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Do you consider sign language another language?


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I have many friends who are deaf/ hard of hearing.  I know some sign language, I'm conversational at best... but I love it and I'm eager to learn more!  I'm curious if sign language is considered to be another language.  I think it would be great if people knew it, but I understand you'd only need to use it with someone who is deaf and knows it.

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My husband actually took ASL as his foreign language course for his BA.

I definitely think that it is recognized as a foreign language if it is accepted as credit in major Universities.

Not only do deaf and hard of hearing people use sign language, but so do people who can hear well but have some other limitation preventing them from speaking like the rest of us.

I am a really visual person, so I found it really easy to learn sign language when my husband was studying it. I think it is really fun and unique- plus it opens up a world of possibilities in extending communication with others!

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Absolutely it is. Language is a means of communication, whether verbal or physical. That being said, sign language differs greatly from region to region, so it's more accurate to not consider it on the whole as a language, but more of a language family.

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I certainly do! You have to learn presentation, grammar (so to speak), and putting all the letters together to form a word. I think it is very difficult and something I always wanted to learn. This would probably be a language I could learn on my own--good idea.

In addition to learning this new skill, it would also test the brain power! Supa!

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Absolutely it is. Language is a means of communication, whether verbal or physical. That being said, sign language differs greatly from region to region, so it's more accurate to not consider it on the whole as a language, but more of a language family.

Yes, indeed.  American Sign Language (ASL) is the dominate language and there are regional differences worldwide. 

And as to the original question, yes, sign language is not only another language, but as with spoken languages, it carries with it cultural and social traditions.  For someone who wishes to learn sign language and to become really immersed in the language, it can be a similar experience as with spoken languages.  It can become a gateway to deaf culture and society. 

There are also lots of resources on sign language on the Internet especially for American Sign Language (ASL); all kinds of tutorials and study guides, etc. 

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Sign language is most certainly a real language. I've said this in another thread, language is situational. In order to effectively communicate you need to figure out the appropriate language for every situation. Sometimes, that language is sign language.

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Yes I consider sign language a form of language. Although in some cases I consider sign language a variety of language. I mean people who learn sign language have to learn sign language to speak, to those who know how to communicate in sign language.

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I consider sign language to be a real language, I took a few classes so I could communicate with some classmates who were taking a special class because they were deaf.  I saw them using the sign language all the time, and I can assure you that it's a really complete and detailed language.  I never got to really learn it, not to a conversational level at least, but I got to learn a couple of words :)

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I have many friends who are deaf/ hard of hearing.  I know some sign language, I'm conversational at best... but I love it and I'm eager to learn more!  I'm curious if sign language is considered to be another language.  I think it would be great if people knew it, but I understand you'd only need to use it with someone who is deaf and knows it.

Im not sure I would say sign language is another language. To me it is just delivering the language in another way. So you can say deliver a message by speech, in text and in sign... But it is still delivered in the English or whatever language the receiver understands.

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Thank you for the replies!

I like that last reply, got me thinking... yes, it is a way to deliver the language.  That's true.  But it does have it's own way of" talking", so isn't that a language?  Very interesting indeed.

I want to learn more sign language.  I know many baby signs, I teach them to my kids.  But I could never meet a deaf person and totally communicate, unless it involved a lot of finger-spelling.  LOL

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Yes, accents.  Very interesting!  That article goes a long way towards demonstrating how and why  sign language is a real language in every sense that we think of spoken languages as real. 

It's particularly fascinating what it has to say about how some native deaf signers, as they are called, can identify whether or not another signer as a fellow native deaf signer, and that they can figure out if someone is deaf or hearing, just by how they sign.  It says some of them can also figure out if someone is an interpreter or a "post-lingual learner." 

This makes complete sense, as someone who is deaf and whose only means of communicating is with sign language  -- thus a native speaker --  would have had an entirely different life experience from someone who learned sign language later in life, perhaps as a hearing person with an interest in sign language, or perhaps as someone who became deaf or hard of hearing later in life and had to learn sign language out of necessity. 

I see this as essentially the same experience we would have in learning a foreign language later in life out of personal interest or necessity; for instance, we moved to a country where the language is spoken or we needed it for a job. 

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I would definitely consider ASL to be another language. Certainly if you have not studied it you would have a really hard time understanding what is being said! There are of course some words that are intuitive but not everything.

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It most certainly is a language.  I learned some sign language while I was training for my scuba diving license and I used much of it while under water.  I love the post about accents in sign language.  That is so true!  I am glad to see that nobody is knocking it as “not being a language”.  It deserves the respect that it is getting.

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  • 4 months later...

Of course. Sign language is the language used for the deaf and mute, this is the only understandable language for them except those who already know how to write English and other languages. Sign language is a great tool for those who have hearing and speaking disabilities since they can still communicate to other people including those who can speak.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Sign language is a means of communicating with others so I do consider it another language. If this language was not developed many hearing impaired would be left behind in the world of communication. Sign language is not only used by the hearing impaired but many people including myself do find it an interesting way to communicate even with others who do not have a hearing problem :cool:.

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Yes. It meets all of Hockett's features of human language (can be found here http://people.exeter.ac.uk/bosthaus/Lecture/hockett1.htm - the vocal-auditory channel appears in earlier versions but was removed as it became clear that sign language is a language in its own right). The grammar and sentence structure is also completely different from English. There are also different variants of sign language - users of ASL/BSL will not understand each other (I believe).

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I guess I don't genreally think of sign language as it's own language, but thinking about it more closely - of course it is! It's just different from the common definition of what a language is..

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I have many friends who are deaf/ hard of hearing.  I know some sign language, I'm conversational at best... but I love it and I'm eager to learn more!  I'm curious if sign language is considered to be another language.  I think it would be great if people knew it, but I understand you'd only need to use it with someone who is deaf and knows it.

I think sign language is indeed another language. Sign language is a complete, complex language that employs signs that is used by the hands, show facial expression and postures of the body. International sign language have been develop so that people can communicate between nations. Sign languages are composed from vocabulary signs from different sign languages that which deaf people agreed to use at international events and meetings. Sign languages can be used to break down the barriers between the hearing and deaf populations.

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