The Beauty of Spanish Sign Language
Learning new languages is exciting, but even more so when we learn Spanish-American sign language.
According to the World Federation of the Deaf, there are approximately 70 million deaf people in the world, and they use more than 300 different sign languages to communicate.
Sign languages have the same status as spoken languages, and it’s crucial that we explore the meaning and beauty of Spanish Sign Language.
Read on and learn about its history, features, cultural importance, and its role in promoting inclusivity and communication within the Spanish-speaking Deaf community.
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Tracing Back Spanish Sign Language Origins
History tells us that the first person who dedicated himself to creating formal sign language for the hearing impaired was Pedro Ponce de León, a Benedictine monk from Spain.
Benedictine monks used hand gestures to convey messages to their companions during their periods of silence.
After seeing how the rest of the monks used it, Pedro Ponce adapted the gestures and thus created a teaching method so deaf people could communicate.
And thus he laid the foundations of the systems that are used around the world today!
Sometime later, another Spanish linguist clergyman, Juan Pablo Bonet, continued exploring new methods of communication using what Pedro Ponce had built.
In 1620, he published literature to help people with a hearing disability. The first step in the learning process was what he called a demonstrative alphabet.
This manual showed the shapes that represent each letter of the alphabet and that people had to imitate them using their right hand.
Bonet relied on the Aretina score, a musical system created to help singers sight-read music.
This is how the alphabet and sounds helped deaf people associate each letter of the alphabet with a phonetic sound.
Sign language combines manual movements, moving your hands and arms, and non-manual elements, which are body movements or moving your head, eyebrows, eyes, cheeks, and mouth.
Manual movements and non-manual elements communicate different categories of information, such as vocabulary, grammatical structures, discourse function, and parts of speech.
One important thing we must remember while talking about Spanish Sign Language, or any other sign language, is that sign languages don’t depend on spoken languages.
It’s a common misconception that sign language is a spoken language expressed with signs.
Sign languages were created by deaf people who often did not know how a spoken language works. Still, some sign languages borrow elements from spoken languages, the same way as it occurs among any spoken languages.
Is There a Unique Spanish Sign Language?
Or is it one per country?
This is one of the great myths surrounding sign language. Once you learn to speak Spanish, you can communicate with another Spanish-speaking person anywhere in the world.
We are sorry to disappoint you, but every country has its own sign language. And some countries have more than one!
The International Sign Language system exists, which is a simplified sign system used by people who do not share a common language.
This pidgin language, as they call it, is used mainly in meetings with representatives of various countries, such as the Congress of the World Federation of the Deaf or the Deaf Olympics.
It combines different sign systems worldwide but does not qualify as an official language.
Sign languages vary in each country, although Latin America and the Caribbean share the same oral and written language of Spanish.
However, some basic signs are present in different sign languages, each country has its own variations.
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Are There Variations in Latin-American Sign Language?
The answer is yes. Just as there are variations in the Spanish of each Latin American country, there are also variations in the sign languages of each one.
The World Deaf Foundation indicates this diversity must be preserved, promoted, and protected.
It’s the same as the indigenous languages that enrich each Latin country. Protecting this cultural diversity in tongues also protects the rights of those who speak them.
We begin to see the variations from the most basic, the fingerprint alphabet or manual alphabet, which is the set of shapes used to spell the word with the hands.
For example, Mexican Sign Language (LSM) differs from Spanish Sign Language (SSL). In each one, you will find specific signs used as regionalisms particular to the country.
Sign languages in Latin America have words with different signs in separate communities. They even have similar signs that mean different things in their communities.
Each country or region has its vocabulary and grammar. They are self-regulated by the people who use them daily, and it has been the easiest way to express themselves and be understood.
The differences in each sign language in Spanish are marked by the social and cultural context of the country and evolve according to the needs of each culture.
One of the variations that we will find among the sign languages in Latin America is the amount of words in each one.
Mexico Sign Language has less words than Spain Sign Language, and it rarely uses the verb “to be.” Most articles and pronouns are omitted in the Mexican Sign Language, but not in the Spanish Sign Language.
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Learn More About Sign Language by Learning Spanish
Supporting, protecting, and recognizing our world’s linguistic diversity is vital to create ties with different cultures, especially with sign language users.
Learning this type of communication in your language or a foreign one will help you empathize with their stories and difficulties.
If you’re packed with the desire to learn more about sign language in Spanish, we suggest you start learning the Spanish language from experts.
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