International Sign Language essay

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There is also an International Sign Language which is used in international forums. The need to communicate is universal and so is language. Just as there are many spoken languages in there world, so is sign languages. These sign languages have there own accent and dialect. Each reflects its past, the culture through which it grew and the customs of its society. Therefore there was a need to come up with a language that all these people could use when gathered in one place. The idea of unifying the sign languages came up in 1951 at a gathering of the World Congress of the World Federation of the Deaf. In 1973 a committee was tasked with devising and standardizing a system of international gestures. A book containing 1500 signs that was called Gestuno, an Italian word that means oneness of sign languages was issued. This sign language is still being used in general assemblies although it is still not universally known. It is used at the World Games for the Deaf, at the DEAF WAY Conference and Festival in Washington DC. Other than these events, the use of the language is still very limited. Although it is not used widely, it is still a barrier breaking vocabulary that gives a select few a chance to bridge the international language gap. It is therefore expected that the new generation of signers will develop the universal sign language further to make international communication easier (Jones 2001).

As outlined above, there are many sign languages in the world. Many countries have their own different languages. It is therefore not easy to come up with exact figures showing the number of people speaking sign language in the world.  However estimates have been made of the people speaking the different sign languages in the world. One of the widely known sign language is the American Sign Language. It is estimated that 500,000 to 2,000,000 signers use American Sign Language in the United States in addition to many others abroad. Another sign language used by signers is the British Sign Language. It is estimated that 50,000 first-language signers use the British Sign Language. We also have the French Sign Language. Estimates show that 80,000 to 300,000 signers use the French Sign Language in the world. There is also the International Sign Language. Estimating how many people use the International Sign Language is not simple, and there an estimated number has not yet been arrived at. it should also be noted that some nations have multiple sign languages. For instance, there are three main sign languages in Japan. There is the Japanese Sign Language, JSL that is used generally by the native speakers. This language involves mouthing syllables that go with finger spelling. Then there is the Pidgin Signed Japanese that is used among the non-native speakers and also the native speakers. And finally there is the Manually Signed Japanese that translates written form of Japanese into comprehensible gestures. There are other sign languages used all over the world but it is hard to compile their statistics. As it can be seen from these statistics, it is hard to determine accurately the number of people who sign using even a country’s own sign language. This is why statistics for many countries of the world are not available. It is therefore hard to precisely say for the world or even a country, how many people use a sign language (Sign language 2010).

We have already seen that there are many sign languages in the world toady. These in themselves are separate languages but not dialects. But there are also dialects of sign languages, for instance, there is the Marseille dialect of the French Sign Language. It is hard to count language dialects because the boundary that exists between a separate language, a dialect, and an accent is very fluid. Many European languages have corresponding sign languages all of which are mutually unintelligible. Most probably they started developing at local schools for the deaf in a particular country and slowly grew from there. In most there are two languages completely separate, one that corresponds word for word with the native language, for instance Signed English, which is used almost exclusively for describing a language or recitations from texts of the native language, and the language that is used daily for example the American Signed Language. Many languages also borrow very much from the French Sign Language, one of the earliest sign languages to be formalized. It is estimated that there is nearly a 60% overlap between the American Sign Languages and French. It is also possible to get separate languages even where the native Language is the same. This can be seen for example from the Irish, Australian, British, and the American sign languages, which are mutually unintelligible.  Although the Irish and Australian sign languages are very much related to the British sign language. The Canadians on the other hand, use the American Sign Language. It is only the Quebecois who have their own sign language whereby boys and girls use slightly different languages, this difference stems from the non-coeducation at the formation time of the language (Berke 2010).

As already shown, there are many sign languages all over the world. To understand these languages better, we will look at sign languages from sampled countries around the world. We will start with the Russian Sign Language. Russian language is very much established with available learning resources in various formats. This language has been established on the Web, the Deafblind.com website. Moreover, the Russian Stanford University has a Russian Sign Language project with Quicktime videos.  A Russian/American Sign Language translator program is also in place. This is capable of translating more than 600 words. The Moscow Bilingual Deaf School Association also sells a CD-ROM dictionary of the Russian sign language. In places having large Russian presence, especially in the US, there are agencies that offer interpreting services for Russian Sign Language. There are also books, for instance, there is the Russian/English dictionary for Russian Sign Language called the talking hands, and the Sign Language and Fingerspelling book. Galina Zaitseva is an individual who is widely credited for research in Russian Sign Language. She is the founder of the Moscow Bilingual School for the Deaf. She many published works on the Russian Sign Language (Berke 2010).

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