What you should know about sign languages

In this section, we have gathered a bunch of facts about sign languages you should know of. As frequently mentioned on these pages, sign languages are neither international nor artificial languages, as for example Esperanto is. Every country has its own naturally developed sign language. Moreover, dialect variation is often found in sign languages. The different sign languages all employ a distinct vocabulary and different grammatical structures.

As all languages, sign languages play an important cultural role. This is particularly true for sign languages because deaf signers are always a minority of the society they live in and their language is the main constituting factor for their community. Sign languages make rich and vivid communication possible exactly like spoken languages do. Of particular importance is moreover the so-called simultaneity, which is the possibility to use different articulators like the hands, upper body, head and face to convey different pieces information all at once. This simultaneity compensates the fact that it typically takes more time to produce a sign than to utter a word. The time difference is thus compensated on the sentence level. Signing a sentence, a conversation or a whole story will take exactly the same amount of time that it takes to utter it in spoken language.

Sign languages are important for the successful language acquisition of deaf children, since the complete mastery of a native language facilitates the acquisition of a second language, such as written German. It also makes lip-reading and learning to speak easier and gives access to further knowledge domains on a high level. A bilingual education both at school and at home is therefore the best possible basis for high achievements and a bright future for deaf children.

Another very important point that we want to make: Sign languages are fun! They are fascinating languages in a different modality. Sign language courses with deaf teachers are an enriching experience in every way. Sign languages help us gain insight into our cognitive system in general and at the same time open the path to a new culture and form of communication which is a lot of fun to learn.