10 Facts About Sign Language Everyone Should Know

10 Facts About Sign Language Everyone Should Know
Sign language is an important means of communication for those with hearing or speech impairments. It allows for many to more efficiently function in their day-to-day lives. Sign language is also becoming increasingly more common. For example, Starbucks recently announced plans to open their first Signing Store, which will cater to those fluent in American Sign Language (ASL). Want to learn a few other facts about sign language?

Here are ten facts about sign language that everyone should know:

1. Sign language differs per country

Like most languages, different countries are accustomed to a different forms of sign language. While the general concept of speaking without words is consistent in each country, the signs differ from language to language. This is because sign language was not just handed over to people by the deaf community. Instead it developed naturally in different groups of people and evolved over time in order to form that foundation.

2. It was first introduced to America in 1817

While there is controversy about where and when sign language developed, many agree that it was first introduced to America in 1817. It was brought to the US by a French teacher who founded the first school for the deaf in Hartford, Connecticut.

3. It allows communication for those who would otherwise be deprived

As mentioned before, the development of this language presented, and continues to present, huge possibilities for those with impaired hearing. Wherever communities of deaf people exist, sign languages have developed. Sign language is also used by individuals unable to physically speak.

4. Sign Language does not represent one spoken language

A common misconception about sign languages is that they are somehow dependent on spoken languages. Some believe that sign language is just spoken language expressed in signs, or that this method of communication was invented by hearing people. This is not the case. Ultimately, sign languages have developed in the deaf community and do not represent one spoken language.

5. It uses more than just hands

Many assume that sign language takes place with the use of the hands only. However, it is extremely dependent on facial expressions in order to be an effective means of communication the way that vocal communication depends on tones in the voice.

6. It has its own grammatical rules

Like any other language, sign language has its own set of grammatical rules that those using the language are expected to follow. For example, to ask a question, the signer is expected to have the correct eyebrow position at the same time.

7. It can be acquired in the same way as a spoken language

Many children who grow up in a home with a deaf sibling or parent will acquire sign language in the same way they would if they grew up in a bilingual household. It begins with “babbling” of the hands, followed by small shapes, until they are eventually able to form together entire sentences.  

8. Sign Language can be affected by brain damage

If someone is in a tragic accident that involves brain damage, it can often affect language and someone’s ability to communicate. Like any other language, after a traumatic brain accident, someone who is fluent in sign language may struggle to effectively communicate.  

9. It is classified as a visual language

Though sign language shares many characteristics with spoken languages, it is classified as a visual language. Like mentioned earlier, it involves a significant number of visual signs including facial expressions.

10. It is expected to eventually form into a full language

Though sign language has been used as a means of communication for years, it has never been considered consistent enough to be rule-governed. It has only been recently that generations have begun to regularize it, and it is projected that in another generation or two it will be considered a full language.

This unique form of communication has provided a way for people who were once isolated from society to better assimilate themselves in everyday life. This is only projected to improve as the language becomes more common in society.

Know any other facts about sign language? Let us know in the comments below!

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