this is a map of sign language families.
The following are known facts, but being said by an international organization related to the United Nations may help...
The World Federation of the Deaf (WFD) is an international non-governmental organisation representing approximately 70 million Deaf people worldwide. It is estimated that more than 80 percent of these 70 million live in developing countries, where authorities are rarely familiar with their needs or desires.
Recognised by the United Nations (UN) as their spokes-organisation, WFD works closely with the UN and its various agencies in promoting the human rights of Deaf people in accordance with the principles and objectives of the UN Charter, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other general acts and recommendations of the UN and its specialised agencies.
When necessary, WFD uses special, legal or administrative measures to ensure that Deaf people in every country have the right to preserve their own sign languages, organisations, and cultural and other activities. Most important among WFD priorities are Deaf people in developing countries; the right to sign language; and equal opportunity in all spheres of life, including access to education and information.
How many deaf people are in the world?
Approximately 72 million

Sign Language

Deaf people around the world communicate using sign language as distinct from spoken language in their every day lives. A Sign Language is a visual language that uses a system of manual, facial and body movements as the means of communication. Sign language is not an universal language, and different sign languages are used in different countries, like the many spoken languages all over the world. Some countries such as Belgium, the UK, the USA or India may have more than one sign language. Hundreds of sign languages are in used around the world, for instance, Japanese Sign Language, (or Nihon Shuwa, JSL), British Sign Language (BSL), Spanish Sign Language (Lengua de signos o señas española, or LSE), Turkish Sign Language (or Türk Ýþaret Dili, TID).
Sign Languages are organized like sign languages, and can be analysed at the phonological, morphological, grammatical and lexical levels, and there are differences at each of these levels between the many different sign languages. There are however language families of sign languages: American Sign Language, French Sign Language (or langue des signes française, LSF) and Irish Sign Language (ISL) are a part of the same sign language family.
Some of the world’s sign languages are legally recognized in national laws or constitutions, or are mentioned in the laws of different countries, such as those relating to education, the justice system, etc. Other sign languages are not recognized or considered as languages. Deaf communities all over the world strive to have their Sign Languages recognized as fully-fledged languages and to secure their right to live daily life in their sign language.
Signed Languages in most countries and communities are not written languages – just like many other (spoken) languages of the world.
Signed Languages are processed dominantly in the left hemisphere of the brain, just as all other (spoken) languages are, in the Broca’s and Wernicke’s areas, and so they are natural languages.
Having access to a signed language is central to any deaf person, child or adult for their cognitive, social, emotional and linguistic growth. Signed Languages are acquired by children in the same timeframe as spoken languages and this acquisition process shows similar patterns and milestones as a spoken language acquisition process. It is important that deaf children at early ages have access to a sign language – it should be understood as their first language, their education can be achieved bilingually in the national sign language and the national written/spoken language.
Language and culture are interrelated. Deaf culture is deeply dependent and rooted in signed languages.
When deaf people communicate with other deaf people from other nations they often use International Sign (IS). IS is a contact form of signing/communication system (as distinct from a full language) used at international meetings such as the World Federation of the Deaf (WFD) Congress and events such as the Deaflympics.
Recommended Reading:
  • Brentari, Diane, ed. (2010) Sign Languages. Cambridge University Press
  • Crystal, David (2010, 3rd edition) The Cambridge Encyclopedia of Language. Cambridge University Press
  • Pfau, Roland, Steinbach, Markus and Woll, Bencie (eds.). 2012. Sign Language. An International Handbook. Series: Handbooks of Linguistics and Communication Science (HSK 37). De Gruyter Mouton.
  • Reagan, Timothy G. (2010) Language Policy and Planning for Sign Languages. Gallaudet University Press

Deaf education

Deaf education is designed specifically to meet the educational, linguistic, cultural, social and cognitive needs of the individual student.

Deaf and hard of hearing children have the right to a quality education, with the same content and to the same academic level as hearing children. Deaf education is the education of students with various hearing levels in a way that addresses the students´ individual differences and needs. However, there are different approaches and communication methods in the education of Deaf and hard of hearing students around the world. There are three main communication methods used in the education of Deaf children:
  1. Bilingual – This is a philosophy of teaching a sign language as a native or first language of Deaf children plus the national written language. The spoken/written language (for example Finnish in Finland or Spanish in Mexico) is taught as a second language.
  2. Total communication – This refers to using a combination of signs and spoken language, which includes sign language, finger-spelling, gesture, visual imagery, writing, voice and lip-reading.
  3. Oral – This is an approach that emphasizes auditory training, articulation ability and lip-reading and assumes that all information can be transmitted by using spoken language. This approach usually excludes the use of a signed language.
Studies have shown that Deaf students who have higher levels of sign language proficiency also have better results in reading and writing tests (i.e. literacy), and perform better in cognitive tasks.
Language and communication are at the heart of everything we do as humans and without them any academic, cognitive, emotional or social development becomes difficult. The WFD believes that sign language is central to a linguistically and culturally appropriate education for deaf children, be it the national sign language of a country or a local sign language. Some countries are multilingual; there may be more than one sign language and/or spoken language in a country, and the educational provision for deaf children should reflect this.
The goal of bilingual Deaf education is language proficiency in at least a sign language and a written/spoken language. Teachers must have the knowledge and skills necessary to teach literacy and all academic subjects, and fluency in sign language is a critical skill for teachers who work with Deaf and hard of hearing students. National laws and educational policies in many countries do not yet promote the use of the national sign language in the education of Deaf and hard of hearing students. The International Congress on the Education of the Deaf (ICED) is perhaps the most recognized international conference for educators and researchers working with Deaf and hard of hearing students.
The use of sign language in education is supported by article 24, paragraph 3 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which states that countries should “[ensure] that the education of persons, and in particular children, who are blind, Deaf or DeafBlind, is delivered in the most appropriate languages and modes and means of communication for the individual, and in environments which maximize academic and social development”.
André Lemyre

Date: Wed, 18 Sep 2013 09:31:22 -0700
From: [log in to unmask]
Subject: 10 Questions - Can you help answer them?
To: [log in to unmask]

SignWriting List
September 18, 2013

Dear SignWriting List Members:
I have been asked to answer these 10 questions. Although I will try to answer too, if there are List members who have the time to answer some of the questions, writing your answers here to the List, it will be very helpful to me and to all of us - This is related to raising funds for our SignWriting Symposium 2014, and to the important development of Wikipedias in the world's sign languages -

We are going to have a stupendous event in 2014! So raising the funds for it, is now my priority...

Many thanks for your input!  Val ;-)

These are ten questions…..
  1. Some people say "why do they not use English".. How different is a sign language from a spoken language
  2. How do you explain what it means when a language cannot be written
  3. SignWriting is a script. How many languages are written in SignWriting 
  4. Can you recognise what sign language it is from a written text 
  5. What are the most active sign languages as far as you know
  6. The use of SignWriting is growing rapidly. How do you know about how it develops
  7. Can SignWriting be used on mobile phones or is there an app for that
  8. Are there many schools where they teach SignWriting
  9. How hard would it be to have the pupils at these schools write two articles a month ... How many Wikipedias could be started that way
  10. Why is Wikipedia strategically important for getting more people to know about SignWriting

Val ;-)

Valerie Sutton
SignWriting List moderator
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