ASL Log 2: Age and Acquisition


Learning ASL now has been an interesting experience. Even if I were not taking this class and writing these language learning logs, I think the very nature of learning an L2 when I’m older requires the brain to analyze how things are being taught and the process of learning. For example, in ASL, I am very conscious of being sensitive to the community that uses sign language. I am conscious of issues within the ASL community as well as the resources provided by the ASL community in San Francisco. While teaching, the professor has not mentioned once the “required” textbooks in class yet. Rather, she uses only the board, her facial and body expressions, and her hands to teach us vocabulary. These are all details that I have noticed while learning ASL that I would not have thought about if I learned the language younger. I see this as an advantage in learning a language, because learning an L2 then goes beyond the grammar and rules set in classrooms by incorporating the community and surrounding resources.

At the same time, the “advantage” older people have in learning a language can also act as a disadvantage. For example, older people may worry too much about the details, of one particular situation, rather than looking at the bigger picture. In ASL, one important tip in communication is to look at the person (his/her entire body language) rather than concentrating only on the hands. Rhythm and flow are also important concepts in signing. Many beginning learners, especially when using the alphabet to spell words, tend to focus letter by letter, creating very segmented hand movements. I can imagine a child learning ASL to ignore the minor details the same way kids learning English will ignore things like penmanship, pronunciation, or grammar in order to communicate the best they can.


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