Sign language can be a universal means of communication that has the ability to bring together hearing and non-hearing individuals, connecting them in the most prominent manner. Using visually transmitted sign patterns and combining hand movements, facial expressions and body postures, sign language is mostly developed in the deaf communities and broadly used by deaf or hearing impaired individuals, their friends, families and interpreters.
By nature, sign language is complex. Whether it is learned as a means of communication or as a language itself, learning sign language can be quite challenging. However, the ultimate experience and the benefits derived far offset the challenges.
One of the most common mistakes that people make when learning sign language is that they confuse the rules of the sign language with those of English grammar. Having set their brain on English grammar rules, they think in English and try to translate English into sign language. Although it is not a spoken language, in fact, sign language has its complex grammar, which is fundamentally different from the grammar of any spoken language. Sign language follows its own rules for grammar, sentence structure and punctuation and it also includes its own idioms and jargon. Besides, using sign language may be subject to one’s age, gender and ethnicity.
Sign language differs depending on the geographical location it is used and who is using it. It is widely acknowledged that people who have learned English before learning sign language use different grammar and structure than people who are native users of sign language. Variations of sign language are also the result of geographical differences. Deaf or hearing impaired people from different regions of the U.S. or from different countries cannot communicate properly in sign language. In fact, sign language has accents and functions like any spoken language.
Another major challenge of sign language is that there is not a corresponding sign for every English word. Signers should be able to use the signs that express the exact meaning of the word they want to say, even if there is no sign to use. The challenge is to apply a combination of signs, facial expressions and hand movements that will give the meaning of the word through a skillful use of sign language.
Besides, hand movements are very difficult to be illustrated. Even when using books of sign language that are illustrated by extremely skillful artists, there are possibilities of errors and misinterpretations.
Conclusively, just like learning any spoken language, learning sign language requires commitment, enthusiasm and practice. However, sign language is quite more challenging because it requires a great deal of energy to learn visual means of communication that do not entail acoustic sounds. However, mastering the treasures of deaf culture is a unique experience that stands alone as the fourth most frequently used language in the U.S.