No, Sign Languages are different

There are often great differences between Sign Languages internationally, even when one would think that it might not be the case - as in the Sign Languages of the UK and the USA!

Within a Sign Language area, such as India, you will find regional variations that can be extremely different. There are 5 regional varients of Indian Sign Language, of which Bombay Sign Language is one.

Even in smaller and lesser populated countries, such as Sweden, you will find regional variations.

The Deaf, and the Hearing that use Sign Languages, have their own personal ways of signing, much like we have our own personal way of speaking in the hearing world. Some people are sloppy in their signing and some are artistically impressive - people are different, everywhere.

About 3-4% of any Sign Language is "spelling" with ones fingers. I am including examples of how letters are represented (see below) in a number of Sign Languages. Please note that the British and the Indian ones are very similar, a result of Brisith occupation of India up to 15 August 1947. Also, compare British and US Sign Languages, as they are as different as night and day. The British sign with two hands, and (we) Americans can drink coke with one hand and sign with the other, as can the Swedes who also sign letters with just one hand.

The name of any person, place or thing that is often used by the deaf will rapidly be given a sign of it's own. Spelling is a bummer, and the deaf don't like to waste time and energy hand-spelling when a signed alternative is available, and they will therefore create one if one is not yet available. People have their own signs, so instead of signing "look who is coming (and then hand-spelling a long name)" they use a sign for that person, if the person has one. Obviously, people that one has never run into or heard about will lack such signs. If they are deaf they will tell you their personal sign when you meet them, much as hearing people give each other business cards.

Perhaps another 20-30% of any Sign Language is representative of what things look like. A left-turn is shown by pointing to the left, etc. I once found out, some 20 years ago, where the nearest fast-food place was in a city in Austria from a deaf person, although I don't know Austrian Sign Language!

The rest, theoretical concepts, such as "air", and "digital TV", etc., are usually very different between Sign Languages.

Some examples of how spelling is done in different Sign Languages:

Indian Sign Language:

This is scanned in from a T-shirt we made in cooperation with the Ishara Foundation in Mumbai (Bombay) some years ago.

British Sign Language:


US Sign Language:


Swedish Sign Language:

Note: We have three "extra letters" in Swedish that are not found in English - å, ä, ö.


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