During the first meetings of sign language classes, students often ask me questions about sign language and Deaf Culture. They also ask if sign language is universal, and more precisely, is it possible to communicate with deaf people in another country? The answer is NO, there is no one universal sign language.
And my question for you is this: is phonic language universal in the world? Neither is it. We have many foreign languages, eg English, German, French, Spanish… The same number is in sign language. Each country has its own sign language which is perceived as foreign by Deaf people outside of that country. It is difficult to determine how many varieties of sign language we have. But there is Esperanto, the GESTUNO
International Sign Language, developed by an international team of experts from the World Federation of the Deaf. This language is used in international congresses, seminars, sports competitions, and conferences. There is a belief that deaf people using different sign languages can communicate more easily than hearing people using different phonic languages.
This is related to the fact that the Deaf have a greater chance of creating common communication based on pantomime, natural gestures, body language and facial expression. And that’s the truth. I noticed it when I was at the workshop “This is my voice!” with the Deaf in Romania. We integrated very quickly and got to know our languages.