Dec 7 2012 6:00pm

New Signs Created to Communicate Science in ASL

Did you know that most versions of sign language do not have established vocabularies for scientific terms? In an effort to change this, reseachers at the University of Washington have been developing these terms, and with the help of Lydia Callis (the amazing ASL interpreter who we saw beside Mayor Bloomberg during Hurricane Sandy), they're going to teach you how science works in American Sign Language.

Because the deaf community need these signs to be useful in their every day lives, the University of Washington has been showing different versions of the same terms on their ASL-STEM forum. Then users can vote on which sign they prefer for any given word, allowing the community to chose what is right for their language. This type of crowd-sourcing in the development of new terminology is made possible largely throught he advances the internet has provided us.

With any luck, these terms will make it much easier for those with hearing impairment of any kind to pursue classes and careers in science and engineering! Which is amazing. Go science!

Check out the article detailing these devlopments, an watch the video that shows you how to sign these new terms (or you can check out their cool gif versions) over at the New York Times.

Stubby the Rocket has also created a new language, but hasn't yet developed a word for airlock, which makes things difficult.

Lisamarie LiGreci-Newton
1. Lisamarie

Sorry, that made me seriously excited :D

Although it's kind of sad that there weren't already words for these things. Deaf people should get to enjoy talking about bacteria and genetics too! (Note - I don't really know anything about ASL or deaf communication so maybe there already was some other way).
Jenny Kristine
2. jennygadget
Lisamarie ,

You can always spell things out. And much like how names are usually said in ASL - the first letter of the name, plus a sign indicative of personality? - I'd imagine there have been workarounds for making those words shorter. Those tend to be local vernacular though, rather than considered proper grammar. So yes, it's fantastic that there are now proper ASL signs for these words.

(what I know about ASL comes from watching Switched at Birth and from a friend who is a translator. apologies if I have made any mistakes or misrepresentations.)
Theresa Ramseyer
3. tramseyer
This is really neat. My Mother used to work a lot with the deaf, using ASL mostly. She occasionally interprets for court.

I never thought about there still not being signs for several things. You can spell out words. I'm a non-scientist, but to me, spelling those long words would be difficult and time consuming. Interpreting is hard work, I think.

I'm glad they are creating new signs to ease the load and increase understanding.

Mordicai Knode
4. mordicai
First, Lydia Callis is the best, I'm glad she's staying in the public eye. Second, I really wish those gifs from the New York Times were embeddable; I understand that they want to drive traffic to their page, but the visual gifs are such strong education tools on their own. Heck, watermark 'em or something!
5. SeattleSmith
UW!!! I go there. Ha love to see dawgs going out and doing great things.
6. moonsofmercy
As a sign language interpreter I was tickled to see this article on this website! While there has always been ways in which to convey scientific concepts (e.g. fingerspelling, creating an agreed upon abbrievation with the consumer, using that particular consumer's preferred sign) what Deaf scientists have not had is standardization of vocabulary within the signing community. So if Deaf scientists from around the country were to attend scientific conferences they would find that they had different ways of expressing the same word/concept. As this project continues it will aid signing communities ability to have everyone on the same page when conducting research.
7. Charles L. Scott
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