Sign Language

In the developed world, approximately one person in a thousand is born with a hearing loss severe enough to make it difficult for them to acquire spoken language. If people born deaf grow up with other people who are deaf, go to schools with other deaf children or otherwise socialise with deaf people, they may well prefer, or only be able to, communicate in sign.

It is important to appreciate that sign languages (for instance British Sign Language or BSL in the UK) are true and full languages in its own right, with defined grammar and syntax of their own, and are not simply a series of gestures tagged on to spoken languages. However, in some countries, there’s an accepted form of communication in which individual signs are used to complement spoken language – such as with Sign Supported English (SSE).


 It is generally easier for users of different sign languages to communicate with each other than it is for speakers of different spoken languages – so geography is less of a barrier in communication.

The experiences of people born deaf are often very different from those who have lost hearing in later life and who have grown up in a ‘hearing’ world and who may feel that they have lost something. As a result, people who have been deaf since birth often consider themselves part of a cultural group, and may prefer the designation Deaf (with a capital D) to express this association.

How can I learn sign language?

To become fluent in sign language is at least as difficult as becoming fluent is a spoken language, and to rise to the level of a sign language interpreter may take many years of hard work and practice. However, it is possible to gain some basics in much less time and this can be fun and rewarding, and can provide insight into the world of deafness. . . .

For more information about learning sign language, and to find out about sign language classes near you, please visit the CACDP website.

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