Some commonly asked questions about American Sign Language (ASL), this website, and its creator - Rob "Nuts" Nielson
Who is this creator - Rob "Nuts" Nielson?
Hello! I'm a Deaf, certified, full-time ASL teacher. I have a real passion for ASL and the Deaf culture. They are my world. I love sharing them with others who are interested in learning about a unique, beautiful and expressive language. I feel it is my "calling" in life to build bridges between the Deaf and hearing worlds - bringing them closer together and creating awareness for a minority culture that I belong to.
In the Deaf culture, we typically give each other name-signs. There are generally two types of name-signs: Arbitrary and Descriptive. Arbitrary name-signs are more "neutral." They are name-signs given simply as identifiers. There is generally no underlying meaning behind them. Descriptive name-signs are typically based on something about that individual - their personality, a distinctive physical feature, relating to a specific event or place, etc. My friends gave me the name-sign "Nuts" (we don't get to choose our name-signs, they are given to us) because I tend to drive them nuts!
My name-sign fits me perfectly and I'm quite proud of it. Most individuals know and recognize me as "Nuts." Even my high school students.
There is a Deaf culture?
Oh yes! Very much so. In fact, we celebrate the birth of ASL as April 15, 1817. This was when the first Deaf school was created in America With Deaf coming together at a Deaf school to learn and grow together, the Deaf culture was born as well. Like other minority cultures, the Deaf have to deal with a lot of ignorance, apathy, and even discrimination. It is my world and I treasure it very much.
What is American Sign Language (ASL)?
ASL and English are two completely different languages. ASL has its own grammatical rules and syntax and is a very rich, complex language. To learn it correctly it's best to learn, not only from someone who is fluent in ASL, but who also knows how to teach it.
Modern ASL is a beautiful and expressive language that was created by the Deaf around 1817 with the founding of the first Deaf school in America. It was a combination of Martha's Vineyard Sign Language, French Sign Language, Native American signs and home signs all brought together.
Wait... so ASL is not the same as English?
That's correct. ASL and English are different languages. Most of the videos you see on YouTube (for example) only teach signs. They also give the impression that these signs "match up" with English words. Thus, when you start to learn signs, attaching them to English words and using English grammar, you're not really learning ASL.
Videos that use English to teach signs without any grammatical features also give the wrong impression that ASL is a very simplistic language that is easy to learn with little to no effort.
Is sign language universal? (The same all over the world?)
No. There are hundreds of sign languages. Most countries have their own sign language and some countries have more than one. While some of the signs may be similar, the languages can be completely different. For example - ASL and BSL (British Sign Language) are nothing alike, even though both countries use English.One such difference - the BSL alphabet is done using two hands while ASL only uses one hand.
What makes this website so different or special?
It would seem like there are a lot of places you can learn ASL. YouTube, for example, has hundreds of videos. Unfortunately, nearly all of these videos are made by individuals who are beginning ASL students, self-taught, or who simply are not fluent in ASL but thought it would be "cool" to make videos to "teach" a very complex language. By doing so, they spread the misconception that ASL is a "manual" version of English - that you're basically signing English.
The focus of this website is to teach the signs and grammar features together and without the use of English. In other words, using the language to teach the language. Research shows that this immersion approach is the most effective way to accurately learn a foreign language.
Sadly there are a number of ignorant individuals who tell me that they learn ASL "just fine" from YouTube and other sources. They also tell me that I am being arrogant and narrow-minded for cautioning others from using sources such as YouTube to learn ASL. They feel that anyone can teach and learn ASL with little effort.
As you know, I am very passionate about my language and my culture. Ignorant comments like that are quite sad - my language and culture deserve MUCH more respect than that.
Please, if you have any respect at all for my language and culture, I hope you will make the effort to support and promote Deaf-owned and Deaf-run businesses. We need your help for our language and culture to get the respect it deserves.
Is this website free?
There is a section of free lessons on this website that give you an idea of the content. The rest of the content is based on a tier system that is very inexpensive. My goal is to make this ASL and website as accessible to as many people as possible. This website offers quality lessons taught by an experienced, certified, Deaf ASL teacher. You know that what you're learning is accurate and correct and taught using the best research practices for learning a different language.
I really like your website and appreciate the work you do, can I make a donation?
Bless you! Of course! You are more than welcome to show your appreciation by donating. I am very thankful to those who have donated in the past. You're welcome to give any amount you care to share.