Sign language is universal however, it is not an international language. What this means is that sign language is used all around the world. Mostly by hearing-impaired individuals but even hearing-enabled communities also employ sign language. As such, its reaches are far and wide. That being said, sign language is not the same in every place.

Different sign languages

Sign language is used everywhere but they are not all the same. Just as it can evolve from a parent spoken language where it varies in different parts of the world, so does sign language. Take for example English-speaking nations. It makes sense that they have the same sign language anywhere you go but that is not the case. This is because each country’s history and tradition have a direct effect on the type of sign language used in that specific area. This is why different deaf communities around the world acquire variations in the sign language that they use. The sign language used in Britain could be different from the one that is used in the United States even though they are both English-speaking countries.

Though there is an internationally accepted sign language referred to as International Sign or IS. This is oftentimes used in big congregations or international meetings by and for deaf people. This helps participants from all over communicate better using sign language as it operates using an internationally-accepted benchmark for sign language.

Three sections of sign language

As you delve deeper in your understanding of sign language, you could uncover three recurring themes. One of which is deaf sign language which is undoubtedly the preferred communication method of deaf people in and around their community. They use sign language as a visual cue to convey their thoughts, emotions, opinions, and others.

The second section is what is referred to as auxiliary sign language. This is not part of an inherent native language but is used to complement spoken language. It can have varying intricacies and can sometimes start from simple gestures all the way to complicated actions.

The third one is signed modes of spoken language. Oftentimes referred to as manually coded language, it aims to bring that gap closer between signed and spoken language. If you have seen the police or the military in action, they sometimes use sign language that has a direct spoken meaning such as stop, go and others. Even the Aircraft Marshalls, those that provide visual signals to pilots in airports and even carriers and helipads. They are also using advanced versions of signed modes of spoken language.

Main families of sign language

There are a few specific classifications of sign language based on genetic relationship. These are British Sign Language and  French Sign Language which covers American Sign Language. This is because of the French deaf sign language teacher Laurent Clerc who went to America in the early 1800s to teach. 

There are also Swedish Sign Language, German Sign Language, Japanese Sign Language as well as language isolates. These isolates are the ones that do not manifest any genealogical ties and relationships with other established languages around the world.