With the 23rd of September earmarked to be the International Day of Sign Languages every year, it makes sense to turn the spotlight on a mode of communication that makes lives simpler for so many of the differently abled and those around them.
It is important to recognise the significant contribution of sign languages. There is poetry to them. The poetry of movement and fluidity, one that deserves to be celebrated. In this article, you will learn about this fantastic mode of communication and what makes it truly great and beneficial. Let us begin!
What are sign languages?
Simply put sign languages is a way to communicate that involves the use of hands to create signs and symbols instead of relying on spoken words. This language is used by people who cannot hear or speak as well as by their caretakers. Bodily movements intended to communicate are also a part of sign language.
Most countries have their version of sign language based on the language they speak. For example, the USA has the ASL or American Sign Language, while the UK makes use of BSL or British Sign Language. In India, the ISL or Indian Sign Language is the primary way to converse and communicate for people who experience speech or auditory impairments.
How does sign language work?
As mentioned earlier, sign language makes use of body and hand movements to replace speech as a form of communication. That said, facial expressions also form a big part of it. Sign language works on the principle of communicating a concept rather than being a visual translation of a particular word.
That said, it can be virtually impossible for, say, an ASL person to understand BSL. Now you might argue that both the countries speak English, so the sign languages of both should be very similar but that is not the case. Sign languages develop independently of one another. And since they are about conveying concepts, well common concepts of any two countries might greatly vary.That said, it still might be possible to make some interpretations of sign languages. However, such interpretations do not indicate an exact translation in any case.
As for the nuances of sign languages, here is the gist. In sign language, the act of using gestures and actions to communicate is known as speaking, even though no verbal speech is a part of it. It is also known as signing. So if you hear that used, just know that speaking and signing mean the same thing and can be used interchangeably.
Another thing to note is that one who ‘listens’ to a sign language is said to be ‘receiving’ signs. The person communicating is the speaker, and similarly, the listener is the receiver.
While being the receiver of sign language your objective should be to focus intently on the speakers eyes and face, while your peripheral vision should be directed to their hands. This division of focus between face and hands will result in receiving clear messages instead of it getting lost due to partial focus. Sign language does involve the use of expression as much as of hands so your attention should be equally divided.
As for alphabets, sign language involves the use of hand movements to denote all the alphabets of a language.
What are the advantages of sign language?
Now that we have covered the basics of sign language, let us delve into its many advantages. Learning sign language is beneficial for both kids and adults alike. It equips them with the ability to communicate clearly while offering several other benefits, which are:
- Strengthens the bond between parents and kids
- Enhances spatial reasoning
- Improves the ability to understand body language
- Improved peripheral vision and response time
- Plenty of cognitive benefits
Studies have shown that parents who teach their kids sign language early on have improved communication with their child while adding to the child’s overall confidence levels.
Children when they cannot freely express what they feel can get very frustrated, a feeling which relays to their parents when they are unable to understand them. However, by using signs, both parties are able to communicate clearly, which prevents frustration. And provides extra time to bond since there is no need to put out any metaphorical fires any more.
Let us define spatial reasoning first. It is the ability to process the environment and to comprehend that objects within said environment are three-dimensional. Spatial reasoning is the very basis of subjects such as science and maths as well as creative activities including painting and drawing. Knowing sign language can dramatically improve a person’s spatial reasoning, giving them an edge in making intuitive interpretations over those who do not know sign language.
Since sign language is a combination of body and hand movements along with facial expressions, those who are well-versed in sign language develop a stronger ability to comprehend a person’s body language. It becomes easier for them to pick up on physical cues because they are used to paying attention to posture, facial expressions and the like.
Reaction times and peripheral vision can significantly improve by learning sign language. Something that once more can be attributed to the very nature of this language. The good thing is if you are an athlete, you could greatly benefit from better peripheral vision and response time as keeping your eyes on all points and reacting to rapidly changing situations forms the basis of many sport activities.
Among the long-term benefits of knowing sign language is improved overtime. Studies have revealed that signing has a positive impact on creativity, and can even protect against diseases such as Alzheimer’s. It can also have a positive impact on a person’s reasoning skills and can even raise a child’s IQ if they are taught the language young. Other benefits include improved reading skills and a greater vocabulary.
Which is the most common language?
Well, there are no prizes for guessing! The most common sign language globally is ASL. It is spoken in over 20 countries and has quite a few dialects too. In terms of sheer numbers though, Indo-Pakistani Sign Language or IPSL leads, with an estimated 6.3 million native speakers. IPSL is also spoken in Bangladesh and Pakistan apart from India.
Sign language is beautiful. It is empowering and can help people from different walks of life communicate with ease, without any barriers. Dotted with several benefits, it is a language that deserves to be celebrated! At EuroKids, we salute all the signers and receivers of this great language. We instil in our kids a deep respect for the differently abled, teaching them empathy and patience along the way. To know more, drop by at any one of our branches.