Hearing characters who know sign langauge?

Occasionally on TV the need arises to communicate with someone who is hearing impaired. Rather than brining in an interpreter, one of the series’ regularly characters is suddenly revealed to be fluent in American Sign Language.

Ted demonstrated it a couple of times in How I Met Your Mother.
Levitt in Barney Miller explained his fluency by saying a family member was deaf.
Howard in Big Bang Theory knows ASL, I suppose, for the same reason he claims to know seven other languages.

Any others?

Leroy J. Gibbs on NCIS. Abby Sciuto, the lab wiz, knows ASL because her parents were deaf. But every now and then she and Gibbs communicate in sign language.

I’ve always wondered how accurate the ASL is.

Gil Grissom in CSI, because (IIRC) his mother was deaf (and he was in danger of losing his own hearing, since it was a hereditary thing).

(Howard’s Russian, BTW, leaves something to be desired. He can’t pronounce the word for “girl” correctly.)

Grissom signs a little in CSI because his mom was Deaf. I think he’s supposed to be HoH and at least a little worried about losing the rest of his hearing.

And then there’s Switched at Birth over on ABC Family (or whatever it’s called now) with a bunch of Deaf characters and plenty of hearing characters that know ASL/learn.

Buck Rogers knew sign language, because the whole point of that show was how our hero would use his 20th-century skills to save the day amidst futuristic technology. Sure, the guard escorting him to a prison cell has a raygun – but does he know judo? Gadzooks! What sorcery is this? Verily, 'tis some lost art of the ancients!

Like any other form of translation or interpretation, the important thing is to convey the thought, rather than each individual word. In that respect, it’s very good.

Last week’s *Supernatural *had Sam try few phrases in ASL with a deaf woman, mainly out of politeness - he had taken a course in college, but was hardly fluent. It was a nice departure from the standard TV trope of hearing characters using ASL perfectly out of the blue.

Barney Collier was shown learning sign language in a MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE episode. (Which was no surprise, because Barney was pretty much good at everything.)

Right, but it’s like most times a show uses a foreign language - not being fluent, I wonder how much they’ve gotten right or wrong that someone who is fluent would notice.

In season 1 of Fargo Mr. Numbers uses sign language with Mr. Wrench, who is deaf (and played by a deaf actor.)

Kramer on Seinfeld knows some sign language (in the episode with Marlee Matlin).

“Reasonable Doubts” a 1991-93 drama where in the opening scene the deaf DA (Marlee Matlin) signs frustration over a detective’s testimony. He (Mark Harmon) signs back that he is not a thick blockhead
(his parents were deaf or something similar) which surprises her and was the basis for the show.

ASL can change over time. I used to work with several deaf person and they laughingly commented on how one hearing co worker used “old fashioned” signs he learned from his deaf parents. He signed and understood them very well. I learned a number of signs but could never follow their conversations…too fast for me.

Also expressive facial gestures are important for deaf people.

In an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation, Data is able to communicate with the mute guest-alien-of-the-week via sign language. Of course, given Data’s superhuman intellect, this isn’t particularly surprising.

Yeah, Data explicitly learned sign language in that episode, for that purpose–which, being Data, he was able to do very quickly.

The Doctor (of Doctor Who) thinks he knows sign language, but it turns out he doesn’t.

I once worked with an ASL interpreter. She loved it because (in her own words) she was “a ham.”

Sorry to expand this to literature to give a shout out to my all time favorite book - Harry Crews’ The Gypsy’s Curse. Hester knew ASL and Morse code. What a sweetheart!

Whenever Marlee Matlin in on a show, the odds are good someone will know sign language.

I was once at a family wedding where one of the some-sort-of-cousins in attendance was deaf. Out of consideration for them, the hosts put a notepad and pencil at every table at the reception. The cousin’s wife, meanwhile, was also deaf, and additionally vision-impaired: She could see well enough to understand signing, but not to read. So he’d read what was written, and translate it for her.

Well, during conversation, they asked me what I did. I’m never sure how specific to be, so I answered “Physics. Relativity. What Einstein did.” And the sign he gave for Einstein, you could recognize from across the room, because the gesture he made with his hand against his head looked exactly like Einstein’s hair.

On Who Wants to be a Millionaire last week, one of the questions was (to the best of my recollection) “In ASL, this person is signed by raising your right arm and putting your fingers on your upper lip.”


Adolf Hitler. :eek: