It’s been a big week for sign language:
First, the faux-terpreter scandal at Nelson Mandela’s funeral
and then, the cutest KODA (Kid of Deaf Adult) signing her school’s holiday sing-a-long for her parents in the audience. Fast foward to 2:34 for “I Have a Little Dreidel”, her shining moment. She is a star.
Some fun facts about sign language:
- Sign languages combine hand shapes with facial expressions with body movement and orientation to fully convey a speaker’s thoughts.
- Sign languages exhibit the same linguistic properties as oral languages and are as rich and complex as any spoken language. They have their own morphology ( for creating words), phonetics (rules for handshapes), and grammars that are very different from those in spoken languages.
- Sign language is NOT international: Ethnologue estimates there are up to 137 different sign languages across the world.
- American, Irish, Mexican, Catalan, Austrian (just to name a few) variations of sign language are based upon French Sign Language. This is because one of the first deaf language teachers to come to the US was French.
- Bolivian, Ugandan, Rwandan sign languages are considered dialects of ASL.
- American Sign Language and British Sign Language are actually almost entirely unintelligible for its signers: they share only 31% of signs! While American and Brits can understand each other most of the time, American and British signers have a much more difficult time. ASL is actually more similar to Japanese sign language in its sign and grammar system than it is to BSL!
- British Sign Language is one of the only systems to require its users to use both hands when fingerspelling.
ASL vs. BSL