There has long been an ongoing trend by hearing people to demand a universal sign language (yet you never see sign language users say the same thing…hmmm). It is never too long before one sees comments on social media about “why is there no universal sign language”.
But even for me, as someone who is learning sign language, I have my own thoughts around this trend. And it’s an uncomfortable one.
For now, you can watch the video below:
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There seems to be an ongoing trend that makes me very uncomfortable and that is the need to have a universal sign language. It seems to stem from hearing people, ironically, and they are trying to push for that. They’re trying to suggest and even create the concept of having one, because from what I understand, it’s easier, it makes more sense, it’s just a natural thing to do, and the world would be more connected that way.
Where do I start with this one?
I haven’t grown up with sign language. I’m learning British Sign Language. And even the idea of universal sign language makes me very uncomfortable. It seems to be very oppressive. It seems to be a bit of ignorance around it. And it also seemed like maybe a bit lazy to suggest having that instead of making the effort to learn the local one and just do that.
Which makes sense to me because to learn a universal sign language, you have to learn something anyway. So why not just learn your local one?
But get this; there are people out there who are going out of their way to create universal sign language. And get this even further; there are multiple people who are going out of the way to create universal sign language.
So really, if you have many, many people and they are creating universal something, well, then it’s not universal anymore because there are many of them. So why not just focus on the existing sign languages that we have right now?
I have gone down a rabbit hole of those Twitter feed and websites where they’re trying to create universal language and….No comments.
It’s even more mind-boggling for me to even understand that; that people are going out of their way to create a language, which I imagine is a huge task, and it will take years, maybe decades, maybe centuries, maybe millennia. I don’t know. But it seemed like a lot of effort and it’s a wasted effort because with that same amount of time, you can learn the local language or any other language you want to learn.
So why not just focus your time on that?
The thing is, if you think about it, if you are asking people to stop using their local language, how do you think people will react? And I’m talking about any language, not just sign language, even oral languages as well. You’re taking away something that is really, really important, which is their local identity, local culture, the history behind it and the story around why it was created.
So for sign language, it is obviously created for certain reason; communication between deaf people, but it develops over time.
And it is also an oppressed language for most countries around the world, if not all of them. They are generally quite oppressed because it has been denied the national recognition in many places. It had been denied the opportunity to make it more open and mainstream, to have it taught in schools or in political environment or conferences. It is really pushed out by the mainstream society, the general society.
So if you think about it, it’s very oppressive to say that you should stop that language, “it looks ridiculous. It’s nonsense. Let us give you a new one and you should take that one from that one”….Imagine how that would feel. Imagine how anyone would do that, because let’s face it, nobody would do that, right? Nobody would just go to another country and get them to learn their language because they are doing it the wrong way, would they?
Or would they? Hmm. Maybe we should all learn from history.
I personally don’t have any problem with people asking me is there a universal language.
What I do have a problem with is when people say “there should be universal sign language”. That’s a completely separate thing, because the first one is you’re learning, you don’t know, you want to get some idea, that’s fine. I don’t have a problem with that.
But the second one is you’re assuming that you know better about something that you have no idea what it is about. You don’t know anything about the history, the long story behind it and why it’s a very, very bad idea.
You know, the irony is that people never say you should have a universal oral language. Yeah, I get the likes of English is the main language around the world (again, I wonder why. Hmm! We need to look at history again), but you don’t see people saying, “oh, we should learn Esperanto”, which is an attempt to create a universal oral language. It’s a thing, and it’s out there. But why are we not learning more? Because if you want a universal language, full stop, then shouldn’t we have a universal oral language as well?
Can you imagine how boring life would be without culture?
And I’m talking about the things that we are all taking for granted in terms of languages, food, art, literature, history. Imagine if we only have one or that that applies to all of us around the world. How boring would life be? And essentially what some people are trying to do, if you want to push for universal sign language that you want to create the one thing, one identity, one of everything that we should all use, and that’s it.
But how boring would that be? It just doesn’t work. And even on top of that, it is impossible to have one language, because if you learn about the linguistic history, all languages are developed over time and it just gets adjusted over time because of culture and media and and just the way society work and communication and the development of technology. And these all happened over time, over decades, centuries. And they become the languages that we all speak right now.
I’m not talking about English. I’m talking about any languages, any of them around the world, even sign language as well.
But people don’t realise that over time, not only you get that development of languages being adjusted, but you’ll also learn local accents, local dialects, local vocabularies, local slangs. They all develop over time as well. And again, that applies to any languages across the globe.
So even if you want to have you universal sign language, it is not going to work, so let’s just forget about it, scrap the idea, stop mentioning the idea. You can ask if it exists, but let’s not bother creating or pushing for it anymore because it’s impossible.
And let’s just focus on the languages that exist today. Let us promote that. Let’s just encourage it, let’s just embrace it. Let’s just enjoy it and learn about it. That’s it!
I can pretty much guarantee you that only hearing people will say, “let’s have a universal sign language”. You would never hear people who grew up with sign languages, you will never hear them say “we need to have a universal sign language. It is not going to happen. And there are reasons for that.
And we should really understand that. And maybe I’m not the best person to say it. Maybe you want to talk to a person who grew up with sign language and why it is deeply important and connected to their identity, because I’m only telling you from what I know from my local deaf friends, but there’s a lot more to it.
So let’s not push for it. Let’s ignore the idea. And really what I think the big solution should be if we start teaching sign languages at school and then from there it will be at the forefront of your mind when you even think about mentioning that because it shouldn’t be suggested.
So maybe that’s another thing. Maybe it’s another thing that we should talk about why our language is not taught in school, because I think that’s a great idea.
Let me know what you think, whether you are hearing or not, whether you are speaking sign language or not, regardless of what you are in. Let me know. I’d love to hear from your perspectives. And, uh, yeah, it’s a weird one. I’m very uncomfortable with it. But I say let just stop the idea of having it and just learn the local one.
If you have enjoyed this video, make sure you hit the subscribe button down below and of course, comment on what you think about the video. And I will again speak to you soon.
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