Let us begin by asking this question. What is language? Can you tell? Isn’t language a written or spoken way of communicating with other people around us.
Then that makes sign language a non-spoken way of communicating with people around us. It is a language made up of gestures like hand movements and facial expressions.
But why do we need a sign language? Who uses sign language? Sign language is often used by people who are deaf and cannot hear. People who are deaf by birth cannot communicate well by speaking. Since they never hear people talking, they are unable learn how to talk. So they express themselves by using sign language. Before we move on, a quick quiz. Can you guess what the gesture in the image below means in most sign languages?
It means Friend.
Most people think sign languages is a spoken language translated into gestures. But this is absolutely incorrect!! Sign languages are independent of spoken languages. A good example of this is that British Sign Language and American Sign Language are quite different from each other, even though British people and Americans share the same spoken language – English. There are hundreds of sign languages used around the world. Each culture has developed its own form of sign language.
Some time in a community where deafness in prevalent, sign language is taken up by an entire community. Isn’t that peculiar? Martha’s Vineyard Sign Language was widely used on the island of Martha’s Vineyard, U.S from the early 18th century to 1952. It was used by both deaf and hearing people in the community. Kata Kolok is a sign language used across two villages in Bali.
Did you know that sign language is the fourth most-used language in the US?
(Reference – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sign_language)