Foreign languages are the springboard that can give you a start to a successful life and career. It’s no coincidence that they are so popular. But people communicate not only with words, but also with gestures. Unfortunately, not everyone can use or hear speech, then hands come to the rescue. But do deaf people have a universal language and how do foreigners communicate with each other?
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Sign language. What it is?
Sign language operates not with sounds, but with visual images. This makes it possible to communicate as effectively and practically fully as using spoken language. But the gestures used are different, depending on the country. In some places it is customary to communicate using only one hand, but in others they use both. Sometimes additional information is generally conveyed by facial expressions, and in some countries it is not used at all. Sign language even has its own etiquette; it describes the distance between interlocutors, how politely they should communicate and in what form.
Of course, not many people use sign language, and this has given rise to many misconceptions about this instrument. This language is often called poor, extra or even unreal. In fact, this is far from true. The language is rich and natural, which even linguists cannot deny. Poems are written and songs are sung in this language; it has its own grammar, syntax and vocabulary.
It is interesting that national sign languages were initially formed separately from oral ones. So there is no need to look for general details. It is no coincidence that those who know both English and American Sign Language (AMS) are actually bilingual.
There are more than 120 sign languages in the world. And there are differences between them. Moreover, even British and American Sign Language are so different that speakers of one language cannot understand speakers of the other. Yes, and there are dialects, as a result, the same gesture in different cities of the country can mean different things. It must be said that in many European countries sign languages are recognized on an equal basis with official ones. Teachers, police officers and social workers have to learn this language too.
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Interesting facts about sign languages
- Many languages have their own sign names. They are usually associated with some distinctive characteristics of a person: non-standard height, skin or hair color, manner of dressing. Some gestures allow you to designate a surname, for example, the owner of the surname Tkachev can be called “weaver”.
- Many universities have special programs in which teachers communicate with students using sign language. And in America there is even a specialized university for training people with hearing problems – Gallaudet University. There, the entire curriculum is taught using American Sign Language.
- In many countries, language development and standardization is left to the deaf community. This is especially true where sign language is not recognized as a national language. The community is compiling dictionaries and updating language standards.
- It is difficult to say how many sign language speakers there are in the world. There is no census. You can rely on information from some deaf communities, which estimate native speakers at 50-150 thousand people in some countries.
- Sign language should not be confused with fingerprinting, the reproduction of letters of the traditional alphabet using gestures. But in sign language, fingerprinting is used, but only to designate place names and terms that come from the spoken language.
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Russian sign language
Russian Sign Language or RSL is used in the CIS countries, as well as in the Baltic states, Bulgaria and Israel. And although about 120 thousand people use this language, it has never received official recognition. Even in Russia, and even then until 2012, the language was defined as a common language for communication with the deaf. Recently, RSL has begun to develop more actively, and the state has taken up the issue of training translators and creating teaching aids. The differences from the verbal Russian language are significant – grammar, vocabulary and morphology are largely taken from the sign languages of other countries, America, France, Austria.
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Foreign sign languages
International and universal sign language
The presence of each country with its own sign language forces us to find some kind of universal tool for communication between people from different parts of the world. Interestingly, there are at least a couple of international sign languages. In 1970, Gestuno was artificially developed, but it never became actively used. But another option, International Sign (IS), appeared naturally. It is considered a pidgin, that is, a mixed and simplified language. So there is no need to talk about a recognized full-fledged international sign language (like English among oral ones).
With a high probability we can say that sooner or later IS will become just like that. It is he who is used as an auxiliary at international events. You can meet IS at official conferences and events of the World Federation of the Deaf, and at the Deaflympics. People from all over the world met and tried to communicate using some common gestures, and that’s how IS appeared, developing to this day.
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French Sign Language
It was in France that sign language appeared among the deaf, becoming an opportunity for them to fully communicate. Over time, schools appeared where they taught using this instrument. The successful and useful system began to spread throughout the world. As a result, American, Russian, Italian, Austrian, Norwegian and many others can be considered similar to French sign language.
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British and American Sign Language
American Sign Language, also known as ASL, is used in the United States and Canada. But it can be classified as a member of the French language family, like others, including Russian. But in the UK, New Zealand, Australia, South Africa and Ireland they use the British Sign Language BANZSL (British, Australian and New Zealand Sign Language).
And although spoken English and the American language are very similar, sign languages have nothing in common with each other. This can be seen in videos where the same words are shown in completely different ways. The most important thing is the use of two hands in the American language, and one in the British language. And although words in both cases are actively taken from spoken English, these languages cannot even be called related.
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Japanese, Korean, and Taiwanese sign languages
All these languages developed approximately the same way, which allows us to classify them as one group. Strangely, the impetus was given by the Japanese occupation of Korea and Taiwan in the last century. It was the conquerors who opened the first schools for the deaf in the occupied territories. Teaching there, as was logical, was conducted using Japanese sign language. Over time, Korea and Taiwan developed their own sign languages, similar to their ancestor. The vocabulary of the languages of this group coincides by about 60%, and there are many similarities in grammar.
It must be said that Japanese sign language is not similar to its European counterparts. As in China, many words here are expressed using kanji or Chinese characters. They are either shown or drawn in the air with a finger. In these languages, which is rare, gender is also shown. For example, after the phrase “I gave it to her,” it is also necessary to add a gesture indicating a woman. The situation is similar with adjectives, which also require gender clarification.
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Chinese Sign Language
The exact number of native speakers of this language is unknown, but it can be assumed that against the background of the total number of Chinese, there are also millions of deaf people there. And Chinese Sign Language can be used by more than 20 million people. But this tool of communication is not on the list of languages in the country; it is never recognized at the national level. True, this does not prevent Chinese sign from being used in schools, universities and even kindergartens. There are also media that use this language to convey information.
Sign Chinese has been greatly influenced by oral Chinese. They have very similar syntax and grammatical features; of course, the hieroglyphs denoting words cannot be translated into gestures.
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Italian Sign Language
Italians love to supplement their speech with gestures; in total they have 250 coverbal movements, recognized and understood throughout the world. With the help of their hands, Italians show individual words, emotions and their shades, context and accessories. Oral language is unique, because developed gestures complement it and are actively used in speech.
But there is also a pure sign language in Italy, this is LIS (Lingua Dei Segni Italiana). It is intended for people with hearing problems. About 40 thousand people are carriers of LIS. There are some similarities with generally accepted Italian gestures, but still there is more in common not with the spoken language, but with sign French.
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