A Different Kind of Sign Language

Language is a fascinating thing.

Think about it, everyone has their own language. If you are only fluent in the English language, there is a good possibility if you step outside the United States to visit another country, you are not going to understand what is being said.

I took French classes in high school because I had seen many movies and wanted to visit Paris. Plus, you know the French language is known as the language of love and I was all about that. Even though I had a hard time rolling my tongue to make my words come out, I was making that language happen!

Just like the French language, American Sign Language is unique as well, but imagine my surprise when learning there is also something called, Black American Sign Language (BASL)! When I first heard about BASL, I was taken back, maybe even offended.  I thought it was messed-up that the Deaf and hard of hearing community in my culture was also being segregated regarding their language. This is not the case at all. In fact, it is totally at their discretion and it is cool.

Black American Sign Language came to be during the segregation era of the South when Black and white children were not allowed to go to school together. That segregation included the Deaf and hard of hearing.

Since Black Deaf children and teachers were all together, they formed their own language. I find this interesting. Even though segregation has been over for a while, there is a certain lingo still used in the Black community today. It is even more interesting to me the Deaf community caught developed their own sign language.

But to me it is also concerning, I do not want BASL to give a negative impression that it is improper English. Society can sometimes judge by the way one looks or speaks. And if either are deemed not the “norm,” certain opportunities may not be offered. This is sad because there is a good possibility you could miss someone great.

As a person with a speech impairment, I know the importance of language and the need to be understood. I spent many years learning how to articulate the English language so I could be understood. For those who do not know it may take a person some time to catch on, but they usually do. This is why I find BASL so interesting because it’s in a category of its own.

BASL is one of the languages used by the African American Deaf culture which make language so special. Although, it may be used in a different way, all that matters at the end of day is, are you being understood.


9 comments on “A Different Kind of Sign Language

  1. Janice on

    As a quick follow-up: Your post got me wondering: How many folks locally are fluent in BASL? Do you know if the local interpreting services agencies, like Family Service Association, Interpreters of the Deaf, and Vocalink, offer this sort of service?

    • Shari Cooper on

      I’m not sure how many folks locally are fluent in BASL or know if the local interpreting services agencies offer this service. If I find out, I’ll let you know.
      Thanks for reading

  2. Kimberly Beverly on

    Thank you for sharing. Very interesting to know about the different types of sign languages. I am interested in learning sign language.

  3. Jerome Haney on

    Aa always a good and informative Blog. Yes, there was a language that was used by the black community during this time. That is why it is so important that American’s history be told, written and told and written accurately and inclusively.


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