Following a discussion about sign language with my girlfriend, I was wondering if ASL can have uses outside of the deaf / mute community.

For example being to communicate at a concert without screaming, or through a park when looking for something, etc. There are countless situations where you can see each other but not talk directly without screaming.

Are there any real life examples illustrating the use of ASL, or foreign equivalents, between people able to speak and hear, for the purpose of facilitating communication? (Distance, noise, etc)

  • 2
    Of course it can be. Lots of hearing and speaking people have learnt ASL.
    – curiousdannii
    Commented Dec 2, 2019 at 0:57
  • @curiousdannii how many of those don't use it primarily to talk to deaf people or to translate for them, though? I'm thinking it's probably a small minority, though it's just a guess.
    – LjL
    Commented Dec 2, 2019 at 1:23
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    I had neighbors, husband and wife, who could hear and speak orally well, but they knew the Russian sign language, because the husband's mother was deaf. In the times before mobile phones appeared, I often saw one of them standing in the yard talking sign language with the other one who was in their apartment on the 4th floor. They talked through the window without shouting.
    – Yellow Sky
    Commented Dec 2, 2019 at 10:12
  • 1
    @LjL good suggestion, i narrowed the question
    – Thomas
    Commented Dec 3, 2019 at 12:27
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    Industrial sign languages used to be fairly common and some of them were pretty complex, though not, I think, to the level of ASL. I'm not aware of any that are still in use.
    – Cairnarvon
    Commented Dec 4, 2019 at 3:58

2 Answers 2


If, for example, a sign-language was a system for converting a spoken language into a differently—in this case, specifically visually—coded version of the same language, then it would be a relatively straight-forward enterprise to learn a sign-language. And if this were in fact the case, then there would no doubt be more hearing ASL speakers. And, then, the Original Poster's suggestion that this might be usefully exploited in certain other circumstances would, of course, be true. This skill would be usefully exploited in many other situations.

However, happily, if you believe that variety makes the world a better place, sign-languages are not, in fact, differently-coded versions of other languages. So, for example, neither BSL or ASL are 'signed Englishes'. They are entirely separate languages with their own syntax, morphology and lexis. To illustrate, whereas ASL, like English, has a subject-verb-object (SVO) phrase order, BSL, like Japanese, is OSV.

Because ASL, therefore, is a completely different language from English, it is not a straight-forward enterprise for an Englih speaker to try to learn it. For this reason, there are relatively few hearing speakers of ASL, and nobody learns it for the purposes of communicating in loud situations; it takes years of hard work to become fluent in ASL.


Latin for "speechless" is "infans"...

Small children often reach a point of being intelligent enough to communicate but lack oral dexterity to pronounce most words. They can, however, learn and use sign languages. People use specific baby signs or just regular sign languages with success.


From personal experience: my 15-month old daughter was able to learn three signs (more, finished, eat) within few days. She can't yet pronounce any of those words verbally, she only tries more by saying mo-mo-mo (actually vē vē vē from vēl).

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