Our need to communicate is part of what makes us human. So the invention of a standard sign language was pretty essential for millions of people.
Silent Speaking. For anyone who can’t hear or speak, making signals with the hands and body is the only way of communicating, unless you want to write everything down or have access to a keyboard all the time. Before the invention of a standard sign language, deaf and mute people invented their own.
We’ll never know, but perhaps our ancestors used a form of sign language before humans developed speech, or used it if they were out hunting and didn’t want to make a sound, or needed to communicate with a different tribe.
If a group of people get together and invent their own sign language, it’s not going to be understood by anyone who hasn’t learned it.
Standardized sign languages have been used since the 1600s. The first ones were developed in Italy and France as a way of improving education for deaf people.
In 1755 Abbe de l’Epee set up the first free school for the deaf and helped to develop a system of signed communication which forms the basis of French Sign Language today, and influenced many other international sign languages.
Even so, different countries have different sign languages just as they have different spoken languages. British Sign Language, Irish Sign Language and American Sign Language are all very different, even though English is the common spoken language.
Some hearing-impaired people can lip-read. It can be hard to distinguish different words: author Henry Kisor wrote a book about his experiences called What’s That Pig Outdoors?, which was how he’d interpreted the question, ‘What’s that big loud noise?’
Certain gestures, such as a thumbs up for ‘OK’, can cross language barriers and aren’t only used by people with hearing difficulties. If you don’t already know any, why not learn some sign language and take talking with your hands a step further?