What Is Sign Language?
Sign language is a way of communicating via visual gestures and signs, used by deaf or hard of hearing people, however also used by those who are unable or have trouble speaking, whether a condition or a disability. The language is completely developed, with grammar and lexicon whilst using facial expressions, which can change the whole meaning of a sign.
History of Sign Language
Sign language’s earliest records have been noted to be established since the 5th century BC and seem to be noted by Socrates – “If we hadn’t a voice or a tongue, and wanted to express things to one another, wouldn’t we try to make signs by moving our hands, head, and the rest of our body.” (1). The bible refers to its use in the Gospel of Luke.
Is Sign Language Universal
There is no universal sign language and different signs are used by different countries and regions. Just like languages evolve geographically, so does sign language. In America, they use the American Sign Language (ASL), which is the 4th most popular language in the US with over 2 million users (2), while in England, they use British Sign Language (BSL) with over 125,000 users. It has been noted that there are between 138-300 different types of sign languages used throughout the world and even English-speaking countries do not use the same sign language (3). An interesting fact, ASL alphabet can all be done on one hand, whereas the BSL alphabet utilizes 2 hands.
The Benefits of Learning Sign Language
There are many benefits of learning sign language:
- Learning a language that is based on expressions, not speech, may help those that can use this form of communication to be able to understand babies and animals more
- You may become better at spelling as you may need to spell items out with the alphabet if you do not know the sign
- Improves presentation and body language skills
- Increases opportunities in one’s personal and business world
- Helps one concentrate more when communicating with someone
- Learning a second language, including sign language, is known to improve overall learning comprehension.
Overall, the Sign Language community is a vast and common language used worldwide. Just like a spoken language, there are different languages in different countries, dialects, and tones, which do not just use signs, but expressions too. There are many benefits to learning the language and encourage everyone to start learning the basics, as seen here; American Sign Language.