To begin with the saying “Signs are to eyes what words are to ears” . Sign language is a form of communication through bodily movements, expressed mainly through the hands and arms, used when spoken communication is a barrier. The practice is probably dated older than speech.There is a common misconception among people that wherever you go sign language is the same. There are about 138 and 300 different types of signing being used throughout the planet.
French Sign Language (LSF):
French Signing(LSF) is the earliest among the European sign languages to gain acceptance by educators, and it also has wide influence in other sign languages like ASL, ISL, Russian Sign Language (RSL) and more.
International Sign (IS), is a world auxiliary language used at international meetings such as the World Federation of the Deaf (WFD) Congress and also in Deaflympics kind of events. The United Nations (UN) General Assembly adopted the day of 23rd of September as an awareness day for International Day of Sign Languages (IDSL) because the World Federation of the Deaf was established in the year 1951.
American Sign Language (ASL)
Americans and Britains are often said to be “divided by a common language.” But the deaf communities in the two countries don’t have a common language. Britain sign language and American sign language are not in the same language family.
In Fact around 2.5 to 5 lakh native people of the United States claim ASL as their native language. It is also being followed in Canada, West Africa and Southeast Asian countries. ASL has the influence of French Sign language and Martha’s Vineyard Sign Language and also uses one-handed fingerspelling alphabet.
Indo-Pakistani Sign Language:
The native sign language of South Asian people is Indo-Pakistani sign language but it lacks official recognition and support. While it’s not taught in public schools, however some NGOs do use it to teach both academic and vocational courses. There is a dire interpreter shortage for Indo-Pakistani Sign languages . In India, there are only about 250 certified sign language interpreters for about 1.8 million people who are deaf or hard of hearing.
Tamil Sign Language:
Tamil Sign Language(TSL) is different in phonetics, grammar, hand gestures and syntax from other sign languages. TSL like other sign languages uses both static and dynamic hand gestures, face movements, head/bodily movements, position of hand with respect to body parts to represent signs.
The above Figure 1 represents vowels and consonants of tamil language.
Ancient Sign language in South Asian Region:
The information about sign languages and the lives of deaf people in ancient South Asian Literature are rare; only a few references to deaf people and gestural communication is available in those texts.
Hinduism, Buddhism and Zoroastrianism religious context employ symbolic hand gestures known as mudras although deaf people are excluded in ritual or religious practices. Additionally classical Indian dance and theatre often employs hand gestures that convey particular meanings.
Benefits of Sign Language for Normal People:
Sign Language is the primary form of communication for Deaf or hard of hearing but it has lot of features that is applicable to everyone.
- Facial expressions involved in sign languages can be used to express both emotion and grammatical information. For example, the raising and lowering of eyebrows can change the structure of a statement to question.
- Any person who speaks a sign language additionally does some extra movements thereby probably burning a few calories every time they talk.
- People learning sign language are often much better listeners because they must engage eye contact with the speaker who is speaking.
- Sign languages are used in the physically impossible environments, such as talking underwater, talking through glass, from a distance, at a loud music concert, and talking with your mouth full.
- Sign language allows people to convey information without interrupting others and without producing noise. Example: We can talk to our friends in the theatre without disturbing others.
Innovations in Sign Language:
- The vision system is composed of two cameras: a head-mounted camera and a chest-mounted camera which offers a top view and bottom view to spot signs that translates sign language in real time and need for a translator can be minimized.
- A glove is developed to allow people to communicate with others in real time without the need of a translator by converting signs into language desired by the listener.
- Live-transcription is a feature that is used to translate speech into text and shows it on the screen.
- A 3D-printed robotic hand has the ability to translate words into sign language gestures.
Sign language evolved in such a way that it breaks the barriers imposed on people by the society. It also has the potential to emerge into an alternative link language in the future for a multilingual ecosystem.