Monday, June 18, 2012

Why Do We Need Facial Expressions While Signing?

People have commented to me so many times how expressive Deaf people are. Hearing people usually find it really fascinating how our facial expressions are constantly shifting while we are signing. I admit that sometime it is fun to watch myself sign in the mirror and see how subtle or not-so-subtle my expressions are. 

Do you know that there are actually several signs that look exactly the same, but has different meanings? 

Say.....Miss, Disappoint, Bitter, Sour, and Said all look the same.

Even worse, we can't distinguish what each word means without any facial expression to supply its meaning of the word.  

Let me show you. 


See how confusing it can be!! 

How the heck can I tell the difference between
all those same signs if there's no facial expressions to give me any cue? 

Now watch the next video; all the same words, but this time with facial expressions.
(Miss, Disappoint, Bitter, Sour, & Said) 

Fear not, there's captioning for you Hearing and Deaf folks who does not sign! 


1) I miss you: Notice how I look sad (furrowed eyebrows, frowning, and sad eyes) when I sign miss.

2) Your behavior has disappointed me: I exclude has and me while signing, but you can see that I shake my head and have a straight frown while signing disappointed.

3) That situation happened recently...I am still bitter: When I sign bitter; notice how I have a scowl on my face, clawed hand, grimaced mouth , and disgusted facial expression.

4) The candy is sour: While signing sour, you can see that I have sunken in cheeks, puckered lips, raised eyebrows, and a look of distortion on my face.

5) He said that: In this case, there's not any specific facial expression cues for the word said, but rather it is the context that is being used in the sentence.

Can you really imagine us signing without using our facial expressions? So much will be lost in translation, and  no one will even be understood. Also, not to mention that sign language will be pretty boring without rich meaning, tone, and context to fill in what each sign represents.

Just like hearing folks speaking in long, flat, and monotone voices. It will be pretty boring, right?

So be sure to remember to use your facial expressions if you are learning ASL or any form of sign language, and have fun with it! :)