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Symbol Font for ASL

How can you read and write American Sign Language?

Writing in American Sign Language

Writing American Sign Language is not a new idea, but it is an idea that many people are just now beginning to explore.

Did you know?

In the last 60 years, at least eight different writing systems for signed languages have been developed, but American Sign Language still does not have a widely accepted written form.

Many native signers have expressed frustration because they are lacking a writing system for their first language, ASL.

But so far, the writing systems that exist have seen extremely limited popularity among Deaf Americans.

Why don't we just …

Use Video?

It's possible that too many Deaf people believe ASL does not need a writing system, since most have easy access to video recording, and use written English in their daily lives.

Use Written English?

Some concepts in ASL are difficult or even impossible to convey concisely in English, and for many, having to use their second language for written communication can be tedious.

Use Existing Systems?

For a few of these writing systems, the real reason they have not caught on is that they are too precise and too complex. They were designed to be used for academic research (and in that context they actually *are* being used). What about the others?

Developing a Community

Only a few existing systems for ASL are being advocated for everyday reading and writing, and each has its own strengths and weaknesses. Each approach has something to offer.

To truly become useful, a writing system must develop organically within a community of users trying different things, and learning from one another. Ultimately it is up to signers themselves how they will use and develop written ASL.

Symbol Font For ASL

Since ASL is a three-dimensional language, putting it into written form presents unique challenges. Symbol Font For ASL is a project focused on one of the biggest hurdles: the problem of how to get written ASL online.

This project hopes to:

It may take decades for written sign language to gain widespread usage, but the ASL writing community is steadily growing, and this is an exciting time for ASL.

Next page: Ways to Write ASL