Did you know that there are over 135 different sign languages around the world? Including the American Sign Language (ASL), the British Sign Language (BSL). In Asia, the Korean Sign Language was very recently recognised as an official language in South Korea. There is no universal sign language, most countries that share the spoken language do not share a sign language.
What is fingerspelling?
Fingerspelling is the most commonly used form of sign language. It is the term used for signing the written alphabets. The manual alphabets are a major part of sign language. A manual alphabet can either be one-handed as in ASL and French Sign Language or two-handed as for BSL and AUSLAN. Fingerspelling is not the same globally as not all languages use the same Latin alphabets. Therefore, you will find that ASL or BSL are quite different from the Japanese Sign Language.
American Sign Language ASL
The National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD) defines ASL “is a complete, complex language that employs signs made by moving the hands combined with facial expressions and postures of the body.” Though ASL might use the same alphabets as of spoken English it is not a subset. It is a different language on its own with its own grammar and structure. It is also commonly accepted that ASL was widely derived from BSL.
British, Australian and New Zealand Sign Language BANZSL
Though the Australian and the New Zealand sign languages are majorly derived from BSL there are many differences. In New Zealand, Maori words are incorporated and AUSLAN incorporates certain aspects of the Irish Sign Language and other indigenous languages. Together this group of languages is referred to as BANZSL. In the UK, along with BSL some signers also use SSE, Sign Supported English. SSE borrows the patterns from BSL but uses the same grammar and structure rules of spoken English.
French Sign Language LSF
Another major sign language is the French Sign Language LSF. LSF was one of the first sign languages to be recognised and is derived from the centuries-old language used by the Parisian Deaf Community. It also has its own dialects such as the Marseille Sign Language, also known as the Southern French Language. LSF was taught by Charles Michel de l’Épéeat his free school. Even though French is spoken in many countries LSF isn’t the preferred sign language in all of them. Many francophone countries have developed their own sign languages influenced by their own multilingual nature. For example, in Canada the anglophones use the ASL while the francophone communities use the la Langue des Signes Québécois LSQ, they also have separate Maritime Sign Language. The Belgians use the Flemish Belgian or the French Belgian Sign Languages.
Chinese Sign Language CSL
In China, the sign language has been used for centuries but the first deaf school in China was established very recently by foreign missionaries. The Chinese Sign Language CSL also uses two dialects, the Shanghai (Southern) CSL or Beijing (Northern) CSL. CSL has taken ground, especially in the online community to spread awareness about deaf culture, sign language, and different dialects.
Indian Sign Language ISL
The Indian Sign Language ISL is majorly used in India and is taught and governed by the Indian Sign Language Research and Training Center ISLRTC an independent body dedicated to spreading awareness about the deaf community and teaching the sign language.
The spread of sign language across the globe shows that the local language and culture is a major influence on the sign language as on any spoken language. Though ASL, BSL, and LSF are the most widely used sign languages though they have developed different styles and dialects influenced by the local culture similar to the spoken language.
It’s always great to learn some basic words and phrases in sign language, you may never know when it might come in handy.