Saturday, November 3, 2012

Mental Floss Explains Facial Expressions in American Sign Language

A sign language interpreter at Capital Pride Festival in Washington, DC
Capital Pride Festival by vpickering on Flickr
Back in high school, I took two years of American Sign Language to fulfill my foreign language requirement to graduate. (I had the hardest time with my other two options - Spanish or French. Although Spanish would be useful in my current job, most of the time I just couldn't understand the words.)

One of the most difficult things to get used to when communicating in any sign language is the use of facial expression and body language. Of course, most, if not all, verbal languages are somewhat dependent on body language already - but sign language can take it to a whole nother level, to the point where it can feel funny or awkward to watch someone signing. I'm not a very extroverted person already, so trying to get my point across in ASL proved very difficult! (I had the hardest time interpreting songs. My instructor would tell me it was obviously a beautiful song but it wasn't coming across on my face. I definitely need to work on that.)

I really liked this article from Mental Floss about why sign language interpreters look so animated. The article uses ASL interpreter Lydia Callis, who has become something of a minor internet celebrity after interpreting NYC Mayor Bloomberg's television addresses about Hurricane Sandy. The visual example of Callis' interpretation is used to great effect (especially for us visual learners) to explain how body language and facial expression can affect words and phrases in ASL.

1 comment:

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