook page for fun ideas.
This post was written by jsolow