It’s the battle between sign language vs oral/spoken language; which one is better? Which one is more important? I outline what both sides have over the other and who will the battle of languages.
Both sides have their own strengths and weaknesses. But which one will have the upper hand?
You can watch the video below…:
…listen to the podcast…:
…or read the transcript below instead.
So here’s the question for you: which is better? Sign language or the oral/spoken language.
If they are facing each other in a battle, who would win in terms of the one that had more benefit, more advantages, more power?
It’s quite tricky isn’t it? So I thought, “why don’t we dissect it down and see what benefit does one language have, and what benefit does the other one have.
I’ve got a separate piece of video that focuses on the benefit of sign languages overall. It’s slightly different to that. You can check it out below.
What are the benefits of learning sign language?
Did you know that it’s not just going to help you communicate with deaf people?
But I just want to go on a head-to-head battle on sign languages vs. oral languages.
Before the battle begins…
For the sake of argument, I’m going to be highlighting a few things that you need to be aware of. So first of all, I’m going to be assuming that people are communicating in the same language of your choice with English, Spanish, BSL, ASL, whatever. I’m focused more on that.
On the other hand, if there is some kind of language barrier, then we overcome it. You know, we try to maybe do gestures or use technology and some people like to shout extra loud so that The other person can understand better, (which doesn’t make any sense because that person doesn’t understand your language. But that happens a lot, doesn’t it?)
I’m also going to follow the argument that technically deaf people speak sign language . It is a language that, yes, they “use”, but also we use languages as kind of a tool to communicate with each other.
So I follow the argument that you can say deaf people speak sign language or use sign language. But at the same time, it’s applies to oral, as deaf people can also use that. But people in general use oral language or speak oral language.
So I’m also using those two combination together just to make it as even as possible.
It’s also not about deaf vs hearing. Maybe I’ll do a separate content about that one day, “which is better: deaf or hearing?” It’s not about that. It really just focuses on the two language “types”, if you like.
And let’s go on a head-to-head battle.
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Round 1: Oral/spoken language
1.1 – 1.3. It’s more common, more “acceptable” & less oppressed
So let’s start off with the spoken languages/oral languages. And I want to start off with point one, two AND three, as they kind of inter-linked together. And that is:
- Number one – it is more common across the world.
- Number two – it is more “acceptable” and widely recognised in various institutions.
- Number three – it is also less oppressed and encouraged more in various environments in all walks of life.
It doesn’t matter what you’re doing, if it’s at school or university, if it’s at a doctor’s appointment, if you are travelling, if you are in a professional environment, in a job interview, whatever it is; it is generally seen that spoken languages are maybe more accepted, more recognised, more encouraged.
It is easier because of those aspects and that means that you are able to have various opportunities, which brings my next points.
1.4. Easier to find business/professional opportunities
Point four would be it is easier to be part of a business or professional opportunities. You are able to be involved in it because you are going to be exposed to more things because of a common language, and that means you are may be more likely to have a job and you’re going to be more likely to have a business opportunity, deals, the negotiation, etc.
It doesn’t matter what it is; it is going to be better for you. And it is kind of known that English is the lingua franca of the world, it kind of more, again, accepted in the professional world, in the business world. And that means you are going to be in a better opportunity if you speak, for example, English. But that doesn’t have to be English. It can be anything.
1.5. Easier to find social opportunities
Point five as well is that it is either to be part of social opportunity, social environment, and that could be in the business world and the professional world like at a conference or if you have a networking opportunity.
But really, I’m focused more about when you are in a social event, when you are at a party, in a bar surrounded by people just for fun, most likely people will be speaking in other languages, which means that you get that benefit.
If you have that in your toolkit, then you’re going to be able to connect with people more, have a relationship more, because it’s easy to communicate and you are going to be part of the social events.
1.6. More educational resources are available at your disposal
Point six is that there are more educational resources in oral languages, and that includes online and offline. So what I’m saying is that if you want to study a course or a degree, if you want to even learn something on YouTube, a new skill, a new hobby, whatever, then you are more likely to find resources in the oral language than in sign language, which means that you have opportunities to either learn something new or improve your existing skill.
1.7. More entertainment resources are available at your disposal
Point seven, kind of similar, you have more entertainment resources online and offline, and that again includes YouTube. But think about other places like Netflix and stuff. Provided they are captioned, then that’s a way of overcoming it.
But if we ignore the caption side, it’s very obvious that the majority, high majority of entertainment resources are oral, in any languages. I’m talking about the spoken language across the world that is very common. And even the less common ones, it’s very obvious that it’s just going to be the main language in entertainment, not sign language.
So that means you have more entertainment resources at your disposal.
1.8. Easier to communicate while multi-tasking
It’s easier to communicate when you are multitasking. So I don’t really believe in multitasking. I think it’s kind of a fraud. People think that “I’m good at multitasking”. Technically, the brain is not capable of doing more than one thing at once.
That aside, what I’m saying is the those little things like if you are lifting something and you want to communicate, your hands are around the box and you’re not going to sign when you are doing that, which is #DeafProblem.
But there are other things. For example, if you are playing video games, then again your hands are on a controller, your playing there. But people who are speaking orally, then you can do that, you can communicate and just have fun playing video games as well online. In terms of the online gaming, that’s also an option or even even side-by-side.
Imagine that; if you’re sitting beside someone and you are watching something or playing a game, then again, you can communicate and watch at the same time.
So that’s the advantage that oral languages have.
1.9. Easier to communicate in darker environments
And the last point in terms of what the oral languages have over sign language is that it is easier to communicate in the dark environment and hopefully that doesn’t happen a lot. But you can imagine when people create like an ambience in a bar or restaurant, they want to dim the lights a bit just to create that mood.
But even in other places, like when you have video call and there are poor lighting, but it doesn’t really stop people, does it? Because you can still communicate orally, whereas if it’s dark and you can’t see the person signing…yeah, that’s a bit of a problem.
So that is another thing that oral language has over sign language.
Ooh, it’s a a tough one, isn’t it? After round one, it seems like oral languages better had more thing going for it. And it will beat sign languages, hands down (no pun intended).
But what about sign language? What thing that they have over oral languages? Maybe there are things there that will beat oral languages in.
Well, there are actually, and I’m going to go over ten points below.
Round 2: Sign language
2.1 Easier to communicate in silence or in quiet environments
The first point for sign language is that it is easier to communicate in silence or if you’re in a quiet environment and you need to be quiet.
Imagine in places like a library or museum, anywhere that is actually encouraged to be quiet, you can communicate in full flow and be able to understand everything, if you’re communicating in sign language.
That’s pretty cool.
2.2. Easier to communicate in noisy environment
At the same time, it’s easier to communicate in a very noisy environment. I struggle with this all the time, which is that when you’re trying to communicate with someone in somewhere noisy, like a restaurant, crowded room or bars with music/annoying music pumping out loud, it’s very hard for me to communicate.
But when you’re communicating in sign language that doesn’t stop you. Noisy environment is fine. You’ve got that and you can communicate smoothly if you are doing that in sign language.
That is also pretty cool.
2.3. Easier to communicate in the more “unusual” environments
It is also easy to communicate in the more unusual environments. So for example, through the window you can do that. Across the room. Maybe while you are eating; you don’t have to watch your mouth been all full. Under water? Maybe in space?
I mean, you can kind of do that. You can communicate in all of these environments and it would be fine (though it may take a while to sign in zero gravity).
2.4. Easy to communicate discreetly or in secret
Because sign language is less common, it’s easier to communicate in secret. That’s something that a few of my deaf friends have said. It’s like, “yeah, we can just be discreet and just sign in secret”. Hopefully people don’t understand you, but most likely people won’t understand because it is less common.
I’m not saying nobody will understand, but you’ve got the upper hand a little bit so that you can communicate and just be discreet.
2.5. It’s more unique and worth fighting for
Point five is that it is more unique and it stands out more and there’s something special about that. It’s different. It’s something that you can be proud of because it’s not something that is very common. It’s part of you, it’s your identity and maybe identity of a minority group, which means even more proud, you want to preserve it and protect it and you’re just so proud of it. And that’s also really cool as well. It’s just a different, isn’t it?
People don’t really see it all the time because it’s less common when you see it. People are wowed by it and it’s quite amazing to see.
But that is also a good thing.
2.6. Easier to overcome (sign) language barriers
Point six: it is easier to overcome language barriers by using gesture or even just adjusting the sign that people use. For example, if trying to communicate with someone and one person has a sign for a car, it is different. And another person had a sign for a car, it’s different. Well, I think people understand that if you imitate the steering wheel, then you kind of understand that you’re talking about car
And that’s the kind of thing that is pretty cool because in oral language, if you’re trying to translate car in many languages, then it’s not going to be the same. There are some maybe similar, but in general it would be very, very different. So that’s quite cool because you will be able to understand each other even if you don’t communicate in the same language.
But of course, it doesn’t mean you understand everything. Caveat that because I don’t want people to assume that all languages are the same. No, there’s no such thing as a universal language. You’ll be able to overcome certain things and understand certain things.
But it’s not going to be completely perfect. It’s just easier to adapt to the situation.
2.8. It’s more attentive with more focused “listening
Point eight, and this is a big thing. I feel like when you communicate with someone and if you are that in sign language, people are more attentive, you are focused one on one, and you are listening because you get focused on each other, communicating because you kind of have to and you’re forced into it.
But at the same time, it’s a really nice thing to do. It’s a good gesture. It’s a good body language to have, compared to people who are speaking orally. Yeah, you can do that as well. But a lot of the time people can be distracted or get their phone and just communicate while they’re on the phone. And that’s a bit rude at times.
Or they just turn their back to you and that’s not great either. You know, that’s not really a great body language. But if you’re signing to each other, you are more attentive to each other as well.
2.9. International sign language removes exclusions
Point nine is that when you are at a conference and the language will be sign language, and if you understand international sign language, which is a separate thing, then that removes exclusions at conferences and professional environment compared to when you are in other languages, you have to know that language.
And if you don’t, then you don’t have any other option. Hopefully it will be translated, but more often than not they’re not. But international sign language is something that people are learning.
And again, it’s not a universal sign language. It’s just another language that is really focused on those kind of environment. I’ll do a content about another time, but really that really helps to remove exclusions and get everyone together to understand the topic at hand.
2.10. You can avoid phone calls
Finally at point 10, it’s a bit of a cheeky one but screw it: you can avoid phone call if you are deaf and/or only communicate in sign language.
And of course, you can overcome that with video call. But really, how many industries use video calls all the time? I’m talking like banks and utility companies and insurance; they don’t do that unless you go down a specific route, that’s not very common.
So it’s annoying because you are excluded. There are barriers there. But other times when you can’t and you can afford to ignore that conversation, then you can avoid answering a phone because you just can’t communicate. And that can be a good thing at times because sometimes you just don’t want to deal with whoever is calling.
Who wins the battle of languages?
So at the end of that battle, we had the oral languages competing against sign language. And maybe you want to know which is better then? Which has the upper hand?
Well really the answer is…Neither. Neither is better than the other.
What I feel is more important that they should be treated equally, but they’re not. And this is the problem is that sign language tend to be oppressed, less encouraged, and they are not always officially recognised in various countries and by government institutions.
They’re not always recognised in many places around the world, and that’s a problem. But even that aside, if you think about oral language, there are certain communities where they are oppressed as well. For example, indigenous communities and their languages are either discouraged or they get cut off or just kind of dying out because people are forced to learn other languages and they have to do that to be part of the civilisation.
But they’re pushed out and they are oppressed as well.
So even though I tend to focus a lot on sign language being oppressed, and that should be encouraged more, it applies to any languages where it has a community of people that depend on it, it has a history, it has culture behind it…proud history as well. And it tend to be cut off from the society and that’s not good enough.
So it’s not about which is better and which has the upper hand. It is all about making sure that they are equal and everyone has an equal opportunity to be able to communicate how they want.
But there are ways to go over that communication barrier. It doesn’t matter where you are. If you are going to be in a situation where you are communicating with someone, you will have communication barrier and that is jus always going to exist when you are traveling for business or pleasure.
But they should be equal.
What do you think? I think it makes sense to me. So let me know in the comment. I would love to hear your thoughts. And while you’re at it, don’t forget to do everything that is necessary; Like, Subscribe, Follow…whatever it is you’re doing, it would really mean a lot to me. But let me know your thought down below too.
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