The Importance of American Sign Language

The American Sign Language Alphabet (Screenshot by/ Emily Cord)

The American Sign Language Alphabet
(Screenshot by/ Emily Cord)

By: Emily Cord

Attleboro High School’s Sign Language teacher Mr. Weston Pondolfino has been teaching American Sign Language for three years.

American Sign Language (ASL) is a complete, complex language that employs signs made by moving the hands combined with facial expressions and postures of the body. It is the primary language of many North Americans who are deaf and is one of several communication options used by people who are deaf or hard-of-hearing. Pondolfino and his mother Louise Pondolfino explain why American Sign Language is so important.

Question: “Why is American Sign Language so important?”

  1. Pondolfino: “American Sign Language is important for a variety of reasons. One reason is that it is a language that deaf people use to thrive and by depriving them of a language you are crippling them. It is also a great communication tool for kids because you can pick up ASL at an early age and use it to solve frustrations that kids and parents have at a young age. I also believe that people should learn more about ASL in general because it’s a visual structure with different syntax and it has a real shot at being a universal language.”

Q: “How do you benefit from American Sign Language?”

  1. Pondolfino: “Having known ASL my whole life, I get to express myself in ways that words cannot. It also gives me a unique and different perspective on the world, and I get to have a relationship with my parents who are both deaf.”

Q: “Why should people learn American Sign Language?”

  1. Pondolfino: “People should learn American Sign Language for all of the above reasons. ASL is also useful in loud places, when there is a long distance between you and the other person, when you have food in your mouth, or if you are communicating underwater.”

Q: “What are some signs that everyone should know?”

  1. Pondolfino: “Everyone should know signs like thank you, help, you need help, but it is also more about effort because if you know 300 signs but don’t use them, then what’s the point of knowing them? But if you make an effort and try, that’s all that matters.”

Q: “What are the pros and cons of being deaf?”

Louise Pondolfino:  Pros- “I am part of a great tight knit community and I love using ASL as it is a beautiful language. Also I can talk with my mouth full and communicate regardless of how loud the place.

Con- The only con I would say to being deaf is how people perceive me. The majority think something is wrong with me that I need to be fixed, but in realty I love who I am. If I could take a magic pill and become hearing I wouldn’t. I enjoy being deaf and that’s hard for people to wrap their heads around. Instead of pity I would appreciate effort. Many times I’m out and about and try to interact with a hearing person and instead of putting a little effort  into communicating with me (aka writing things down, gesturing), they freeze, get frustrated or just try to talk louder, thinking that will make a difference.”

Q: “What is some technology that helps deaf people?”

  1. Pondolfino: “Today’s technology has improved a lot. We now have a video phone, which is like Skype where I can call my friends or an interpreter to make any phone calls I need. Cell phones have helped increase communication through texting, FaceTime, and glide, a video text messaging app. I have flashing lights for my alarm, my doorbell, and for if the video phone rings. Technology has vastly improved from what it was 20 years ago.

Q: “What is the most interesting thing about deaf culture?”

  1. Pondolfino: “I don’t know if there’s one thing about deaf culture that is most interesting. I think the culture itself overall is interesting. Deaf people, like any other culture, have their own customs and values. For example it’s not rude to walk between two people signing.”