To the editors:
Harold Henderson’s ignorant comment, “What country did you say you were from?” on the welcome fact that Illinois high school students will now receive foreign language credit for learning American Sign Language (City File, October 20), is sadly, typically, indicative of the lack of linguistic sophistication–that is, sophistication about linguistics–in the general population. American Sign Language, the language used by deaf people in this country, most certainly is a foreign language; it is in no measure a gestural translation of English. It’s called American Sign Language to distinguish it from, e.g., British Sign Language (to which it bears no similarity), Thai Sign Language (ditto), or French Sign Language (from which it developed under the influence of Thomas Gallaudet). You might as well say that Menomonee and Navajo are not foreign languages because they’re spoken by “American” Indians!
Peter T. Daniels