Comparing Sign Languages

This page was created for college level American Sign Language teachers to use in conjunction with a unit examining the difference between sign languages from various countries. This particular activity utilizes involvement with the deaf community outside of class.


As American Sign Language teachers, we often get asked the questions "Is Sign Language universal?" and of course the answer is no. This activity will require your students to engage with their local deaf community, discover the meaning of a sign in ASL they previously did not know, and compare that ASL sign to the sign used in three other countries to convey the same meaning.


Utilizing the resources on the right, have students attend a deaf community event and converse with at least one deaf community member in order to identify a sign they do not know and discover its meaning. Once they have discovered its English translation they should visit the website SPREAD THE SIGN and research how to translate the sign into two different sign languages. After they know how to sign the word in three different sign languages, including English, they should use their mobile device to record themselves signing the word in an ASL sentence followed by the translation of the word into the two other sign languages. Happy with the video they will upload it to their class blog to share with their classmates.