ridicuLIST: Sign Language is Universal

Posted by: Staff Writer on May 14, 2014

Deaf people have been around for as long as people started speaking to each other. When the first people who spoke realized they had to communicate with each other they developed structure and syntax for language. So did the Deaf, and thus, sign language was born, along with its own syntax and structure.

It’s indeed true that Deaf people have been using their hands and facial expressions as a mode of communication for thousands of years. Yet, to think that they are all using the exact same sign system around the world before books were published and the World Wide Web came into existence is is absured. Sign language used by the Deaf and hard of hearing is as diverse for each country and region as is the uniqueness of the cultures surrounding it. It has been recorded in this day and age that there are approximately 200 different Sign Languages used worldwide!

In addition, just because some countries speak the same language, doesn’t mean their sign language is the same. For example, Australia, England, the U.S. and parts of Canada speak English as their primary language but they all have their own variation of Sign Language. Some countries use two handed signs to represent their alphabet while others only use one hand. Not only that, but sign language can vary depending on the region within the same country! You’ll meet Deaf people who sign using a dialect that differs from their Northern or Southern neighbors.

But that doesn’t mean that Sign Languages around the world aren't influenced by one another. Australian Sign Language (Auslan) is heavily influenced by British Sign Language (BSL) and French Sign Language (LSF) inspired a man named Gallaudet to create the language Americans use today: American Sign Language.

So, what happens when Deaf people from all over the world come together? Communication Barriers! That is why the World Deaf Congress, now known as The World Federation of the Deaf createdsomething called International Sign. International Sign is composed of iconic signs easily understood by the signing community and is usually used during international meetings, Deaflympics, or traveling.

Are you a Deaf or hard of hearing person who knows International Sign?

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