Sign Language Helps Deaf People Communicate

Article excerpt

Byline: J. Hope Babowice

You wanted to know

Ellen Renfroe, 8, from Libertyville wanted to know:

What is sign language? Do foreign languages use the same sign language symbols?

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For further reading

To learn about sign language, Warren-Newport Public Library in Gurnee suggests:

- "The Three Little Pigs in Signed English" by Karen Luczak Saulnier

- "King Midas with Selected Sentences in American Sign Language" adaptation and art direction by Robert Newby

- "My First Book of Sign" by Pamela Baker

- "Fairy Tales I and II" (video tape)

Website: National Association of the Deaf at

Ellen Renfroe, 8, a fourth-grader at Libertyville's Butterfield School, asks the questions, "What is sign language? Do foreign languages use the same sign language symbols?"

Sign language is a way to communicate using hand and arm movements. Typically, those who are hearing impaired use sign language to communicate. The state of Illinois recognizes sign language as an official foreign language.

Kathleen Nelson is a sign language instructor at the College of Lake County and an interpreter in schools, court or anywhere an interpreter might be needed.

Nelson said each spoken language has its own version of sign language. Here in the United States, the dominant language used is American Sign Language. ASL movements represent concepts, not individual words, and tense is conveyed at the beginning or end of the phrase.

American Sign Language has its roots in France and dates back to the mid-1700s. Abbe de l'Epee started a school for the deaf in 1755 at which sign language was used as the means of communication. The technique was brought to the United States in the early 1800s by Thomas Gallaudet, an American, and Laurent Clerc, one of l'Epee's students. The two established the American School for the Deaf in Hartford, Conn. Gallaudet University, the only American liberal arts university for the deaf and hard of hearing, was founded in 1864. …