Jane McGuire

5 things you didn’t know about sign language

Five things you didnt know about sign language

First published date October 29 2014 Amended date February 22 2016

If you are searching for sign language courses, the chances are you will be interested in taking your first steps towards learning how to sign. Like learning any language, sign language is complex and involves rehearsal. Whether you are learning to communicate with a relative or need to use sign in your job, there are some things you might not have realised before signing up to a course.


Sign language is not universal

Every language has a different type of sign and like spoken language these have developed over time. Some words can be signed very differently in British and American Sign Language, in fact they only have 31% of the same signals. 

Image via ask.fm


Sign language has its own grammar

If someone raises their voice when speaking, the meaning of the statement or question can change. Similar to this, when signing the grammar can also change. For example, when it comes to questions, eyebrow position is important; if you are asking a who, what, when, where, why question, your eyebrows should go down. Alternatively for a yes/no question they should go up. Getting this wrong is equivalent to hearing someone speak in a foreign language. 

Image via learningbsl.co.uk


Babies learn sign language like spoken English

Did you know that 92% of deaf children are born to parents who can both hear? Having a child who is hearing impaired can be life changing and mean that parents will need to sign to the baby from an early age. If they do, the child will acquire the language like they would spoken English; starting by babbling with their hands, they will go onto string signs together before later getting control of all the grammatical rules.  

Image via speechbuddy.com


Not all deaf people can sign

Contrary to common perception, not all deaf people use sign language to communicate. According to the British Deaf Association around 150,000 people use Sign Language as their first language. This must be compared with the 800,000 people in the UK who are severely or profoundly deaf. 

Image via kidderminsterlippreadinggroup.co.uk


Around 70% of lip reading is guess work

We’ve all seen detective programmes where the crime stopping hero lip reads from a CCTV tape. This is often not the case, with around 70% of lip reading being done by guesswork. It is a well known joke in deaf circles that mouthing the words ‘elephant’s shoes’ without making a sound, looks remarkably like saying ‘I love you’ - this is one that can often lead to awkward situations! 

Image via etsystatic.com


If you are looking for a sign language course, we have a number of full-time, part-time and online courses, so take a look and get those hands moving! 

Jane McGuire

Jane McGuire received her BA (English) from the University of Loughborough. A yoga enthusiast with a sweet tooth, in her spare time you will probably find Jane in the gym or online shopping.