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Sign Language: The Often Forgotten Language Explained

When the term language is brought up or discussed, it is often thought of in terms of words and oratory sounds that convey messages between individuals. There is, however, an important language that does not rely on this verbal communication but rather on the motorized skills needed to convey a message. Known as sign language, this nonverbal approach to sharing is as equally beneficial and important to the global landscape as a verbal sharing in sharing information.

What Is It?

In its most basic definition, sign language is the use of actions and movements, usually of the hands and face, which convey words, messages, and thoughts. It is a language or means of communication that relies primarily on the movement and motor skills of the body to translate what would more conventionally be done through verbalization. As equally important to sign language as the movements of the body are is the visual centers as well. Sign language relies on the use of movement by an individual who is demonstrating their actions or language as another individual watches or looks at them. In this way, then, sign language is a language that relies on the motorized actions of the body and the sense of sight as well.

Who Uses It?

Sign language is a means of communication that is most often used by the deaf or the hearing impaired as a means of communication. Because verbal communication in the spoken word relies heavily on the use of hearing due to the need for mimicry, those that struggle with hearing issues can find verbalization of words and thoughts in the traditional sense as more difficult than those without any hearing difficulties. For that reason, the use of sign language can open a world of communication that is simply not possible with the spoken language alone. Further, those who struggle with communication disorders that may physically, emotionally, or cognitively prevent them from using a verbal pattern to convey thought and meaning find great benefit in the use of sign language. This includes children who have not fully developed the language of their brains as well.


Much like the spoken word, sign language is not universal. There is not one set of sign language movements and actions that are used across all regions of the world. Instead, there can be regional and geographic boundaries in which this language is bound. There are roughly seven known sign language types in the world, including signed English, finger spelling, and American Sign Language. These, however, are not the only types. Many times less formal sign language genres will develop within a single family group or among specific individuals. For that reason, there are often these unrecognized or undetected types of sign language that are not largely known or understood but still considered a means of communication and, ultimately, language.

Other Information

Sign language is not as widely taught or embraced, arguably, in the traditional school or education systems. Instead, it is often at the post-secondary level of educational growth that a student will first be able to access a class or course that teaches this language. There are, however, specialized schools in most modern countries and more westernized systems of learning that offer individuals that require sign language for successful communication and organizations that will provide the instruction necessary to begin understanding.


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