Language focus | 09.10.2012

Deaf people need to learn different languages when travelling too!

Did you know that there is no international sign language? As with spoken language there are regional differences in gestures. They are fully-fledged languages recognized as separate with independent grammars and individual gestures. Worldwide, there are approximately 200 different sign languages.

British and American signers do, for example, find it very difficult to understand each other. Paradoxically, there are fewer differences between American Sign Language and French, because the American version is based on the French. German sign language also differs from the Austrian and Swiss versions.
Even within a sign language there are regional differences, similar to dialects in spoken languages. For example within the German Sign Language, the sign for the days of the week is different in North and South Germany.

There are attempts to create a comprehensible, artificial sign language to provide for international conferences, similar to the principle of Esperanto. The sign equivalent is called “Gestuno”,  – a mixture of the word gesture ‘and the UN. It includes 1500 signs, which are like any other living language adapted and expanded gradually. The disadvantage of this standard version is that the vocabulary is limited making it difficult and longwinded to translate long descriptions of facts.


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