Frequently Asked Questions

Q. Is this a course in American Sign Language?

A. Partly. You will learn standard American Sign Language (ASL) signs, but, instead of using them with ASL grammar – amounting to what is considered a foreign language - you will use ASL signs in English sentences. This mode of signing is called Contact Signing because a great many Deaf people switch to this mode when communicating, or "making contact”, with a hearing person. Each participant in the conversation meets the other halfway, ASL with English! All languages are "living" in that some terms change over time. A few signs here have changed due to "political correctness." When you converse with Deaf persons, they can bring you up to date on the current signs.

Q. Why learn Contact Signing?

A. Learning Contact Signing is easier and takes a lot less time because you need only learn the ASL signs with your natural language – English. Deaf children born to hearing parents and those who lose their hearing later in life are familiar with English, so many not only use Contact Signing with hearing folks, they use it all the time!

Q. Shouldn't all people learn ASL first?

A. Not necessarily. If your time is limited, and your main purpose is to communicate informally with the Deaf people you encounter, Contact Signing is for you.

Q. What if I decide to learn ASL after taking this course?

A. You can, and you will have a head start because you will have acquired an extensive ASL sign vocabulary. Some think it's best to learn to swim by jumping into the deep end of a swimming pool; studying ASL is this "sink-or-swim" approach. Others prefer to start in the shallow end, learning the basic strokes before they enter the deep water. Learning Contact Signing first is this "easy-does-it" approach.

Q. Why is the term sometimes capitalized: Deaf"?

A. A deaf (small "d") person identifies with the hearing culture and usually communicates with speech and by lip-reading. A Deaf (capital "D") person identifies with the Deaf culture and communicates by signing.