The International Day of Sign Languages is celebrated annually across the world on 23 September, along with International Week of the Deaf. The 23rd September was chosen as the date because it coincides with the same date that the World Federation of the Deaf was established in 1951. Here are some fascinating facts about sign language that we bet you didn’t know.
A recent study discovered that more than 70 million people globally use sign language to communicate, and that sign language is the fourth most commonly used language in the United Kingdom.
Much like verbal speech, dialect and accents, sign language differs depending on country. The South African Sign Language (SASL) uses fingerspelling, which is a manual technique of signing used to spell letters and numbers (numerals, cardinals). Here is the South African Fingerspelled alphabet:
Sign language uses more than just hand gestures to communicate. Facial expression, hand movement and position, gestures, and body language are all incorporated to express meaning. Eyebrows are used to express definite grammar. For example, a well-constructed question can be accompanied by the correct eyebrow position. When a person is asking questions regarding who, where, what, why and when, then the eyebrows are kept down. If the question refers to a yes/no situation, then the eyebrows are kept up.
Many deaf people have ‘name signs’ that represent who they are in a short gesture so that they don’t have to keep spelling out their names tediously, letter-by-letter.
The creative team at TBC decided to help create awareness for Interational Sign Language Day with a fun video feature on signing. We were all very diligent and learnt to sign our names and what we do at TBC. This was something that we discovered wasn’t actually as daunting and difficult to do as we had initially thought. With a little practice, and the help of Claire Rothero, who is currently studying SASL (South African Sign Language) at WITS, we managed to pull it off and really enjoyed the task. We encourage you to learn to sign your name using the SASL fingerspelling alphabet above – it is a humbling and rewarding experience.