American Sign Language (ASL)
American Sign Language (ASL) is used by most deaf people in the United States and Canada. ASL is different from other sign languages, just like English is different from other foreign languages, such as Spanish. Also, for most deaf people, ASL is their first language. It is more natural for deaf children than Signed English.
Most hearing people think that ASL and English are the same, except that ASL is signed and English is spoken. In a way they are right, but they're more wrong than right. ASL doesn't follow the same grammar rules as English does, and ASL has its own unique system of word order.
Signed English is a sign language that does follow the same rules and word order of English. Most deaf children of hearing parents learn Signed English instead of ASL because their parents are hearing and want their child to learn English. In teaching their children, the parents tend to sign in English instead of ASL, because English, not sign language, is their primary language.
Most people believe that ASL is a more natural language for deaf children to learn than Signed English, because deaf children don't speak English. It's hard for them to write the language. Just like hearing children, deaf children spend a lot of time in school learning the rules of written and spoken English, but in fact they don't formally learn the rules of ASL. They pick it up from adults and other kids.
Lipreading is not a form of sign language, but we talk about it here because it is used by many deaf people when communicating with hearing people having little or no knowledge of sign language. Lipreading is watching a person's lips as the person speaks. By watching how the lips move, the shapes they form, the facial expression, and the movements of the hands and other parts of the body, a deaf person can often tell what the speaker is saying. This is a very difficult skill to master because many words look the same.
British Sign Language (BSL)
British Sign Language is used by over 62,000 deaf people, primarily in the United Kingdom. Like ASL, BSL is a language that is visual and gestural, and includes facial expressions, signs, gestures, and body language. A significant difference between ASL and BSL is that ASL uses one hand for fingerspelling while BSL uses two hands.
Pidgin Signed English (PSE)
PSE stands for Pidgin Signed English. The Deaf consider it a "compromise" language, because it is used when a deaf person is communicating with a hearing person who has some knowledge of sign language. PSE uses the same signs as ASL and Signed English, but it more or less follows English word order. In PSE there are a variety of adaptations, since it is a mixture of both ASL and Signed English.
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