Sunday, June 12, 2011

Sign Language is not just Deaf Language

I have been wondering how some people can be so uneducated about sign language. I have noticed people making fun of me or even other people who are conversing in sign language. Some of them think that sign language is deaf language and is only used as communication between deaf individuals and experienced hearing people who have studied it. But the truth is, everyone uses sign language to communicate, whether they are deaf or hearing.

When hearing people are socializing, they tend to use sign language to support what they are saying without even knowing they are doing it. See for yourself; try to notice the gestures you use upon communicating with friends and family. Can you talk and make whatever you are trying to say meaningful without moving your hands?  Can you keep the attention of the person you are talking to without using your hands? Absolutely not! You must use your hands to help your story make sense and to hold your audiences’ attention. It is also good to help explain the intensity of your story. Without using your hands, a person would not be able to grasp your sense of passion or strength, and your speech would be pointless. That is  because spoken language depends on sign language.

Sign language is the easiest language in which people can communicate. Suppose you met someone who didn’t speak the same language as yours. What would you do? How are you going to communicate? It’s a no brainer; you would use a form of sign language to communicate with them. The signs that you are going to use might not be formal signs, but it is sign language. You will have to try as much as you can to establish signs that both you and the other person can understand. I bet the both of you wouldn’t know or think that you are using sign language. It is surprising to me that a lot of people don’t notice that. I have friends who don’t speak English, but they communicate with others who speak English using their hands to talk and vice-verse. However, when I want to communicate with some of them and I use the formal sign language, I am made fun of. Why is that? Oh wait I know, it is the fact that I am deaf.

Other ways sign language is known as an easy way to communicate with people is through sports and babies. For example, in baseball games referees use sign language to show when a player is safe or out. Also, if you are scuba diving and submersed in water, you would use some sort of sign language to communicate with your partner. Basically, if your mouth is occupied with a breathing device or is full of food and you need to say something, you would use sign language to point them in the direction you want them to go or to indicate to “hold on a second” and that you would explain the concept later. In addition, babies can learn gestures much faster than speech. Babies tend to pick up on signs that parents unintentionally teach them; most of the time meaning “more” or “food.”   Baby sign language teach babies signs to communicate with  their parents before they even learn spoken language. See how easy it is? Now would those people who think sign language is a minority language admit how important sign language actually is?

There is a large chance that sign language was the first language humans used to communicate with each other when life just began to exist in the world. It is very unlikely and impossible for humans to instantly have a developed spoken language as soon as they were born. To develop a formal language that makes sense and has a recorded proper vocabulary would take a long time.  Prehistoric humans must have used some kind of communication like body gesture; and that would be considered sign language. Hearing people who make fun of deaf people when they are using sign language should understand that they themselves use sign language every day. There is no difference between formal sign language and spoken language.  It is like any other languages that help humans to communicate and understand each other.

I think sign language should be made an offered subject in schools so that children and teenagers have the option to learn and understand it. That way, there would be fewer misconceptions about it. The sign language that deaf people use to communicate it is just like the language hearing people use. There are so many false impressions about sign language because there are exists a large hearing community who believes that sign language is a minority language and therefore, it is not important or not good enough. If sign language is not important and is a minority language, then hearing people should not be allowed to use their hands or gesture while they are talking.


  1. It IS in some schools! Check this out...

  2. I love the idea of offering sign language in schools! But not as a substitute for a foreign language, but as an elective of sorts. I have never seen any of my students even so much as snicker at my deaf student. I feel that the hearing DO want to communicate but just don't know how. I wish you went to our school because no one here that I have ever seen would even think to do that. Keep doing what you're doing - help us -- the hearing -- understand better!