Sign language is generally used by deaf and dumb people who are unable to communicate through speech. They use gestures and body language to evince their ideas fluently. In earlier days, deaf people and people who could barely hear used visual prompts to communicate. With time there was a need for a formal vocabulary which was done by normalizing signs and symbols.
However, there are numerous sign languages and people in different regions have a unique grammar of their own. Nevertheless, the interesting fact is that when people from different regions using different versions of the language meet, they can communicate very easily, unlike people who use verbal communication.
American Sign Language (ASL)
The American Sign Language is predominantly used in more than ten countries of the world including Zimbabwe, Kenya, Malaysia, Madagascar, Mauritania, not to mention the United States, Mexico, and parts of Canada. There are several schools in these countries that offer classes on ASL. More than 1 million people are estimated to have adopted ASL in United States alone.
In ASL, most signs are represented visually, which resembles the idea behind each sign. For instance, to express the idea of a 'snake', the palm of the hand is bent to represent the head of a snake when it is in a striking position. Basic actions, such as to eat, to sleep and to drink are conveyed through hand signals. As far as ongoing actions are concerned, the sign for the very word is represented twice in succession.
Baby Sign Language
Baby sign language is an effective tool to impart skills to the child and to improve their communication abilities. This language can be taught to children when they are only six months old. Babies can learn a handful of words at the beginning. As the child gets used to the language, it becomes eager to learn new words. However, parents are more interested in teaching their children how to express their basic needs such as hunger, thirst, interest, etc. Ironically, there is a myth that if a child is used to sign language, its speaking abilities tend to retard. However, scientists have proved that young ones who are used to it were more adept in grasping new languages that involve speaking compared to other children who were not taught sign language.
Following proper etiquette is very important when you are signing. If you are communicating using sign language it is important that the person signing is allowed to finish, till the other person starts speaking/signing. Once they have finished signing, the person will look at the other person, waiting for his response. If the person signing looks away, then it means that he/she has still something to convey and will do so in a while. There are situations in which the speaker might be a deaf person whereas the listener is not. In such places, one must be patient enough to grab what the speaker means and respond in a polite and understandable way. Ignoring the speaker might be offensive to the speaker.