On my recent trip to the Philippines I was reminded that there are many languages in the world. According to Ethnologue, there are 6,909 living languages in the world. Filipinos use 171 languages in their country (and their Deaf population is 12,914,601). Of all those languages, which one is best? It is easy to say your language is best, but that could be because you do not know the other 6,000 languages!
Sometimes hearing people with good intentions force language upon Deaf people. It is easy to learn a few signs from a book or video. But it is important to learn and use the signs that Deaf people use. Just because a sign is in a book does not necessarily mean that it is the correct sign for a certain idea. For example, what is the sign for run? The correct answer is, “What are you trying to say?” A search at Dictionary.com shows 179 uses for the word run. Most of those would not use the sign “run” found in most sign language books!
Sign language beginners often sign using English grammar and word order. Deaf people tend to learn English as a second language. This is one reason a Deaf person can understand a new hearing signer. But when the Deaf person signs back, the hearing person cannot understand. Also, Deaf people tend to “code switch,” meaning they will use more English signing to a hearing person, but change back to their “traditional” sign language when signing with other Deaf people.
Therefore, hearing people… “If they do not understand the way you sign, then sign the way they understand!” Always continue to learn and improve your sign language. Consider coming to the SWM ASL Institute this summer to learn more. Click Here for information