American Sign Language (ASL) does not have a one-to-one translation to American English. ASL is not a universal language, either. Different countries have their own sign languages (e.g., Chinese Sign Language, Italian Sign Language). ASL is its own language, and with that language comes a unique culture.
Before ASL, Deaf people were without language and an adequate means of communication. They had to read lips or attempt to speak. The Milan Conference of 1880 decided to ban sign language in schools and use special therapy and oral education to teach Deaf students. They were left without proper communication until ASL was instigated as their means of communication. ASL is far more direct and open than spoken English because it does not have subtle connotations that are easily misread.
Deaf Culture makes a goal to promote sociability and support for the Deaf. This includes integrating non-deaf people into their community. Parents who have deaf children, for example, should be educated in ASL and the culture that comes with it.
Deaf people have name signs instead of just finger spelling their names alphabetically. They are specific to each person, usually reflecting some aspect of that person's personality. If someone were to spend a lot of time among the Deaf community, they would be given a name sign from a Deaf person. Socializing and communication are very important to the Deaf community.
Recently, there has been a lot of publicity for Deaf Culture. Nyle DiMarco, an American actor and model, was the winner of America's Next Top Model's last season. He uses his social standing to speak about and educate people on Deaf Culture, including direction on pop culture signs. Deaf West Theatre's Spring Awakening went to Broadway last September and is ending its run this week. The show includes many talented deaf actors who have often shared their experience with Deaf Culture.
ASL is a three-dimensional language that has the power to bring hearing and deaf people together. There are countless resources available for people to learn ASL. It's incredibly beautiful and expressive language.