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Sign Language - Types and Ways of Communication

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Sign language is a way through which people who cannot speak can communicate with others. Continue reading to know in detail.

Medically reviewed by

Dr. Satyabrata Panigrahi

Published At January 18, 2023
Reviewed AtMay 30, 2023

What Is Sign Language?

Sign language is a mode of communication for people who are unable to speak with hand gestures, movements, body language, and facial expressions. Sign language is not the same throughout the world. People from different countries have different sign languages. Sign languages have gestures and signals which are organized linguistically. Each individual gesture is called a sign. The sign has three different parts; they are the hand shape, the position of the hands, and the movements of the hands.

What Are the Different Sign Languages?

Sign languages used for communication are different for people from different parts of the world.

  • American Sign Language (ASL) - American sign language uses the same alphabet as english. It is not a subset of the english language. American sign language was created independently and had its own linguistic structure. American sign language is used mainly by Americans. Signs are not expressed in the same way as that words in english. This is because sign language has its own unique grammar and visual nature.

  • British, Australian, and New Zealand Sign Language (BANZSL) - British sign language, Australian sign language, and New Zealand sign language share the same alphabet in the sign language. Unlike American sign language, this sign language uses two hands for the alphabet.

  • Chinese Sign Language (CSL) - Chinese sign language uses the hand to visually represent the written Chinese characters.

  • French Sign Language (LSF) - French sign language is similar to American sign language. In fact, the origin of ASL is from this only. Even though this is similar, there are minor differences between ASL and LSF.

  • Japanese Sign Language (JSL) - Japanese sign language is based on the Japanese alphabet, which is made up of phonetic syllables. It is known as Nihon Shuwa in Japan.

  • Arabic Sign Language - Arabic sign language is a common term used for the sign language used across the Middle East.

  • Spanish Sign Language - Spanish sign language is recognized by the Spanish government. It is native to Spain, except for Valencia and Catalonia. The Spanish countries do not use Spanish sign language.

  • Mexican Sign Language (LSM) - The people who reside in Mexico City, Guadalajara, and Monterrey use this Mexican sign language. There are variations of this language between people of different age groups and religious backgrounds.

  • Ukrainian Sign Language - Ukrainian sign language is derived from French sign language. It has 33 signs which make use of 23 handshapes of the Ukrainian sign language.

  • Plain Sign Talk - Plain sign talk, also known as plain sign language, is native to North America. It is an indigenous sign language that was once used by the people to support trades, tell stories, conduct ceremonies, and act as a daily communication language for deaf people. It was used by people in central Canada, the central and Western United States, and Northern Mexico.

Who Uses Sign Language?

Sign languages are used by deaf people or those who are suffering from deafness and also by people who cannot speak (dumb).

How Do Children Learn Sign Language?

Children who are deaf and dumb learn sign language automatically if their parents and other people around them use the language. They learn sign language as other normal children learn a spoken language like english.

Where Did Sign Languages Come From?

Many people think that sign language was developed by hearing people and was then taught to the people in the deaf community. But the truth is that sign language was developed by deaf people only. Deaf people created a home sign system that they use to communicate with their hearing family members. This home sign system included a small vocabulary and no grammar. When deaf people met each other and formed a community, they initially used this home sign system to communicate with each other. Slowly sign language started to develop as the community used the same signs to communicate. They used the signs to form a sentence to communicate, and as time passed, more and more signs were included, and rules of grammar were also introduced. This is when the home sign is translated to sign language.

What Other Ways Can a Deaf Person Communicate?

The other way through which a deaf person can communicate with others is by lip-reading. Even though the deaf cannot hear what you say, they can understand you. They use lip reading so as to interpret what you are saying.

Lip reading is a technique to understand speech by seeing the movements of the lip and tongue to interpret what a person is saying. This is used by many deaf people, especially if they do not know sign language. This is used by people who were born with hearing loss gradually or suddenly. Some people can lip-read very easily, and for others, it might be difficult. To learn lip-reading, one needs practice, patience, and skill.

What Is Finger Spelling?

In fingerspelling, each letter of the alphabet is represented using the fingers and palm of the hand. Fingerspelling is used for signing the name or words without signs. It is not a language of its own and does not have any grammar structures like sign language.

What Is Makaton?

Makaton is a sign system that is used by children and adults who have communication or learning difficulties or both. For example, people with Down's syndrome. Makaton includes both speech and signs taken from British sign language. It also has symbols and does not involve grammar.


Sign language is one of the most important things for a person with speech problems and disorders. This helps them to communicate with other people with the same problem and also with other people who can hear. Even though sign language throughout the world is different, they can communicate to some extent. This makes their life somewhat easy. If anyone has impaired hearing or cannot speak, they must consult the doctor as early as possible, as this can help them to get the treatment if possible. Otherwise, they can start to learn sign language as early as possible because it is easy to learn if they start early.

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Dr. Satyabrata Panigrahi
Dr. Satyabrata Panigrahi



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