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Abbe Sicard, the director, and the teachers at the Institut Royal des Sourds-Muets in Paris, France used French Sign Language at their school. Legend has it that on the ship back to America, Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet taught Laurent Clerc English while Clerc taught Gallaudet sign language. After setting up the American School for the Deaf in 1817, they incorporated many of the signs that were already being used in America.

Presently, American Sign Language (ASL) and French Sign Language are very different, however there are still quite a few ASL signs that come directly from France. For example, “with” in English is “avec” in French. However, the sign for “with” in ASL uses the “a” hand shape. The same can be said for the word “see” in English. Instead of using an “s” hand shape, the sign is made using the “v” hand shape for the word “voir” in French.

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National Deaf Life Museum

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