Learning A New Language: ASL vs LSE

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Signed Version

English Version:

The topic of this vlog/blog is ASL (American Sign Language) versus LSE (Lengua de Signos Española or Spanish Sign Language). Are these two languages different or the same? All over the world, there are many different sign languages. They are not all the same. They’re all different. Therefore, ASL and LSE are different. So, I attended LSE classes in Madrid for one whole month. I learned a lot there. The class was taught in Spanish, which I’ve already known for two years. However, LSE was a completely new language for me. Now, instruction for ASL and LSE both use a bilingual approach (note: ASL-English and LSE-Spanish). LSE emphasizes this approach more. I learned basic numbers and fingerspelling. Then, we advanced to learning signs or words. After that, we advanced to learning Spanish sentences. In LSE, the word order is reversed, so we practiced this often in class. We had homework, games, reviews – all different kinds of practice activities, which was quite nice. Now, I will show you [what I learned]. I will go over these five areas: numbers, words, fingerspelling, facial expressions, and manual signs. 

[ASL vs LSE: 1. Numbers]

 Let’s compare numbers in ASL and LSE. [shows numbers in ASL 1. With palm facing chest  index finger raised and the rest bent into palm and closed and wrapped by the thumb 2. index and middle fingers raised and the rest…3. Index, middle fingers and thumb raised… 4. Index, middle, ring and pinky fingers raised and spread out… 5. All five fingers raise and spread out 6. Palm face forward away from chest and pinky finger touches tip of thumb while index, middle and ring fingers are raised and spread out 7. Ring finger touches thumb with all other fingers raised and spread out 8. Middle finger touches thumb with remaining fingers raised and spread out 9. Index finger touches thumb and remaining fingers are raised and spread out 10. Only the thumb is raised like a “thumbs up”; then LSE: With palm facing forward, index finger raised, 1. Only index finger raised and the rest bent and closed 2. index and middle fingers raised… 3. Index, middle and ring fingers raised and spread out… 4. Index, middle, ring and pinky fingers raised and spread out…5. All five fingers raised and spread out 6.repeat #5 in 1 hand and #1 on the other hand 7. Repeat #5 in 1 hand and #2 on the other hand 8. Repeat #5 in 1 hand and #3 on the other hand 9. Repeat #5 in 1 hand and #4 on the other hand. 10. Repeat #5 in 1 hand and #5 on the other hand.]

[ASL vs LSE: 2. Words]

Now, the sign “have” in ASL is this sign: [2 bent hands towards chest].  In LSE (“tener”), it is this sign: [palm facing close to chest then quickly turns into only the pinky finger raised like the ASL “i” and the tongue sticks out of the right side of the mouth]. For “how”, it is this sign: [2 curved hands with knuckles touching and both roll or one roll forward]. In LSE (“cómo”), it is this sign: [only index finger raised and curved like the ASL “x” tapping the chin twice and the mouth makes a repeated mouthing of the ending “-mo”]. Those are how ASL and LSE compare as far as signs. Some are one-handed, some use both hands, some include facial expressions, as within both languages. 

Filming comparison of ASL and LSE in the classroom

[ASL vs LSE: 3. Fingerspelling]

One thing I struggled with for a long time was fingerspelling. My ASL accent was a stumbling block when trying to fingerspell in LSE. For example, the ASL letter “U” in LSE looks like the ASL“V;” and our “V” in ASL is a shaken “V” in LSE. This was so confusing! I struggled with this, but I got better with practice as learned along the way. I kept going and didn’t give up.

[ASL vs LSE: 4. Facial Expressions]

The more I observed and compared ASL and LSE, I noticed similarities with their facial expressions and use of signing space. I noticed that with LSE, though, instead of using strong facial expression with eyebrows, signers use more of their mouths and tongues. With the sign for “tener”, the tongue sticks out of the right side of the mouth. With the sign for “cómo”, the mouth makes a repeated mouthing of the ending “-mo”. This was different, because with ASL, I was used to growing up not using much mouth movement and more so using my eyebrows. This was tricky trying to incorporate these new mouth movements from LSE, because I’m not accustomed to it. I had to adjust and try to connect the signs to the mouth movements to be able to make them. It was quite an experience, and I learned something new. It was very interesting! 

[ASL vs LSE: 5. Manual Signs]

Finally are manual signs. In the LSE class, the teacher asked the students to introduce themselves. Some students, when called upon, would spell their name and give their name sign. Other students would spell their name but would give no name sign, as they didn’t have one. The teacher, being unsatisfied with this, would create one for the students by observing their personality, tendencies, or facial features. This was very interesting to me! In LSE, one must have a name sign, while in ASL, this doesn’t matter, as a fingerspelled or signed name is feasible. This was an interesting difference. Also, LSE has more signs than fingerspelled words. For example, with the months of the year, LSE has a sign for each month. ASL, on the other hand, does not. You must fingerspell every month (note: 1st 3 letters of every month). This also applies for the 50 states in the US. ASL has signs for some, but most are fingerspelled (note: fully spelled or abbreviated). In LSE, for each of the 30 or so states in Spain, there is a sign. This is quite interesting and really nice.

In summary, ASL and LSE have some differences and similarities. I quite enjoyed learning this new language. I can now add LSE as the fourth language in my skill set that I know! LSE is a very beautiful language just like many others! Thank you for visiting!

Author’s Note: This intensive study abroad program was from June 1st-30th, 2019.