Misconception: There is only one sign language

By John Miller  |  Monday, April 18, 2011

Question: Is sign language universal throughout the world? ...and if not, why don't we just make it that way since it would make the world have at least one language that everyone could understand and use?

Answer: Unfortunately sign language is NOT universal throughout the world. There is American Sign Language, British Sign Language, Spanish Sign Language, Japanese Sign Language, Ausian (Australian Sign Language) and many more. In fact, there are even multiple sign languages used in the United States (American Sign Language and Signed Exact English). Although one universal sign language would probably make things easier, just like with spoken language, I'm sure the world would have a very difficult time trying to come up with whose way of doing it was the best way so I don't see it happening anytime soon!

Signing Savvy focuses primarily on American Sign Language (ASL). ASL is a complete, unique language developed by deaf people, for deaf people and is used in its purest form by people who are Deaf. Being its own language, it not only has its own vocabulary, but also its own grammar that differs from English. American Sign Language is used through the United States, Canada, and a few other parts of the world.

Since Signing Savvy is first and foremost a reference for folks signing or learning to sign in North America, it is important for us to also include other signs that you may encounter beyond just ASL signs. For that reason, we also include some commonly used English signs. However, we try to always list the ASL sign as the first sign variation on any given word.

For more on the difference between ASL and English signs, see our previous blog post on the difference between ASL and English signs.

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