In December 2017, the General Assembly of the United Nations (UN) officially defined September 23rd as the International Day of Sign Languages, attending a request of the World Federation of the Deaf (WFD). The choice of this day is a tribute to the date that the WFD was created in 1951. It marks the birth of a militant organization, whose main objective is the preservation of Sign Languages and deaf culture.
So, its first celebration was in 2018, as part of the International Week of the Deaf, which has been celebrated since September 1958. This is a global movement to raise awareness of the struggles that deaf people face in their daily lives.
The purpose behind the International Day of Sign Languages is to educate and promote the inclusion of deaf people all over the world.
Many people believe that the American Sign Language is universal, but this is not true. Each country and culture has its own Sign Language. But calm down, we’ll explain it better!
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), there are about 466 million deaf people in the world. And just as each country has its own language, the same happens with Sign Languages. It is estimated that there are between 138 and 300 of them all over the world! In addition, there are linguistic variations due to regionalism or even by affinity groups, such as Black ASL, for example.
The languages are alive, which means that it changes over time, varies according to the place and it’s influenced by the culture of each region. This is the reality of all languages, including Sign Languages!
Sign Languages around the world:
Let’s talk about some of the most spoken Sign Languages on the planet and some of the context that goes with them:
To understand better, it’s necessary to look at the historical context of the deaf community:
Until the 15th century, deaf people were considered uneducable worldwide. It was only after the 16th century that the battle for the education of the deaf began, but it lasts until today!
Deaf people have already been greatly harmed by the lack of access to information. After all, if they don’t teach you in your mother language, how can you learn? In 1880, the “Milan Congress” took place. It was an international conference of educators of the deaf, in which they banned the use of Sign Languages. In other words, deaf people could no longer communicate with signs, nor could they be educated in these languages.
Over the years, many flags were raised so that Sign Languages could be regularized, and little by little, with a lot of struggle from deaf people and militants, things began to improve. There is still a long way to go to reach an ideal education scenario for these people, but we have already made good progress so far.
That’s why communication in Sign Language is an achievement for this entire community and should be valued and supported by hearing people!
If you’ve ever traveled to a country that doesn’t speak your language, you may know how challenging it is to carry out basic daily activities without being understood. Deaf and hard of hearing people experience this in their countries, and often, within their own homes.
Learning to communicate in Sign Languages is also a task for hearing people! This can break down many communication barriers and also promote the inclusion of deaf and hard of hearing people in society, which most often exclude them due to lack of accessibility. Communicating in Sign Language unites the deaf community with the hearing one, and values deaf culture!
You can start practicing Libras and ASL today with the Hand Talk App! An application that uses artificial intelligence and the friendly virtual translators, Hugo and Maya, to teach you in a didactic and practical way. Plus, it’s also an excellent pocket translator for when you need an extra hand to sign and communicate in Sign Language.