Most ASL users, unlike Amanda, did not learn the language from their parents. (More than 90 percent of deaf people have hearing parents.) People instead tend to learn the language through classes and their peers. School curriculums and slang can both change more quickly than language habits handed down from one generation to the next.
The number of ASL speakers is also relatively small, Amanda notes — with 500,000 being a common estimate. This smallness can contribute to faster change.
As in other languages, though, the changes are often matters of debate. MJ Bienvenu, a retired Deaf studies professor in Austin, Texas, said that she found many of the new signs nonsensical. “I feel like many people don’t realize that they bastardize ASL, and it harms more than it helps,” Bienvenu told Amanda.
As for Amanda’s mother, she is taking the changes on a case-by-case basis. When Amanda told her yesterday that the article inspired by their train ride was about to be published, her mother said that she planned to switch to some of the new signs, but not all of them.
Read the article — and learn about the changes to the signs for dog, phone, parents and privilege.
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