TED Conversations

Patrick Hennings

Director, Drive TV (project)

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What do you think about the future of the sign language?

I miss on your talk the point, the sign languages.

I think, the sign language is a very important part of the languages.
For the deaf people, there isn't another choice to use the sign language.

Now I would be interest to know,
on the one hand, why we have so many difference sign languages worldwide.
(It happened the same way as with the spoken languages, or?)
On the other hand, the deaf people are able to use the international signs (this is not a really own language), so there are no barriers between them.

Why it is possible with the International Signs?
It seems there aren't so big difference on the signs and cultures but with the spoken languages we (wanted) have it.
I miss some logic here.

Is this possible for the "spoken" languages on the "same" way as with the International Signs?

How do you think about the future of the sign language for to get our worldwide cooperation? Could this a possible solution for all of us?


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    Mar 4 2012: There was an international sign language created in the 1950s, called Gestuno but it's only about 1500 signs and it's use is very limited.

    All sign languages are so different. I'm fluent in ASL but when I moved to Okinawa I struggled to learn Okinawan sign because so much of it was based on their japanese culture (ie the days of the month were based on historical/cultural activities performed on each day, rather than the first letter of the day as in ASL).

    There is a book written about a deaf woman who knew ASL and moved to a new country and how she thought it would be so easy to communicate with the deaf community there, but found how isolating it was because they really had no signs in common and it was extremely difficult for her to learn the new language. Just because you know one sign language doesn't mean you can easily learn another.

    American Sign Language is very different even around the US, based on the part of the country you're from. Each has it's own special dialects, or accents. The east coast tends to sign extremely quickly compared to the other sections of the US. Some signs are strictly culture based and someone from a different background would be lost.

    No sign language will ever be truly considered an international language. There are too many variables for it to be successful. You may be able to get by with pidgin signs, but that's not an actual language.
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      Mar 4 2012: Yes, Sarah. I talk about International signs and not about International sign language.
      Yes, sure, this is the matter there are "same" differences as with the spoken languages.
      But I got the experience how easy is it to use the internationals signs. So please how it is possible?
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        Mar 4 2012: It's just like Esperanto, the not very widely used international spoken language. Even if everyone in the world learned it, it would change and adapt locally so quickly that soon it would be nearly unrecognizable to another area. A language, any usage of a language, is in constant change. Each locale may not even realize how they have adapted the language to meet their needs until they meet another group using a different dialect.

        The idea behind even teaching an international pidgin language of any kind is nearly impossible. You would have to have a huge group of people not only trained to speak the language perfectly, but train them to teach the language. Then transport these people all around the world so that everyone has the opportunity to learn it. What about the people who are no longer in a structured educational environment? How would you reach them to teach them this language? Would it be grandfathered into the school system? Just start with a particular age group and begin teaching all the children from then on?

        You could never sustain the momentum that it would take to even begin an endeavor like that. Ease of use has nothing to do with the politics and logistics of implementing an international language. Is it intellectually possible for most people to learn one particular set of pidgin? Yes, but the implementation is not.
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      Mar 6 2012: Dear Sarah, yes, it is right. What hearing only some know. There are just as much differences at the sign languages as in the case of the spoken languages.
      Is, however, the philosophy to develop a language, where everyone must learn this one the interesting. Having to submit as a compromise without himself opposite another culture. Everyone having to together learn her if they want to communicate uniformly if possible over the limits.
      Just till now, what the hearing didn't make, "Gestuno" was started with of the deaf people. I already learned for the first time this "language" 40 years ago. And, to this day, "Gestuno" has already developed further.
      "New" language has to be developed on an international basis very with difficulty, however one, she develops. I think this is only possible because there just are people who think over the limits. And I wish that such a philosophy really gives also among hearing people.
      I think that it is possible also for the hearing.
      I could make myself sometimes a project where everybody had to learn together a new language. Everybody had big fun because the sense of achievement was so big. Everybody felt understood enough, and thus itself rather with each other linked, in spite of different own languages.
      It is not just enough to use the language of the other only from politeness. Also adult people are like children, they always want what for themselves.

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