We need to stop using ASL!
September 4, 2019
Hammer. Saw. Screwdriver. What do these things have in common? They’re all tools. A hammer is used to drive a nail into wood. A saw helps you to cut wood into certain lengths. A screwdriver helps you put a screw into wood to connect pieces together. A tool is anything that helps you to do something, or to do it better. We all use tools. A pencil is a tool to help you record thoughts, ideas, and so on. A car is a tool to help you travel further and faster, and so you don’t have to walk there. Language — that’s a tool, too! Do most Hearing people think of language as a tool? No. But language is a tool, because it is something that is used to help us communicate with other people. Even though language is a tool, most Hearing people never think of it in that way. Why do they think that? Because it’s all internal — there is no physical manipulation of things like paper, pencil, screwdriver, etc. It’s all internal, but it is still a tool, nevertheless. You know, with tools, we tend to say the word “use”. We “use” a hammer, we “use” a screwdriver, we “drive” a car. We are USING all those things. But with language, we don’t tend to say “use language”. We tend to say we SPEAK a language. We speak English, we speak French, we speak German, and so on. But notice, with ASL and other signed languages, what do we tend to say? “I USE sign language”, “he USES sign language”. By saying we “use” sign language, signed languages become relegated to the subordinate status of “tool”, Instead of as a language. Hearing people never say they “use” speech. But we accept that, to say we “use” sign language. By allowing signed languages to be relegated to the status of “tool”, this means that Hearing people can look down on ASL and other natural signed languages and equate them with other tools, like SimCom (“Simultaneous Communication”), signed English, which are tools. But is ASL truly a tool like those? No, it’s a language. We need to stop accepting that phrase — “using sign language”. That just minimizes ASL. Instead, we should say “we SPEAK ASL”. We speak German Sign Language, etc. You’re probably wondering why the word “speak”. “To Speak” does not have to mean with the mouth. It can mean “to utter”, “to express one’s self”. Using “speak” puts ASL on an equal footing with spoken languages. Use? Enough with that!