Sign language is a form of communication and expression, that provides deaf people with an opportunity to communicate without audible words. By intertwining signs and gestures in intricate patterns, they can create their unique form of discourse.
There are many different sign languages around the world, each having its unique features and vocabulary. Learning a new sign language can be a great way to open up communication with those who use it as their primary form of expression.
Here is a guide to some of the most widely used sign languages.
American Sign Language (ASL)
ASL is one of the most widely used sign languages in the United States and Canada. It has over 250,000-500,000 native users, making it an important part of Deaf culture in North America. ASL includes several distinct dialects that vary from region to region. American Sign Language relies heavily on facial expressions and hand gestures, as well as body language to convey meaning.
British Sign Language (BSL)
BSL is the primary sign language used in the United Kingdom. Like ASL, it includes several dialects and has about 150,000 native users. It is closely related to Auslan (Australian Sign Language) and New Zealand Sign Language, making it a part of the “BANZSL” family of sign languages.
French Sign Language (LSF)
LSF is used primarily in France but also in Belgium and some parts of Canada. There are approximately 100,000 native users of LSF around the world. This sign language uses a combination of facial expressions and hand signs to communicate ideas. It is very similar to ASL but has a few distinct features that make it unique.
Chinese Sign Language (CSL or ZGS)
CSL or ZGS is a language used by millions of deaf people in China. It is composed of hand signs, facial expressions, and body movements to communicate.
CSL shares many similarities with other signed languages like American Sign Language (ASL) because they all came from a common ancestor known as Old French Sign Language (OFSL).
However, it has its unique features because it was developed independently over hundreds of years in China. For example, CSL has fewer hand shapes than ASL and more emphasis on non-manual signals such as facial expressions and body posture.
Japanese Sign Language (JSL)
JSL is the primary sign language used in Japan and has been gaining popularity in recent years. It is estimated that there are around 60,000 native users of JSL throughout Japan.
This sign language was developed based on ASL and other national sign languages of Europe. Like other sign languages, it uses facial expressions and hand signs to communicate ideas.
Indian Sign Language (ISL)
ISL is an emerging sign language used primarily in India, with around 1 million to 2.7 million deaf people using it as their primary form of communication.
This sign language primarily utilizes hand signs to convey meaning but also incorporates facial expressions and body language. It is similar to ASL but has some distinct features that make it unique from other sign languages.
There are many more sign languages around the world, and each one has its unique features and vocabulary. Learning a new sign language can be an incredibly rewarding experience for both native and non-native speakers alike, opening up new worlds of communication.
Interesting Facts About Sign Languages
Sign languages are an important communication tool for people who are deaf, hearing impaired, or have difficulty speaking.
Here are some other fascinating facts about sign language.
- Sign language is not universal. Each country has its version of sign language with different signs and ways of communicating. Some countries even have multiple versions depending on the region or culture.
- Sign language is not a direct translation from English to signs. Instead, it uses its own grammar and syntax with specific rules for forming sentences and conveying meaning.
- One study found that babies as young as 6 months old can understand basic sign language gestures like “more” and “all done”.
- On average, sign language users can learn as many as 3,000 signs in their lifetime!
- Sign languages also have facial expressions that are used to convey emotion and add emphasis to a sentence.
- Some schools offer courses in sign language so students can become proficient in it and use it to communicate with those who are deaf or hearing impaired.
- There are even certain countries where the dominant language is sign language, such as Nicaragua’s Lengua de Señas Nicaragüense (LSN).
- Sign language has been around for centuries but was not recognized by the scientific community until the 19th century.
- Sign language isn’t only used by people who are hearing impaired, it can also be used to communicate with animals! A team of researchers has developed a sign language specifically for dolphins.
- Sign language is becoming increasingly popular as more people recognize its importance in helping those with disabilities communicate effectively with the world around them.
How different are BSL and ASL?
BSL and ASL are two distinct languages with rules, grammar, and etiquette. They use different signs for the same words and have different ways of expressing ideas.
BSL is a visual-gestural language that uses the movement of two hands, body, and facial expressions to convey messages while ASL letters are signed with one hand.
BSL is a language of the UK while ASL is used mainly in the USA and Canada. BSL has its own dialects, depending on which part of Britain the signer is from, while ASL has various regional dialects across North America.
Both languages also have different cultural nuances that reflect their respective countries’ cultures.
How many sign languages are there?
With more than 300 distinct sign languages in use across the globe, each nation has its own unique form of communication that sets it apart.
Which sign language is most used?
Chinese Sign Language (CSL or ZGS) is a powerful mode of communication uniting millions worldwide- from China to the rest of the globe. With up to 20 million users, CSL has become one of the most popular sign languages on Earth.
Is there a universal sign language?
While some elements of sign language may be shared in different cultures, there is no single set of gestures that can bridge the communication gap between all deaf communities.
Is ASL used in the UK?
ASL is widely spoken in the US and Canada, while BSL reigns as a popular choice for deaf individuals across the UK. These two forms of sign language are distinct from one another but both remain globally recognized methods of communication.