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A Sign of Modern Times

Signing as an “official” Language
By Gary Picariello
Published April 07, 2007

One of the more interesting trips I ever took happened to be in Morocco of all places. While there, my wife and I (my daughter wasn’t born yet) wanted to take a 2-day bus tour to the ancient city of Agadir and the only seats available were on a bus that was catering to a group about two-dozen couples who were hearing impaired. Made no difference to me – after 12 hours together in the Moroccan heat, we were all communicating together one way or another. What was apparent — as someone who didn’t know a thing about sign language — was how challenging the whole communication process must be for someone who a hearing disorder.

I didn’t quite grasp it then, but I certainly did later when I discovered that each respective country in the world has its own form of sign language. In fact, according to www.webaim.org as it turns out, there are at least as many sign languages as there are spoken languages. In the United States, for example, the most common sign language is American Sign Language, or ASL. In Britain, British Sign Language, or BSL, is the most common. In Australia, Australian Sign Language, or Auslan, is the most common. Signed English is another variation, although it is less of a full-featured language and more of a translation of spoken English into a system of signs.

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