Sign language - an overview

We give a first overview of the language of those who understand each other without sound.

Read this article in: Català, Deutsch, English, Español

Estimated reading time:2minutes

What’s it like when you are missing one human sense? How does it feel when you can smell, taste, feel and see, but you can’t hear? About 80.000 deaf people live in Germany. According to the German Deaf Association, you’re deaf if you have a hearing loss of more than 60 dB in the range between 125 and 250 Hz as well as one of more than 100 dB in the remaining range. People with a normal sense of hearing do, in general, hear sounds from 20 to 20.000 Hz. The higher the frequency, the higher the pitch of a sound. We perceive sounds of 50 to 100 Hz as deep, sounds of 2000 to 5000 Hz as high. The deepest sound perceptible by humans has a frequency of 16 Hz, the highest of 20.000 Hz. The middle C (note), for example, has a frequency of 264 Hz - just to give you a rough idea. 


There isn’t “the” sign language, because there are different types of sign languages - so plural. Sign languages can be defined as visual manual languages, which, first of all, originated naturally, and secondly, include facial expressions and posture in addition to gestures. Sign language has a pretty large vocabulary and its own, complete grammar, which, in general, follows different rules compared to spoken language. Sign language was accepted by linguistics as an autonomous, full-fledged language. Logically, this includes that you can express anything with sign language.

Sign language is, contrary to some claims, not international. Every country has its own national sign language - including regional dialects. Thanks to so called “International Signs”, communicating on an international level seems to work in principle.

The recognition of sign language in Germany surprisingly wasn’t that long ago: It took effect due to the Act on the Equalization of Disabled Persons of 2002, although it was already determined in the 1960’s. 

Good to know

Certainly, some of you wondered how people become deaf. In about 15% of the cases, deafness is inherited, although it is mostly “acquired”. For example, this can occur when the fetus is harmed in the womb (e.g. measles). Oxygen deficiency during childbirth can also cause deafness. Reasons for hearing loss at a later date are often meningitis, cranial fracture, chronic otitis media or particular medicine. 

Also, many songs have already been “translated” into sign language. Artist Sarah Connor even shot a second video of her hit “Kommst du mit ihr” in sign language. The fact is: Even though at first it may seem unusual for us to communicate with sign language, it is something quite normal, which simply allows lots of people to also be able to communicate. We should respect this! 





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