One of the most common questions I get from people is whether I know sign language or not. Especially after finding out that I am deaf. Heck, this is also a common question I ask people too.
The short answer is yes.
The long answer is not that simple.
Before I explain my answer, I must caution you that I am not an expert on sign language.
what is sign language
It never fails to amuse me when I see various sources define sign language as a “complex, visual language.” Is there any language that is not complex? To be honest with you, it seems like there’s so many different answers.
My answer is based on my personal experience including my understanding of sign language over the years through education and social interaction.
I think the first thing everyone needs to be aware of is that sign language is is a cultural language.
By using hand shapes, gestures, body language, & facial expression, sign language users are able to express emotions and thoughts without sound.
why I prefer sign language
Keep in mind that my answer is based on my personal experience using ASL (American Sign Language) in comparison to using hearing aids and lipreading skills.
These two communication skills are based on separate communication methods.
- Sign language is used for visual communication
- Hearing aids and lipreading is used for verbal communication.
Regardless of what communication method or language we use, the bottom line is that if we are unable to understand 100 percent, we are unable to communicate successfully.
I posted about the ability to communicate successfully in the link provided here.
By using my ability to understand 100 percent of the conversation, I am able to define which method works best for me.
- Sign Language – 100% success
- Written Language – 100% success
- Verbal Language – Not 100% successful
It is really simple as that for me. There are two ways to communicate with me where I understand you successfully. The third way is not 100 percent guaranteed due to a variety of factors.
what sign language do I use
I have to take a quick moment to explain that my ASL is not strictly ASL. The reason is because I grew up mainstream in a public school system. Without going into detail here, it is safe to say that I sign in PSE using ASL vocabulary.
If you want to learn more about my sign language skills, you can read more about it in the link provided here.
While Wikipedia is not exactly a 100 percent reliable source of information, it does have a good list of sign languages used by different countries as well as a list of how many native signers there are.
While it is a good starting point, I have to caution you on using Wikipedia’s information as an official source due to a variety of reasons. For example, the number of native users is an estimate and does not represent an actual number.