According to the World Federation of the Deaf (WFD), there are around 72 million deaf people across the world. Collectively, these people use over 300 different sign languages. Today, 23 September, we are celebrating the linguistic identity and diversity of deaf people and sign language users worldwide.
While any sign language is different structurally to any spoken language, they should be given just as much credit and importance. For that reason, we’ve brought together some facts about this day, its meaning, its importance, and about the deaf community worldwide.
Let’s clear the basics. You’ve probably seen numerous terms used to describe a person with hearing loss, including ‘Deaf’ with an uppercase d, ‘deaf’ with a lowercase d.
Well, the word deaf is used to describe or identify anyone who has a severe hearing problem. Sometimes it is used to refer to people who are severely hard of hearing too, but they not always use sign language. On the other hand, Deaf with a capital D is used to refer to people who have been deaf all their lives, or since before they started to learn to talk. They are pre-lingually deaf. It is an important distinction, because Deaf people often prefer to use sign language and it may be their first language.
Sign language varies from country to country. Most countries have their own sign language, or maybe share a certain sign language but, with a different dialect. For instance, different sign languages are used in different countries or regions. For example, British Sign Language (BSL) is a different language from ASL, and Americans who know ASL may not understand BSL.
Sign languages have their own definite grammar, and they use hand movements, sign order, as well as body and facial cues to create it. This is called non-manual activity. For instance, a well-constructed question must be accompanied by the correct eyebrow position.
Have you ever noticed how Deaf people signed their name? The name sign represents the person and is decided on by the local Deaf community but the tradition of giving name signs does more than just identify that person. It also signifies that the person is an integral part of the Deaf community. That means that most Deaf people have name signs.