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Meagan M. Walczak
Signed Languages

Hello all,


Having looked through the italki site, it has come to my attention that most people (if not all people) that are interested in learning Sign Language are actually interested in learning American Sign Language (ASL).


There are many signed languages as well as countless dialects of signed languages, which is also the case for spoken languages. You can search for images of the 'sign language family tree' to see how some of the signed languages are related to each other.


I wanted to know if anyone has studied or is interested in studying British Sign Language (BSL) and/or French Sign Language (la langue des signes française, LSF) on italki. If anyone can make any recommendations about what sites to go to or books to get on BSL and LSF I would very much appreciate it!


It would also be cool to talk to someone on italki who knows/can talk about the history and evolution of Old French Sign Language.


I don't know how to end this note.... so..... fin

Feb 26, 2015 9:16 PM
Comments · 9

Because ASL and BSL developed on different continents and had different influences, they're actually very different and not even mutually intelligible. They also use different fingerspelling alphabets.  I don't know much about the history of BSL, but ASL evolved from a combination of indigeneous signs and the influence of French Sign Language brought here by Laurent Clerc who helped Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet establish the first school for the deaf in the US in Hartford, CT. There was at the time a large population of deaf people on the island of Martha's Vineyard who had developed their own sign language. When the deaf children from the island were sent to school, in Hartford, their signs minged with the French signs and evolved into what we now call ASL.

February 26, 2015

I happened across this video about French Deaf history and though you might be interested:

May 12, 2015

Hi Meagan,


I am glad you have raised your comment at the right time because I already made a request to iTalki to make the amendment in the language combo. I am pleased to say they have agreed to change from "Sign Language" to "Sign Language", "Sign Language (ASL)", "Sign Language (IS)" soon. I also request them to add "Sign Language (BSL)" as well because I am BSL native teacher. Hope this will help everybody!


"Sign Language (IS)" seems to be little confusing. I think IS stands for International Sign Language (Global one) or could it mean for Irish or Iran? If it is International Sign Language, then "Inter-SL" would make a better sense.  Any suggestion?


So Happy talking & Happy signing!



August 5, 2015

I don't know any LSF or BSL, but I do know a little bit of Italian Sign Language (LIS), which is another branch of the French sign language family. JUST a little bit, but I really like it. I keep getting tempted to learn some French and LSF, but I should probably try not to stretch myself too thin, so we'll see ^^;

It might not be the best study material, but Gallaudet published an article several years ago tracing the origins of some ASL signs back to VLSF.

For example, the ASL word for "stupid" (v-handshape) originally represented animal horns and meant "bête," French for "beast," which could mean either an animal or a stupid person (the sign doesn't mean animal, though).

"Sell" comes from merchants waving handkerchiefs outside of their shops to attract customers.

I thought the article was really fascinating. I can send it to you if you want ^^ Apparently they're working on a full etymological dictionary. I've been spoiled by how easy it is to look up word origins for spoken languages, I'd be really happy to have that for sign languages too.

July 27, 2015
Michelle, that would be awesome, thank you! Susan, that was an interesting video, thanks! Tony, thank you for talking to iTalki!
November 21, 2016
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Meagan M. Walczak
Language Skills
English, German, American Sign Language (ASL)
Learning Language
German, American Sign Language (ASL)