International Day of Sign Languages

23rd September is celebrated as the International Day of Sign languages. This day has been decided to celebrate on this particular date due to the reason that the world federation of Deaf (WFD) was established on this day in 1951. This was the result of the efforts of the WFD in the year 2017.

Sadly, there are more than 72 million people who are deaf all over the world according to the world federation. All these people take the help of 300 distinct languages to communicate and convey. Interestingly according to experts, sign languages are natural languages on their own and in their own right.

As Oliver sacks would say

“Sign language is the equal of speech, lending itself equally to the rigorous and the poetic, to philosophical analysis or to making love.”

These languages do deserve significance and should be accredited well as the other spoken languages. Though these differ in their structures and mediums of communication. Additionally, these are international sign languages that deaf people try using in order to mingle, travel, and attend international meetings.

When was sign language invented?

Sign languages are the type of languages that are more on the visual pattern and these are used by the relevant people to transmit messages. Though the exact number and statistics of these languages are yet to be known all over the globe. Generally, these differ on the basis of the region and country. A lot of countries have more than one sign language which is practiced in that region. The usage of these languages is not new and dates back to the past times too. People have used these languages throughout history and these languages have also evolved over the centuries.

Plato’s Cratylus published in the 15th century BC is accredited as the oldest recorded account that he has in sign languages.

As Socrates chips in

“If we didn’t have a voice or a tongue and wanted to communicate with one another, wouldn’t we try to make signals by moving our hands, heads, and the rest of our bodies, much like stupid people do now?”

The history of sign languages was not much known until the 19th century. The fingerspelling system restricted the data, they are also called manual alphabets. The purpose of the creation of these languages serves to translate the words from spoken language to sign languages. As per the records, it was Pedro Ponce de Leon who happens to be the founder of the first manual alphabet. He was a Spanish monk and as history tells first ever to develop methods that focused on teaching a deaf person.

Types of sign languages

There are more than 300 types of different sign languages in the use all over the globe. These types are named the same everywhere and differ with the country.

Also, regional accents also cause differences in the number of sign languages and it also affects how people comprehend these and how they use the sign languages for interpretation. In order to understand that people with hearing loss understand what they communicate and absorb their information.

Is sign language universal?

Sign language is not universal and as mentioned above these are different in different regions. British sign language also known as BSL is different from American sign language and all the Americans who understand sign language may not be able to comprehend the BSL well. A lot of countries have also adopted the BSL and ASL features for sign languages and practice a mixture of these both. However many other countries have developed their own sign languages to stand united with their community of deaf people.

Different themes in different years

The international day of sign languages falls on those few days that people observe all over the world. This date has been chosen to mark the anniversary of establishing the world federation of the deaf in 1951. This day is celebrated with a different theme every year.

For instance, the theme “with sign language, everyone is included” was decided for the year 2018.

It was “Sign language rights for all” in 2019. The participants appreciate the efforts to learn about this every year and they look forward to the event to celebrate and mark the day. It is great for everyone to get awareness and get educated about sign language rights for all. People are more educated and aware now of sign languages, their usage, and their significance. They also understand how they need to motivate deaf people to do better in their lives and not restrict their movement because of being deaf.

Most common sign language

Pidgin Signed English (PSE) is the sign language that is widely used among deaf people, particularly in the United States. Its vocabulary is taken from the Americal Sign language ASL. However, it is ensured to be present in the English word order.

Text messages with sign languages

The new mobile keyboard apps allow American sign language to messages and they don’t have to worry about translation or so. Users these days use the keyboard and send text messages and emails that also include emojis.

How many sign languages are there?

There are more than 300 sign languages around the world. Though the exact number of languages is unknown new sign languages are often emerging frequently which is a good sign about how people are getting to be more empathetic.

In a few countries such as Sri Lanka and Tanzania, the school for the deaf has separate languages that students use. Many countries also share the same sign languages but the names could vary with the regions. The need for sign language also arises out of the educational institutes, particularly in the village communities as they have a relatively high level of congenital deafness. However, there are sign languages that are developed for hearing including speech taboo language which is also used in aboriginal Australia.

International day of sign languages quotes

A few of the quotes regarding sign languages include

“If you are to reach masses of people in this world, you must do it by sign language. Whether your vehicle is commerce, literature, or politics, you can do nothing but raise signals, and make motions to the people.” – John Jay Chapman

Warwick Thornton further contributes

“I come from a place where you don’t need to talk all the time. There are sign languages you learn.” – Warwick Thornton

Different societies take deaf people as a burden on society which is not the right approach. Technology and sign languages are now helping deaf people to come forward and play their role too and the credit mainly goes to sign languages, according to Geroge Veditz

“Sign language is the noblest gift God has given to deaf people.” – George Veditz

Tarryn Fisher has a different perspective on sign languages.

“Human eyes are the sign language of the brain. If you watch them carefully, you can see the truth played out, raw and unguarded.” – Tarryn Fisher

How the international sign languages day should be observed

The day which is celebrated on the 23rd of September is celebrated with different practices in different states. Generally, it may comprise the following three practices

1.   Learning a sign language

In order to communicate and show solidarity with deaf people learning sign language could be the greatest venture. Multiple online resources can help with this. It leaves a great impact to welcome someone to learn sign languages. People may feel overwhelmed and obliged for you to go out of the way to learn their language and communicate with them in a way that they can understand well.

2.   Joining others to raise awareness

International day of sign Language can be further commemorated by raising awareness among people. A lot of individuals hardly know those sign languages even exist. Similarly, they also are not aware of the fact that how a huge number of people rely on sign languages all over the world. Therefore, people who know about it should be educating others voluntarily.

3.   Fundraising activity

People with disabilities often don’t get their basic rights everywhere and their needs are also overlooked by societies which make the situation worse. On the international day of sign languages, you can always conduct a fundraising activity and can collect funds for these people, and later these can be used for their betterment. You can take help from social media in order to create interest and generate more funds for people in need.

Final words

International day of sign Language is celebrated on the 23rd of September every year. This day has been decided to dedicate to mark the anniversary of the world federation of deaf which was made on the same day back in 1951. There are 72 million people in the world who are deaf and look up to others to facilitate them with things they need. Also, more than 300 sign languages are practiced in different countries.

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