Learn more about Sign Language and its uses


Sign Language

The history and evolution of the Sign Language

There is no universal Sign Language, indeed, each countries has it’s own. We identify around 200 different Sign Languages in the World.
However, languages have been classified by families according to sign language, which is their main « ancestor ». For example, French Sign Language and American Sign Language are in the same family because FSL influenced ASL. The link between sign languages is not grammatical, it’s geographical or historical (watch the map below). This is why,
British Sign Language and American Sign Language are different. A classification was established by Anderson and Peterson in 1979, which was taken over by Henri Wittmann -Canadian linguist- in 1991:

  • French family
  • British family
  • German family
  • Japanese family
  • Lyons family (which only includes the Lyons sign language, the Flemish sign language and the French Belgian Sign Language)
  • isolates

In addition, there are international signs used in certain contexts, including political ones.

  • Focus on British Sign Language (BSL): It is used in the United Kingdom (UK). There are 125,000 deaf adults in the UK who use BSL plus an estimated 20,000 children. In 2011, 15,000 people, living in England and Wales, reported themselves using BSL as their main language. On 18 March 2003 the UK government formally recognised that BSL is a language in its own right.
  • Focus on American Sign Language (ASL): It is used in the United States and most of Anglophone Canada. Besides North America, dialects of ASL and ASL-based creoles are used in many countries around the world, including much of West Africa and parts of Southeast Asia. Despite its wide use, no accurate count of ASL users has been made, though reliable estimates for American ASL users range from 500,000 to 2 million persons, including a number of children and deaf adults. ASL is recognized in several states as a foreign language.

Sign Language map

The Deaf communities and promotion of Sign Language in the world

Even if it is impossible to have exact figures, we identify about 70 million deaf people in the world, more than 1% of the world’s population. Therefore, they are more and more associations, and projects implemented in order to promote the Sign Language and help Deaf people.

It can be global with the World Federation of the Deaf or WFD created in 1951 and located in Helsinki, Finland. Indeed, WFD aims to promote the Human Rights of Deaf people worldwide, by working closely with the United Nations and various UN agencies such as the International Labour Organization (ILO) and the World Health Organization (WHO). Besides, the current 11 board members of the WFD are all deaf.
Some very famous global organizations are even adapted for Deaf Community as the Miss and Mister Deaf International”. A beauty contest reserved for deaf people only. The chosen ambassadors will travel around the world, speak about various topics in order to promote education and awareness of Deaf rights and also sign language.

Few weeks ago, we had Marjorie’s testimony about it’s neighborhood association in the city of Saint Nazaire FRANCE, and the project “Signe and Song”. She explained to us: “the singer Camille, and her band was singing the song Seeds. And we signed the meaning of the song, which is a song in English, so we signed these lyrics in LSF so that deaf and hard of hearing people could understand the meaning of the song.

In addition to these different organisations and associations, we can find the Sign Language in another cultural context: Film industry. Movies including Sign Languages are indeed numerous and from different countries. For example recently the movie the War for the planet of the Apeshas several scenes in ASL. Indeed in this movie, Caesar and Maurice communicate together and with a human, thanks to Sign Language.
The movie
Babelhas scenes in Japanese Sign Language, the Japanese protagonist, Chieko, is silent and communicate in JSL with her father.

Finally, it’s a lot of videos that are published everyday for the deaf community, notably in YouTube. And even if the majority of Deaf People knows the Sign Language, it will be interesting to add subtitles to these videos in order to make them accessible to all!

Make your Sign Language videos more accessible thanks to the subtitling service

Authôt, created in 2012, is the specialist in the automatic transcription of Word into Text. Due to the increasing development of video content internationalization, we have established a subtitling service. We are therefore meeting the demand for digital accessibility of content. Many customers in all sectors use our captioning service: Condé Nast for the Media, FUN for Education or OpenClassrooms for MOOCs etc.
In addition, we participate in various projects to improve the daily lives of deaf and hard of hearing people: whether with La Brèche TV, a French web-TV show which followed the presidential election and television debates last year, or the BrailleNet association specialized in digital accessibility.
We also recently participated to the “Deafness Fair” in Belgium in order to transcribe and subtitle different conferences.

Subtitling therefore appears to be an essential complement to the Sign Languages in order to make video content accessible to everyone.


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