Certainly, the point of the information can be altered when facial expressions are altered, or lacking entirely. We see this most notably in emotions and questions. If you were to say “my birthday is tomorrow, I’m very excited!” chances are that you would smile, your voice would change, and your audience would understand the emotion that you were talking about. Your facial expressions and body language would match with the excitement you were speaking of. Sign language relies on the portrayal of these emotions. Signing the same sentence would include excitement and dramatic facial expressions to convey excitement. If this were lacking, the audience would believe that you were not excited at all, and this would completely change the meaning of your sentence.
Facial expressions are vital to getting your point across in sign language. They can literally change the conversation. This is important to note for children learning sign language for several reasons. It can prove to serve as an exercise in identifying emotions, it is the proper way to teach the language, and gives children the opportunity to express themselves in a new way.
Some children struggle with expressing emotions or controlling their impulses. Sign language can help those children to express themselves in a different way. Often, a child who struggles with verbalizing their feelings will take to sign language as a means of expression. Teachers and caregivers should support this and give their students the tools to do this successfully.
Facial expressions are such a vital component to ASL that neglecting to teach them would be irresponsible. It would be similar to teaching new vocabulary words without teaching the meaning of the words. Children should be taught the facial expressions that correspond with feeling and emotion signs as they acquire the signs themselves.
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