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The Evolution of Sign Language- Part III

Wednesday, June 15, 2016 8:13:00 AM Australia/Melbourne

The Evolution of Sign Language- Part IIIBeginning in the 1600s, we began to see a mass increase in documentation when it comes to sign language. In fact, in 1620, Reducción de las letras y arte para enseñar a hablar a los mudos or Reduction of Letters and Art for Teaching Mute People to Speak was published in Madrid by Juan Pablo Bonet. This is considered by many to be the first treaty of speech therapy and phonetics, given its focus on childhood learning and oral education for deaf children. You can see in the picture, one of the first visuals of manual signs for letters of the alphabet.


By 1720, the British manual alphabet had evolved to its current day form. It quickly spread to former and current British colonies through descendants of those impacted. This included Australia, India, New Zealand, South Africa and Uganda, as well as different provinces and republics in Germany, Indonesia, Norway and the United States.


Up until this point, education expansion had been very grassroots. But that wouldn’t be the case for much longer. Schools had begun to pop up in nearby France. One such school, taught graduate Laurent Clerc. After finessing the craft, Laurent moved to the United States and alongside Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet, founded the American School for the Deaf at Hartford.


Now let’s fast forward several hundreds of years, to a unique period in time where American Sign Language in particular, is the fourth most studied language at university. This puts it only behind Spanish, French and German.


Professionals see many different explanations behind this rise. It not only meets a need for college foreign-language requirements, but it’s incredibly useful for a growing number of occupations. This includes cognitive psychologists, educators, nurses, interpreters and get this—even scuba divers. Even though the recession caused vast budget cuts, specifically to language programs at learning institutions, that hasn’t stopped continued growth in foreign-language study enrollment. Enrollment grow 6.6% from 2006-2009, and only more steadily since then.


“This is a vulnerable time for language study,” said Rosemary Feal, executive director of the Modern Language Association. “But student interest remains strong.”


The Modern Language Association and many other groups in the industry believe that there will only be more and more evolution in the popularity and importance of sign language over time. Even though a lengthy debate has been held over the years as to its validity as a foreign language, that battle seems to be won. Even beyond foreign language study courses, some universities and colleges are offering it as a major or a minor in specialized education.


 “I imagine myself painting pictures in the air,” said Ms. Brown, a junior majoring in English, and serving as an A.S.L. teaching assistant. “It feels more poetic than other languages. It’s such a great way to express things you can’t quite express verbally.”


After such a storied history and such a promising future ahead, the Hearlink team simply doesn’t think we could say it any better.

Posted in Industry News By

Hearlink Admin