Sunday, August 12, 2012

Turns out, you already know how to sign!

4 out of 5 stars

When was the last time you waved 'Hello'? Or flashed a thumb's up or the 'OK' sign? Well, guess what, you were using sign language. AmericanSign Language is based on several gestures in this country with which we're already familiar, like those I listed above, as well as everyday actions we take such as opening up a book or rocking a baby to sleep. Of course, the majority of signs are more complicated than that, but you get the idea.

As with all other “Dummies” books, Signing for Dummies is broken down into easy-to-understand steps. Chapters are headed with learning goals, a brief explanation of the particular subject, and illustrations of the individual signs which will be used/taught in the chapter. At the end of each chapter, under the heading “Signin' the Sign,” those signs are used in more complex sentences and expressions, allowing the user to put what s/he's learned in context. We start the book with chapters on signing basics such as the alphabet, numbers, and simple expressions, as well as learning about grammar basics, and then progress to signs grouped together by use, in such chapters as “Signing at Home” (furniture, rooms of the house, holidays, etc.), “Asking for Directions,” and “Shopping Made Easy.” In the last part of the books there are chapters about etiquette and the deaf community, the art of interpreting and finding out if you're interested/capable of using your signing skills as an interpreter, and using technology to communicate; there are also lists of tips, ten each, of ways to help you sign like a pro, how to pick up sign quickly, and the most popular deaf expressions. Included with the book is a CD-ROM which shows certain expressions and concepts (marked in the text with a PLAY symbol) acted out, allowing the viewer to sign along with the person on screen.

This isn't a book to make a person fluent in ASL; rather a person will get a rudimentary grasp of the mechanics of the language, enough to allow the reader to start communicating with someone they know who is deaf or let them decide if they'd like to learn ASL in greater depth. There are a few problems I encountered with the book. Firstly, some of the more basic signs don't seem to be covered except in combination or not at all; for example, the sign for 'sun' isn't shown except in larger words such as 'sundress' or 'sunglasses', and the sign for 'moon' isn't in the book at all. Small point, but I still noticed it. Secondly, though each sign is illustrated, showing the actions the hands take, some of the movements for the more complicated signs are hard to understand; it's also hard to understand which movement to start with when beginning the sign. However, these are all minor things. What the book does well is give the reader an idea of the language, a starting point which allows a person to decide if s/he wants to continue with ASL or find something else to study.

Read from July 1-29, 2012
Reviewed for the Amazon Vine Program August 12, 2012

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